How to Make Your Rebrand Boring (In a Good Way)
Ever heard something described as "never boring"? This is usually code for "things are constantly going wrong and I am constantly scrambling to fix them." While that can make for good TV, it's not what we wanted when we decided to rebrand our company last fall.
To be clear: I didn't want our new brand to be boring; I wanted the process of conversion to be boring. Predictable. Secure. No down time. No broken links. No death plummet in organic traffic.
Here's how I got what I wanted -- and how you can, too.
Phase 1: Plan, plan, plan.
Experts agree that one reason a company may need to rebrand is that it's outgrown its original mission. That was definitely true for us. We offer cloud-based software that connects DIY landlords with tenants and helps those landlords manage their properties.
Our old name ("Rentalutions") suggested a more transactional relationship with our users. When my co-founder and I launched the company, that's how we thought of it: a straightforward digital solution to an analog problem.
But, as we evolved and expanded our platform, we realized that we were offering our customers much more than a tool. We were becoming an online community where renters could find their next home and landlords could learn how to better serve their tenants. And we were constantly improving our offerings and exploring new features.
So, how were we supposed update our brand to reflect that evolution? I had no idea. If you're in a similar position, I recommend following these three steps:
1. Outsource what you don't know how to do. For us, that meant hiring a brand strategy company and an SEO consultant. Organic traffic is an important part of our marketing funnel, so we knew we had to nail the complex SEO components of the rebrand (which, for us, included a new name and therefore new domain) to avoid tanking in search. As for the brand strategy company -- wow. Let's just say there was a lot I didn't know I didn't know.
2. Allocate enough time and money. Rebrands are sometimes necessary, but they're also a pain in the neck. But, rather than trying to cut corners and get ours over with as soon as possible, we committed to investing the time and money necessary to do it right (including working with agencies). Time-wise, we spent five months doing social testing to choose our new name. It seemed like a long time, but it's nothing compared to the amount of time brands like Uber have spent on a rebrand. At the end of the process, we were confident that our new name, Avail, was the right one for us. It means both "use" and "help or benefit." And it's the first part of "available," like a property for rent. Bingo!
3. Know your target audience and the role you play in their lives. This means developing personas. It also means taking a step back and figuring out not only what role you play in their lives today but what role you want to play in five or 10 years. That may be something different than what it was when you founded the company.
Phase 2: Put your nose to the grindstone.
Once we'd figured out who we were becoming, we had to start the hard work of updating everything about our company to reflect the change. Just as Airbnb overhauled its brand to emphasize the community aspect of its service, we had to reconsider every piece of our company to make sure it reflected the role we're now playing in bringing people together.
We tackled that task with a lot of help from our outside resources:
1. Develop a brand identity. This involves identifying how you want your brand to be perceived -- your vision for and positioning of the new brand. It should resonate with the user personas you developed above. It's what Pepsi failed at last year when it launched its disastrous protest commercial, attempting to create an identity of "global ... peace, unity, and understanding."
2. Develop the look and feel of the new brand. The identity is abstract; the look and feel are concrete brand elements that work to reify that identity. This might include anything from colors and logo images to language guidelines.
3. Update or overhaul company assets as needed. Apply your look and feel guidelines to every customer touchpoint: your website, emails, testimonial videos, etc. Any asset a customer could come across should be consistent and in alignment with your new identity.
4. Follow a process. This is where our partner agencies really came in handy. There were dozens of things they knew to do that we never would have thought of. From the very technical, SEO-related coding updates to the more esoteric brand identity components, the guidance of experienced experts was invaluable. Thanks to their expertise, our launch day was almost boring because they'd made sure we'd dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's. Nothing major went wrong.
The biggest takeaway for me was that you should never rush a rebrand. It's like getting married: Before you take the plunge, you want to make sure you are 100 percent certain that this brand is right for you. If something rubs you the wrong way during the brainstorming phase, it's going to become a massive irritant (and possibly a serious problem) once it's locked into your brand identity.
So, do the hard work on the back end. Ask questions. Get help. Investigate things that don't seem right. If you do, you'll be in for a pleasantly uneventful launch day -- and a successful life with your new brand.