To rebrand, or not to rebrand?

That is the question.

Change can help us grow, keep us flexible and can open new doors to possibilities we never even imagined. This is a sentiment that is true to almost every aspect of life, and small business rebranding is no exception, but let’s not get too caught up in the ideologies here.

Rebranding a small business isn’t the same as simply putting up some jazzy new wallpaper in your living room and standing back to admire your handiwork. Rebranding needs to be a well thought out, meticulous process and, if done well, it can drive incredible progress for your business, or else prove disastrous if you get it wrong.

For an SME we know that taking on a rebrand project is huge. You probably struggled just getting a brand in place to begin with, and now it’s looking like you’ll have to do it all over again? Ouch. But sometimes, change really is necessary. The success of your business is, after all, wrapped up in the quality and effectiveness of your branding and, if it’s not up to the job, it isn’t going to do you any favours.

So, back to our original question: To rebrand, or not to rebrand?

You shouldn’t rebrand if…

Nothing’s changed. If everything is going smoothly i.e. your company is continuing to grow, your management team hasn’t changed, your customers are happy and you’re reaching the right people then, for goodness sake, don’t reach for that new wallpaper. You’ll only be wasting time that could be better spent growing your business.

You just fancy it. This is no reason to rebrand. If you keep getting sick of your brand image and change it every 6-12 months you’re only going to confuse your customers and cost yourself one heck of a lot of money. Remember that time you stopped going to your favourite curry house and tried the shiny new one down the street, only to regret it wholeheartedly? Same thing. If your business is working well, don’t make a change just for the sake of a shiny new logo and colour scheme.

You’re not willing to get professional help. Amateur branding can cost your business money in the long term, and a full rebranding project is a lot to take on by yourself. You can’t simply get a new logo, change your colour scheme and buy a new web domain. It’s so so SO much more than that, and your target audience are going to see right through you if you don’t get this right.

You should rebrand if…

You’re out of date. You can create a fantastic brand image that works wonders for your business, but sometimes, after a few years and through no fault of your own, things change. Technology advances, trends evolve and you can get left stuck in the past. If this happens, your brand and messaging will most likely be missing the point, meaning it’s high time for a rebrand to catch up with the world and remain relevant in your market space.

You’re losing sales and customers. If your profits are taking a hit, you’re attracting the wrong customers or your customers simply aren’t interested, then it’s time to run some diagnostics. If you’re doing everything else right, then it’s probably your branding that’s letting you down. While a rebrand may seem like an expensive solution, this one-off cost for high quality design and branding strategy will actually help drive healthy sales and grow your business in the long term, as you’ll be reaching the right people with the right message.

You’ve had a shift in function or message. This is perhaps one of the most obvious reasons for a small business rebrand. If the base purpose of your business has changed then your current branding will probably be fighting against your new message. Besides, if you’re looking to shout about a positive change in the outlook of your business – becoming environmentally friendly for example – then a rebrand will help draw attention to this new you.

What getting it right looks like:

Burberry’s recent rebrand is widely championed as one of the biggest successes in rebranding history, and for good reason. We all remember the days when Burberry’s distinctive check was synonymous with ‘chav culture’, an unfortunate hijacking of the brand – and a perfect example of a company attracting the wrong customers – which caused sales to tank and their intended customers to steer well clear.

But Burberry pulled it’s expensive socks up and turned the situation around with expert grace, and without even changing their logo. They took a leaf out of Apple’s book and went for the tech-inspired, clean look with a brand new website, social media presence and innovative image. They dropped the check pattern almost completely, but kept it peeking out of coat linings and trims to keep true to their past, while eliminating the ‘chav’ associations. And, while the employment of high-profile British actors and musicians to boost brand image isn’t exactly obtainable for SMEs, it’s the embracing of your company culture and the re-focussing on what customers want that counts with this rebranding success story, making it a great one to learn from.

What getting it wrong looks like:

Who remembers when GAP attempted a rebrand out of nowhere and for no apparent reason? They dropped their classic logo and replaced it with the word ‘Gap’ with a tiny blue square behind the ‘P’, and don’t even get us started on that gradient.

As you can imagine, the internet exploded with criticism, laughter and disapproval. The brand couldn’t defend or back up their decision and quickly reverted to their original branding just SIX days later. That was an expensive six days, with the rebrand costing them an estimated $100 million. A classic example of why you should NEVER rebrand for no good reason, and not just before a busy Christmas sales period either. Duh.

Our top tips for your big comeback

So if you’ve made the big decision to go ahead with a small business rebrand, here are a few essential considerations to give you the best chance of success:

  1. Do your research. And by this we don’t mean spend one early phase on research, you need to be constantly assessing and thinking throughout the entire process. Take apart every element of your business systematically to locate weaknesses and add them to your list of things to be addressed with your rebrand. You also need to do extensive research into your customer base, competition and market space to identify if your rebrand ideas are likely to have the effect you want. If not, you can change direction before you commit to anything.
  2. Really think about the ‘why’. Be honest with yourself and get your entire team involved when it comes to the ‘why’ of your rebrand. Is there really a good reason, like the ones we listed above, for you to take your business through this process? We can’t stress the importance of this enough, so really spend some time thinking about why you’re doing it, otherwise you could end up in the same leaky boat as GAP.
  3. Don’t blindside your customers. Again, don’t do a ‘GAP’ and launch a new image on your customers overnight with zero warning, or you risk scaring them away or losing trust. Build up to it, announce your plans for change and make your customer base aware of it. This is your chance to shout about all the amazing improvements that are coming their way and generate some excitement and even some press coverage if you’re clever about it.
  4. Be prepared to follow it through. Your rebrand doesn’t end with the visuals. You will need to get behind your rebrand once you roll it out and build it into absolutely everything including your marketing efforts and customer service to maintain consistency. You should also take the time to get your customers’ opinions on the new look and constantly analyse the success and impact upon your business performance.
  5. Get help. All of the above might seem a little overwhelming for a big company, let alone an SME, so getting professional help is a very smart idea. Here at (hug) we’re the affordable branding experts, and can be there with you every step of the way. Right from the moment you think ‘we need a change’ all the way through to the launch and follow-through, our marketing communications specialists know how small business branding works and have years of experience doing it.

Give us a call, drop us an email or come in for a brew and a chat to get your ideas off the ground.