Put Data Front and Center to Guide Your Rebranding

Ace your rebranding efforts by incorporating data about customers, competitors and yourself.

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By Jonathan Herrick

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This year, coffee chain Dunkin' Donuts did something radical: it's considering dropping "Donuts" from its name, and it opened several stores called simply "Dunkin," with more likely to come.

"This test coincides with our company's plans to develop a new restaurant image," said a company spokesperson. The brand wanted to take the focus off donuts and become beverage-led, but how would customers respond to taking the "Donuts" out of "Dunkin"?

The company's leap of faith appears to be driven by the sustained popularity of its coffee, which makes up an incredible 63 percent of Dunkin's annual revenue.

Rebranding, like any other executive decision, must be based on one thing only: data.

Without data, it's impossible to objectively gauge potential impact. After all, if you're considering a rebrand, it's likely because you've gathered data, analyzed it and found that your current branding is not as effective as you'd hoped.

Data was also the foundation of Hatchbuck's entire rebranding process. To communicate the right message and attract the right type of customers, we had to know who those customers were. We did surveys, dug into our database and performed a lot of market research before landing on our current brand.

If your numbers are telling you that your brand is in need of an overhaul, here are three steps to take to make accurate, data-driven decisions when it comes to rebranding.

1. Figure out what your rebrand is trying to accomplish.

Get down to the fundamental values and goals for your business and decide what makes sense. As much as people may believe that a logo doesn't represent a company's purpose, it truly does. It's the first impression and a lasting reference for prospects and customers.

Russ Meyer, a branding expert at Siegel+Gale who has worked with many large, global companies such as CVS and Hewlett-Packard on their recent rebranding efforts, says the process for larger corporations can be quite time-consuming and complex. However, their experiences can also provide great examples that smaller companies can learn from. First and foremost, he says to clarify your reasons -- why are you considering a rebrand?

Big brands such as Uber and Gap have been criticized in the past for not demonstrating a sound rationale behind altering their visual rebranding. So in the case of CVS, Meyer and his team first made sure that the company's decision to rebrand was warranted: Leaders wanted to push its image as a more health-focused alternative to other drug stores.

While many entrepreneurs have a feeling their branding needs a revamp, Meyer recommends taking a "user-based approach" to a rebrand by digging into the problem it is meant to solve. Nine out of 10 times, his clients are only aware of the symptoms of the problem. To understand your place within the market, engage in qualitative and quantitative research.

Related: Why the Founder of This Once-Buzzy Salad Chain Had to Rethink Everything

Use your net promoter score data to get the heart of who your radical buyer really is. Who are your promoters and detractors? What do they love (or not love) about your product or service? Once you've determined your ideal buyer, you can more clearly align with who your target market is and where your rebrand needs to focus. A rebrand is about more than just your logo; it's about your messaging, your unique value proposition and your customer service.

2. Check out the competition from your radical buyer's perspective.

Look at your competitors. What are they doing that works, and, conversely, what doesn't work? What type of overlap in customer base do you have? How do you differentiate yourself from the status quo in your industry?

According to a Forrester report, the customer experience is a priority for 95 percent of businesses. They understand that a business's greatest resource is its customer base. To figure out what's most important for your rebrand, you have to figure out what's most important to your customers.

Our new brand focuses on a customer-first methodology. The story isn't about Hatchbuck; it's about our customers and what their struggles are. It does, of course, address how we can be the solution, but the messaging is people-focused, just like the mission of our business.

Related: 10 Things You Need to Know for Your Company Rebrand

You could go through the painstaking process of completely reinventing your brand only to find out you've subconsciously rebranded in a way that makes you blend into the industry noise. In the startup world, the word "competition" isn't metaphorical -- you are engaging in a literal competition.

Winning takes more than constant drills and iteration. To illustrate: In any sport, the best athletes don't reach the top just through grueling training or endless practice. The top players and teams win consistently by knowing their opponents, inside and out. Likewise, in branding, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors is the only way to discover how to differentiate yourself from them.

3. Ask the hard questions.

Talk to leadership and make sure everyone is working toward the same goal. Seek to understand your product's value to your customer. This is the "why" of your brand, and it's more important than what you do or make. You first have to know and understand your "why" to figure out how well it's being communicated and received.

When Northwestern University realized that its rankings were far higher than the public's perception, it decided to develop a new story about the school. One board member, who had run a large marketing agency, took things into her own hands and spent a year going around campus in stealth mode, talking to deans and other board members to see what they thought about the institution's brand.

Related: Parameters a Business Needs to Consider Before its Rebranding Attempts

Knowing how important it was to research and quietly plant the seeds for rebranding, she didn't hire an agency right away. When the time came, a firm helped drill down to the university's true attributes to develop an overall value proposition. Thanks to careful data gathering, the new story the school told was based on facts instead of feelings.

When it comes to rebranding, it's easy to assume data gathering and analysis is just about the numbers, but it's not. Ultimately, it's about holding a mirror up to your competitors, yourself and, most importantly, your customers. Use the reflection to reassess what matters to them and determine how your brand can reinvent itself and deliver it.

Jonathan Herrick

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

CEO of Benchmark

Jonathan Herrick is CEO and chief high-fiver at Benchmark Email, BenchmarkONE and Contacts+, bringing together 150 employees serving over 25,000 customers and 1 million users in 15 countries and nine languages worldwide.

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