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The Strategic Guide to Successful Rebranding Is your brand image feeling outdated? Here are some important factors to keep in mind when undertaking a rebrand.

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Written by Carlos Cantú, Chief Marketing Officer, Freepik

To rebrand or not to rebrand? That is the question for any business leader at some point in their journey. It's no secret that rebranding is a huge undertaking for any company – and certainly not something to be entered into lightly.

What's more, results can be very mixed, as seen with Big Tech giants Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Zuckerberg changed the name of his company to Meta but the product remained Facebook; in contrast, Musk changed the name of the entire platform from Twitter to X. While Musk's efforts caused much controversy at the time, a survey later revealed that the decision was quite popular with many of the platform's users, showing how divided opinions can be depending on someone's relationship with a brand.

More recently, in the UK, consumer goods corporation Tate & Lyle sparked debates after revitalising its veteran Golden Syrup visuals. For every person who craves modernisation, another wants to hold onto heritage.

Striking the right balance here is key. To get this right, rather than just responding to individual preferences, business leaders must establish strategic reasons for a rebrand. Here's what I believe is needed to know to rebrand successfully.

What's in a rebrand?

First and foremost, it's important to understand that rebranding can take many different forms and doesn't necessarily include changing a brand's name. It can involve several components that, when fused together, underpin a brand's entire identity and values.

For example, as its visual cornerstone, any brand identity depends on its logo and redesigning this can help communicate a brand's evolution. A brand's colour palette is a powerful way of evoking emotions and associations. Updating a brand's palette can inject new life into its impact. Take Sweden's Spotify: In 2015, the music streaming giant expanded its palette from two to 31 colours, including a new neon green for its formerly muted logo. This reflected the company's evolution from a technology business into the broader sphere of entertainment.

Iconography is another important area to consider. Visual symbols that represent a business and capture its products or services can fuel connections with target audiences. Also, typography must not be overlooked. The right font can convey subtle cues about a company's character and values, while a poorly chosen font can prove memorable for all the wrong reasons.

First impressions matter, which is why the visual aspect of rebranding is so important. It's a chance to communicate brand identity, values, and consistency while fostering an emotional connection with customers. To this end, increasingly, artificial intelligence (AI) is an ally for rebranding; the recent democratisation of generative AI tools makes it easier for brands to express an identity visually. In turn, AI is changing the way professional designers work, making the rebranding process more efficient and swifter – good news for everyone.

Finally, tone of voice is crucial. Put simply, this is the way a brand communicates across all channels through messaging and customer interactions. It helps companies stand out from the competition through language style, which reveals personality.

Timing is everything.

Going through a rebranding should be driven by the brand's strategy. A good time for a rebrand can be when there's been a substantial shift in business priorities, such as expanded products, services, or markets. If a brand's core focus has evolved, the branding should reflect these changes. To illustrate, mergers and acquisitions can alter a brand's structure, offerings, and values. Rebranding can help unify these merged entities under one shared identity in a way that appeals to all target audiences.

Revamping an outdated brand image is another valid reason for a refresh. Tired branding can make a business forgettable, looking like a relic rather than anything relevant. Updating this keeps a company contemporary and fresh, appealing to both current and future customers. Evolving with industry trends and customer preferences is crucial to remain engaging and innovative.

Don't commit to a rebrand just because, for example, there's a new C-suite hire who doesn't like the logo. Making decisions based solely on such personal preferences is a recipe for disaster. For one thing, failed rebrands are expensive. Just look at Mastercard: back in 2006, its scrapped rebranding cost a reported $1.5 million but was abandoned after the merging of two circles confused customers.

When it comes to realistic timelines for a rebrand, these can vary significantly depending on the project's scope, but the whole process should take several months as a minimum, potentially over a year. Key phases include customer and market research, strategy development, design, implementation across all touchpoints, and launch. Planning for a phased rollout can help manage both internal and external expectations.

Balancing expertise and metrics for success.

To get the best out of a rebrand, finding the right mix of in-house experience and external knowledge is crucial. When outsourcing support, look for a partner that shows to be capable of rebranding within your industry, and ideally with a portfolio of projects of similar scope. Whether partnering with a freelancer or a big agency, examine their ability to innovate while understanding the legacy and core strengths of the brand.

Moreover, collaboration between teams should be efficient and powerful, so assess these qualities when searching for assistance – and don't leave anyone behind. From marketing and communications, product, and design, to sales and customer service, effective collaboration from all teams enhances creativity; capturing their feedback and insights effectively ensures unity.

Once the project is fully underway, use both qualitative and quantitative metrics to measure success. For example, customer surveys and social listening tools can help track changes in brand recognition and perception. Metrics such as website traffic, time spent on site, and social media shares help shine a light on whether customer engagement has increased.

Internally, employee surveys can reveal whether staff understand a new brand identity, which is vital for consistent brand representation – if a company's talent isn't familiar with its values, how can anyone else be? Finally, a powerful rebrand should positively impact the bottom line, so keep a close eye on sales and market share growth – arguably the most important indicators.

Rebranding at the right time, in the right way – and, crucially, with the right people – can create new connections between any business and its customers, both current and future. Business leaders who take this advice on board will ensure that their rebranding efforts are strong, coherent, and unifying – a springboard to success.

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