Are you in charge of your company's rebrand or refresh? It's a huge responsibility and we're here to share the Ultimate Guide to Rebranding Your Company. You will read about some iconic rebrands from the last 5 years; including Mastercard, Gusto, American Express, Netflix, Android and more.
You may feel overwhelmed because you've been tasked with spearheading the rebrand or refresh for your company. We know there's a mountain of things to consider when your brand strategy will be the foundation set for when you reveal your new identity. Although there is no secret recipe for a corporate rebranding strategy, there are ways to make it successful and pitfalls to avoid. Below is a (somewhat) complete guide for a successful rebrand strategy and the process of launching it.
So where do you start? Before making a proposal for rebranding an existing company, we need to learn more about what rebranding is. How do we define it? Are there variations on what a rebrand looks like? From the definition of brand strategy to various types of rebranding, we will walk you through everything you need to know. We'll touch upon the reasons for a rebrand, the importance, cost implications of a full-scale rebrand and goals to set at the start. These are tips and tricks we've seen to be successful at large companies, many of which have become our clients, but you will inevitably create and implement your own steps to a corporate rebranding strategy that works for your company.
What is a Rebranding Strategy?
According to branding expert, Seth Godin, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” It's a long-term plan for the development of a successful brand in order to achieve specific company goals. A rebrand strategy is renewing or recreating the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that account for your customer's decision to choose your product. This usually happens when your company has a new direction, either in product or in industry position.
Many people highly recognize companies with excellent branding, but it's not as simple as a logo update or color palette change. Part of having a successful brand or rebrand is telling a story that resonates with your consumers. This story is being told in your company's visual identity, voice/messaging in the copy and company mission.
For decades, Apple has been the leader in brand. It is one of the most recognizable brands in the world and it didn't come without many changes and rebrands. Believe it or not, Apple's very first logo wasn't even an apple--it was an apple tree. But as the company, leadership, direction and products evolved, so did its logo. The branding has evolved for the last 4 decades into what we know it as now.
You are the brand. A brand is the accumulation of everything that a company, organization, or business does. How you serve your customers is your brand. The taste of your food is your brand. A brand is everything that concerns your business, including how you and your employers converse with other people. Thus, every little thing that people see in your company is your brand.
Branding is how people will get to know your brand. If your branding is good, people will recognize your brand even without your brand name. Branding is putting together visuals, sounds, textures, words to convey a message or product and evoke an emotion. A neat example is Velcro. You can close your eyes, put headphones on and simply touch a piece of Velcro and say' Velcro!' You can do the same with Kleenex tissue or McDonald's Chicken McNuggets. When you close your eyes and hear a loud, deep roaring motor, you can tell a Harley Davidson motorcycle is coming your way.
Rebranding is the process of modifying your current branding. There are many reasons why a company decides to implement a rebranding strategy. Many of these companies start by defining their rebranding objectives before deciding on a strategy to rollout. It’s vital to decide when to rebrand and what are important things to consider in rebranding products to sell. These factors will help in outlining the scope of work needed for rebranding. You have to decide first among the various types of rebranding you should implement before making your rebranding checklist.
Iconic Rebrands in the last 5 years
In the past 5-10 years, we've been seeing a huge shift in branding from big companies. Many of these companies are part of an old industry and are rebranding based on new consumer wants and needs in the Digital Age. We see many of these brands completely changing their look, but also renewing their messaging and mission for future success. Here are some rebrands that have caught our attention in the last 5 years, produced by incredibly talented teams as branding agencies or in-house at the company.
Branding done by Pentagram
Types of Rebranding
There are various types of rebranding, depending on the needs of your company. We distinguish them by level of complexity and can generally break them down into 3 Types of Rebranding. Within these types, you can either develop and execute the plan with a branding agency or rely on your in-house team. Sometimes, companies will do a Brand Refresh and then follow on a few years later with a Full Rebrand. Whatever your company plans on, commit yourself to thinking through every component of the branding process. You may discover that a Full Rebrand is required after all.
1. Full Rebrand
As the name implies, a full rebrand involves rebranding everything from the logo, the products to sell, packaging, voice, marketing tools and certainly the swag. Full rebranding is usually implemented if the current branding is no longer effective with the audience. This type of rebranding will allow your brand to re-establish itself in the market. Thus, you will be able to reconnect with former clients and engage with new customers. An example of a Full Rebrand is Gusto, which was done by their in-house team. See below for examples of the beautiful, modern work their team did.
2. Brand Merger
A brand merger is a type of rebranding that is implemented whenever two or more companies decide to merge and partner up. What usually happens is that the branding elements of both companies are combined into one. Depending on the partnership, this may lead to a Full Rebrand. Brand Mergers are more than combining the two logos together, as the new brand should embody both companies and tell a single, cohesive story.
3. Brand Refresh
Brand Refresh is the simplest type of rebranding that a company or a design agency can implement. Note that a Brand Refresh is usually more external and focuses on the visual identity. Rarely does a Brand Refresh involve changing the direction, product, mission or values of the company. This type of rebranding keeps your brand updated with your current goals and objectives, but does not drastically change them. Although a Brand Refresh is the simplest type, you still have to modify all of your marketing materials, packaging, and websites with a visual update.
Branding done in-house.
Importance of Branding
Steve Forbes famously said "Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business." Why is that? Because your branding is the most powerful way of defining your company--it is your DNA and investing in the makeup of your business is the difference between succeeding and failing. Below are reasons why branding is important for your business:
We can start at the top with your company's most iconic symbol: your logo. If branding is done well, the logo will speak to the consumer by just the recognition of a single symbol. You want your brand to dominate consumer mindshare in your industry and an important piece of that is being able to recognize your logo. Your logo is like a universal face for your company. It's the first thing that people see in your products, services, and marketing materials and you want them to recognize you as they would a friend. All the work that goes into the branding is what that logo represents. Similar to a close friend, you will easily recognize their face and know their personality and values; you probably even hear their voice in your head. You brand has to be memorable enough where it makes a lasting impression, so it can be recognized among other brands.
2. Trust factor
No one wants to work with a brand that they don't trust, even if they recognize it. Some brands will evoke distrust based on their business, leaders or products. A good brand will evoke trust and increase credibility in the market. As a consumer, you will be more likely to purchase products or services from companies that have branding that evokes trust. If your company has struggled with trust and credibility in your industry, it might be time to rebrand. If you have recognition and no trust, you will not be able to win customers, so that is why it's critical to establish a branding strategy that incorporates values of trust within the company and externally with customers.
In order to establish a trustworthy brand, you need to bring value to the consumer. Your brand can't just be an empty shell of beautiful design if it does not bring value to others. Long-established brands grow because they continually add more value to their consumers. This is the formula to growing even more, as customers will recommend your company to others around them. One example of this is American Express. American Express is one of the oldest and most established financial service providers in the U.S. Their current branding by Pentagram allowed them to refresh the value that they have in the financial market. They've been able to withstand recessions and depressions because of the value they bring to their customers.
Branding done by Pentagram.
4. Customer Generation
Growth means customer generation. In order for your company to evolve and thrive during the hard times, you there needs to be a willingness to change. American Express continues to evolve as a brand based on how they're positioned in the market and how they want to be perceived with new customers. If their largest customer base is millennials, the company's branding needs to resonate with that group, not their predecessors, the Baby Boomers. Your brand needs to be relatable to the customer you're targeting, but it also needs to bring value and evoke trust to sustain current customers.
Rolling out this branding is most done at scale through advertising for most companies. Well-implemented branding strategies have a positive effect on advertising and lead to new customer generation. Advertising is typically the vehicle that allows your brand to excel and be recognized. Advertising is a topic that should be defined and unpacked in its own article, but we do want to acknowledge that is a powerful tool to help with telling your story to the masses. Without good branding, your advertising will fail. That is why its so important to branding.
6. Marketing with Branded Swag
Finally, if you're on the Design, Marketing or HR team, you're probably thinking about how to tangibly launch a rebrand. If you're reading this article, you probably care quite a bit about executing all the steps of a rebrand effectively. While advertising means sharing your brand through digital outlets, marketing with branded swag is how you share your brand through physical means. This means sharing these branded items with your employees, who are your brand ambassador. They are also the engine that runs and sustains the business. Having employees represent your brand through company branded swag is proven to re-energize them and be a morale booster.
Most companies, big or small, provide branded swag for their employees. You also want employees to be representing the company with its rebrand, rather than its old brand. Many of our clients come to us for this, as we focus on the whole experience from design, messaging, logistics to feedback.
Branded swag is also hugely effective for marketing campaigns through direct mail. Take for example influencer marketing and sending branded items and products to social media influencers in order to advertise your company. Companies like Twitter and Airbnb come to us with innovative marketing initiatives that involve sending branded swag to their top customers and users. This powerful marketing tool enables your company to build recognition, trust and value with customers, so you can generate more!
Reasons for Rebranding
1. Your company does a merger with another company.
If your company acquires a new company or merges with another, then you should consider rebranding. There are many ways you could do this with another company. You can combine your logos and names or create an entirely new logo and a name for a brand.
2. Your company is being sold.
If another company acquires your company, then it may be time for a rebrand or refresh. The reason is that it is more likely that your services or products will be modified after the acquisition. Thus, you also have to implement a rebranding strategy to match your new look with your new services.
3. Your company wants to target a different audience.
Your current branding might be ineffective or inappropriate when targeting a new audience. A more modern branding can allow your company to acquire these new customers. This rebranding can invite new clients from a different age group, especially younger ones.
4. Your company brand had a bad image.
If your company has had some bad PR or generally has a bad reputation from a previous mishap, then it may be wise to rebrand. However, we will warn that this is not a silver bullet. If your company is still holding onto destructive core values or invaluable products, it would be unwise to rebrand until those issues are addressed. A good rebranding strategy does not completely remove the bad reputation from the past, but it may be the catalyst to start thinking about how the company can move in a new direction.
5. Your company wants to stay relevant.
Perhaps the most important and realistic reason for rebranding is to stay ahead of the curve and not straggle behind your competition,. If you envision your company being around for the long-run, then it is imperative that the brand stays relevant. One of the best examples is Netflix. Two decades ago, Netflix started off by offering DVD rentals via snail mail before they introduced the concept of streaming. In the last 20 years, their business has evolved tremendously to cater to its growing customer base. In 2016, Netflix did a full rebrand with Gretel ,a top branding agency in New York. They focused on their look/feel, voice, digital presence, content and swag. Today, Netflix is the top streaming company, outperforming companies like Hulu, HBO, Disney+ and more.
Branding done by Gretel.
6. Your company has a leadership change.
It is not unusual for companies to do some rebranding if there is a new appointment of a CEO or marketing director. The process of rebranding signifies the celebration to a novel face of the company, which may include the entire logo and marketing strategy. Usually, the new leaders are aligning the rebrand with company objectives in order to grow the company.
7. Your company has a mission and vision change.
A brand is not complete without your company's mission and vision. When a mission changes, it usually means the company is pivoting from their original purpose or offering. A mission or vision change may also just be an upgrade based on a new direction to encompass what the organization has learned in past years. If the mission is drastically changed, it may be appropriate to rebrand.
8. Your company is expanding to new locations.
If your company is expanding its market to new locations, you will encounter a new client demographic. Most design agencies suggest rebranding for a fresh start in a new area, however the best brands transcend cultures and regions. Of course, language must change in the copy, but overall international presence should be thoughtful when doing an international rebrand. If your largest customer base is in a country where your company name is insulting or taboo word, it would be wise to rebrand. Android is an example of the dominating brand in other countries besides the US. Their brand should speak to all their customers and be relevant for their demography across the world.
Branding done by Huge.
Cost of Rebranding
When you’re doing a Full Rebrand and rollout for your business, be prepared to spend upwards of $500,000 to millions on the project. Especially for a large, reputable company, you want to select an agency that will be the best fit for your rebrand. As the scope widen, costs will go up. For smaller companies with less complexities, you can expect to spend $50,000 - $150,000 on your rebrand. Here are some of the costs to expect in the process:
1. Research costs
A solid rebranding strategy starts with thorough research. Companies need to research about the current market, its competitors, and its clients. If you are the owner of a company, you must consider what the preference of the current market of your business is. Additionally, think about the current branding status of your competition. Are they doing great with branding? You might have to add a little flavor to your new brand to compete with them. Lastly, you must understand what your clients would love. This research can involve some surveys to your current customers and some potential customers.
2. Design costs
Design costs vary based on the agency's experience, work and track record. If you have an in-house design team in your company, then you might be able to save on hiring an agency; however, the advice and experience of an outside agency can prove to be invaluable. If you are tight on budget, go with an agency that may not have big brand clients, but instead of working on growing their portfolio but have a talented team.
3. Marketing costs
Thinking about everything involved to push your rebrand out to the public. This includes PR, advertising, packaging, marketing initiatives including direct mail. Replacing what is already out in the market with your old branding will cost money. Keep in mind that everything involving digital assets like your website, social media, company emails and swag will need to be changed.
4. Legal costs
Top legal firms charge $400-$700/hour for any legal consultation. This cost should not be overlooked as your legal team or legal counsel will be in charge of any copyright, trademarks, patents, updated IP that is involved with the rebranding. Speaking to a legal team early on in the process will save time and money, as you may run into issues if anything is overlooked too far along in the process.
5. Other costs
You also might have to consider other costs like publication edits, publishing new guidelines, and other things like brand architecture. Now that you have done your rebranding, future costs must also be considered. You have to research and get some feedback on how your rebranding from your clients.
The Rebranding Process
The whole rebranding process needs to be streamlined, so the process will go smoothly. As a company owner, you wouldn't want to have any mishaps on your rebranding process. Thus, we recommend writing out a rebranding checklist that outlines your goals and strategies. Below is the complete guide that you can follow and fill into your rebranding project timeline.
1. List out the reasons why.
Before planning for a rebranding strategy, you have to ask what the reasons are why you’re doing a rebrand. Define the problems or some issues that you are facing at the moment and assess if it should be a cause for rebranding.
2. Look for a branding team.
Now that you want to proceed with rebranding, you can now consider looking for a brand designing team. If your company has an in-house design team, then you can assign them to a corporate rebranding strategy project.
3. Do some market research.
After assigning a team to submit a proposal for rebranding your company, you can assign another team for market research. Research the market for potential ideas that you can add to the design. Additionally, your company can find out if its products are still relevant to the current market. This step will allow you to assess on what factors you need to improve for rebranding.
4. Evaluate your clients.
Analyze your current clients and ideal clients. What brands do they like? If you can see some commonalities in the branding of these products or services, you can take note of it. By having an idea of what your clients want, you will be able to understand what can make your brand stand out.
5. Evaluate your competition.
Now, assess your competition on the market. What is their branding? Can you see some trends in the popular brands in your industry? You can choose to apply these trends in your rebranding strategy. This step may help you stay relevant to your niche.
6. Evaluate your company’s mission and vision.
Does your company have a straightforward mission and vision? You should apply these in your rebranding. However, you have to assess first if you have grown over your company’s mission and vision. If you have, then you can modify your mission and vision so you can reflect them in your rebranding.
7. Do a brand audit.
A brand audit can highly influence the rebranding strategy that you are making. You will be able to learn what's the current market trend in your industry. The more you can find out in your brand audit, the more approaches that you can do for rebranding.
8. Brainstorm creative ways to renew your brand.
At this step, your company can now discuss and brainstorm ideas for rebranding. Brainstorm with your research and design team so you can see the bigger picture of your rebranding strategy. You have to consider that your brand should be relevant to the current market niche. Additionally, your objectives for rebranding your company should be met. Your business can invite some focus groups with potential clients or competition. Focus groups can help you get more ideas for your rebranding strategy.
9. Revamp your branding.
Now, this is where all the work happens. This is the execution of the plan that you've outlined with your team.
10. Update your brand guidelines.
After your rebrand is complete, you should update your brand guidelines. This is part of launching internally with employees, so everyone is aware of how to use the new branding and what it means to the company as a whole. This brand guideline can have several versions: a comprehensive one for all internal teams and an abbreviated version for external use or your press kit. This guideline is your rulebook and should be followed by anyone who is using visual assets. Take a look at the brand style guide of Android after rebranding by Huge.
11. Update your customers on the new branding.
Days before you’re publishing your rebranded company, you should update your current customers and clients. You can post on your website or send them an email with a countdown timer for rebranding.
12. Redesign your image on the internet.
Do you own a lot of digital assets like websites, apps, and social media pages? Then you should upload your rebranded assets on them! This step is your company telling the world that you have modified your branding.
13. Roll it out!
Now that you have prepared everything, it’s time to publish your rebranded assets! If you have a lot of physical products or services to sell, you may set up promos in stores that you own. Additionally, if you are a product manufacturer, you can inform your retailers about this promo that can help to sell your rebranded company image.
14. Do some post-rebranding tasks.
The rebranding process does not end in the publication. Of course, you have to assess if your rebranding strategy works by analyzing data from your new branding. You should expect that there will be a boost in your brand recognition after rebranding. Thus, it may take a long time to fully assess if your rebranding strategy works. You can track keywords, website URLs, social media engagements, sales, and many more to completion.
It's your time to shine.
Every company and team is unique and your brand should reflect that. It should be a brand you're proud of and we are lucky enough to work with hundreds of companies that invest their time, resources and talents to building a strong brand that will last through the ages. If you're looking to rebrand, we have suggestions of top branding agencies to hire (including the ones we've featured here: Pentagram, Huge, Collins, Gretel and more). If you're already in the rebranding process or have finished, feel free to reach out about getting rebrand swag to launch. You can always 'Start a Project' and our expert Customer Success Managers will guide you through the process.