If there’s one thing that running a branding firm has made me appreciate, it’s the ever-changing nature of the marketplace. Whether you sell lattes to hipsters out of a repurposed Airstream or data analytics to Fortune 100 executives on Wall Street, there is one immutable truth about modern day business: Every company has to rebrand itself at some point.
But how do you know if your company needs a rebrand? It’s a question I get asked a lot.
Sometimes the signs are obvious: One of our clients was ready to expand beyond the San Diego region, but the city was integral to the company’s positioning. It was even part of its name! In a situation like this, there is little choice but to rebrand.
Other times it’s just a gut feeling that a change is needed — or is long overdue. Another client, a large regional healthcare provider, had been serving its community for over 40 years before finally admitting that its brand could use an update. In cases like this, it’s remarkable what rebranding can do to reenergize a stalwart yet stagnant organization.
If you’re wondering whether your brand needs a refresh, take a look at the following six signs. Each is a good indicator that the time is right to rebrand.
- You’re embarrassed to give people your card. This is one the most common signs I see. If reaching for your business card makes you cringe, or if you feel the need to explain why your website is outdated when you share your URL, it’s a good sign you’re ready for a rebrand. You should be proud of your brand: When you’re not, it shows. Take a moment to assess your business card, website and other marketing collateral. Do they inspire confidence in you as a brand ambassador, or do they make you cringe (even a little)?
- Your brand’s name no longer evokes its vision. What’s in a name? When it comes to branding, a lot. Sometimes what seemed like a great name 10 years ago is no longer aligned with what your brand is trying to accomplish. Other times a name takes on a whole new meaning due to cultural happenings outside of your control. More common still, a company expands (or flat-out moves) its geographical reach. “Southern California Finance” doesn’t resonate as well with audiences on the northeastern seaboard. Spend some time considering your company name in and out of context. Does it bring to mind the positioning and personality you’d like your brand to embody?
- Your brand doesn’t stand out from the crowd. Among the primary goals of branding is competitive differentiation. If your positioning doesn’t separate your brand from the competition, then your brand is failing you. Now, that doesn’t mean being different just for the sake of being different: Neon colors and brash messaging don’t help a corporate law firm compete for business. True differentiation is authentic and rooted in the promise only your brand can offer. You can get a better sense of your brand’s differentiation by performing a mini brand audit. Take a look at some of your brand’s collateral alongside that of your top competitors. Does it stand out or just get lost amongst the sameness? Where are there opportunities for differentiation? These might include color, messaging or imagery.
- Your brand has become too complicated. Many companies that were able to weather the Great Recession came off as inauthentic brands: In order to survive, they had created new service offerings, lowered prices, expanded into new markets, or had gone after less-than-ideal customers. Essentially, they tried to be everything to everyone. These tactics may have got them through the short-term, but when it comes to long-term branding, increased complexity means decreased effectiveness. Any opportunities to simplify, focus, or develop a unifying brand narrative will benefit your business for years to come.
- You’re undergoing (or have recently undergone) a merger or acquisition. One of our clients is a large, publicly traded healthcare company that was continuing to acquire smaller companies as it expanded nationwide. This series of acquisitions led to serious misalignments in culture and values. Too often, executives don’t fully think about the repercussions of M&A activity until it’s too late, resulting in diminished performance for both the parent brand and the acquired brand. If you’re undergoing (or have recently undergone) a merger or acquisition, take a big-picture look at the implications for your brand architecture. It can be helpful to sketch out a diagram of the various brands and sub-brands involved. Look for logical ways to configure your brand architecture so that each brand and sub-brand derives value from the others.
- You’re not attracting top talent. It’s simple: The best talent wants to work with the best brands. If you’re unable to recruit quality personnel for open positions, it might be because your brand seems mediocre to qualified candidates. If you suspect your brand is preventing you from attracting top talent, brand research can provide the answer. As part of your research, consider crafting questions for surveys that elicit how likely the subject would be to work at your company, and why. The answers to such inquiries might be surprising.
Often, the first sign you need a rebrand the fact that the thought of a rebrand even crosses your mind.