Is rebranding your business a good idea? (3 reasons its not)

Kevin Mullins

One of our favorite things to do here at Atomivox is give our clients a shiny new brand identity.

Not one of the cheap logo jobs you find on those quick 20-minute logo websites. No, ’round here we’re into the proper branding strategies that turn your existing brand into something magical.

Like the time we partnered with Axion Seguros, a Portuguese insurance company, to tackle their rebranding effort.

They weren’t just looking for a brand redesign or visual identity; they needed a complete brand overhaul: name change, new visual identity, new design elements and new website design.

The result was a stunning new visual identity fit for an international audience.

More recently, we took on a brand refresh for The Restore Network, an adoption advocacy in Illinois. Their work in helping kids find forever families was so compelling, we just had to get involved.

the restore network brand guidelines
New Brand Identity for The Restore Network

While working with the Restore Network, we discovered a trickier issue. It wasn’t just an outdated visual identity; they were suffering from a lack of brand recognition and fragmented brand messaging.

We used our brand and marketing expertise to guide them through the rebranding process. We also helped them with their brand voice, color scheme, and corporate design elements to help them reach their target demographic.

It was a fresh take on their established brand that gave their new website and marketing strategy a much-needed push.

atomivox agency rebrand

Even our own Atomivox brand wasn’t immune from the designer scalpel. A few years ago, we gave our own brand a leaner, meaner look to tell our own brand story better.

It was a major brand overhaul; blowing our own expectations away and paving the way to becoming the HubSpot-certified inbound marketing agency we are today.

“To rebrand or not rebrand.”

“Don’t be encumbered by history.”

Robert Noyce, Intel Co-Founder

Intel co-founder, Robert Noyce, once said: “Don’t be encumbered by history.” He’s partially right.

Intel recently rolled out a fresh brand identity to boost the launch of their 11th Gen Intel Core, code-named Tiger Lake, new EVO platform brand for laptops running on Tiger Lake with Intel Iris X graphics and that meet the second-edition specification and key experience indicators of Project Athena.

new intel branding

The new brand is a positive change and should serve the company well for years.

Like James Birch at Colour Graphics writes, “a positive to rebranding is that you can target a new demographic you have not attempted to engage before.”

Putting a new brand identity on your business, product, or merchandise can be a great way to boost business growth, reach new customers, and put the competition on notice.

But rebranding is not without challenges.

Sometimes business owners or executives want to burn down the brand design for personal reasons. That rarely works and often backfires in spectacular ways.

Even if you plan and coordinate the brand overhaul perfectly and manage the rebranding effort with precision, it’s possible to end up with a brand redesign you love but still face choppy waters with internal stakeholders.

Worse, you may end up missing your target audience completely.

The Slack Slack-off

Rebranding Rule #1: you will never please everyone. No matter how hard you try, someone somewhere will not like it. Just ask Slack. 

Gallons of ink have already been spilled on the Slack controversy. Here and here. So we won’t rehash it.

But what we will say is that even a Silicon Valley unicorn, worth well over $17 Billion, with a brand redesign by Pentagram can still take some heat. You can’t please everyone.

2019 01 BrandRefresh Old to New Final

The backlash from Twitter was relentless:

Rebrand Rule #2: Sometimes, a brand redesign isn’t wise.

3 reasons you may want to rethink the rebrand.

It may seem strange, that in a blog post extolling the virtues of rebranding, I try to talk you out of it. But it’s true. Sometimes rebranding is not the answer to what ails your business.

In fact, undertaking such an intense creative process may distract your team from dealing with the underlying problems plaguing your sales and marketing efforts.

Remember, a brand is more than an existing logo or visual identity. It’s the collective experience of how you make your customers feel about your business.

Like Marty Neumeier says, “A brand is not owned by the company but by the customers that draw meaning from it. They no longer buy brands, they join brands.

“A brand is not owned by the company but by the customers that draw meaning from it. They no longer buy brands, they join brands.”

Marty Neumeier

Below are three reasons rebranding your company is not a good idea and when you should search for solutions to actual problems.

1) Sales are down or you’re having a bad quarter

No one enjoys seeing their numbers drop. If you’re a seasoned entrepreneur, business owner or managing director, you know that growth isn’t always “up and to the right.” Some months the sales numbers are plain ugly. 

Sales are down.
Leads have slowed to a trickle.
Churn is up.
Managers are anxious.

When you’re staring at weak sales and marketing numbers, it’s easy to panic. You’re tempted to look for scapegoats and easy opportunities. Maybe a “simple” brand redesign will open the floodgates?

Whenever you’re feeling this way, proceed with caution. Even a well-managed” brand redesign isn’t without its pitfalls.

Like our friends at Slack, you may think a rebranding project may be the key to getting stale business performance back on track, and you might be right. But you need to be careful.

Yes, a new brand and identity design may eventually influence sales, but a positive change in revenue rarely happens overnight.

Redoing your brand by focusing solely on the mark and design, especially during a down period like early 2020, is a surefire way to lock-in a lousy vibe.

Our advice: fix other internal issues, then wait until the funk has cleared and business is looking up. You’ll be able to see the issues clearer. Plus, you’ll feel better about undertaking a rebranding effort when you’re gazing at the horizon, not staring into the abyss.

2) Your competitor unveils a new brand design

FOMO. Otherwise known as Fear Of Missing Out.

We all dread being left out and left behind. Even the most strident, solid business leaders and entrepreneurs are not immune. Competition in business is fierce. Competitors are constantly on the hunt, looking for ways to steal market share and customers.

Does this scenario sound familiar? “Watch out everyone! A competitor just dropped a brand refresh, complete with website redesign and full-court social media campaign. We’re doomed! Quick! Pull together some ad hoc ideas together (something, anything) and get a new visual identity out the door!”

Bad idea.

No one knows why your competitor chose to redesign their brand. Except them. Could be because of an external legal issue. Or a name change. Perhaps sales were down and some executive inside their organization overreacted.

The reality is, no one really knows. Especially you. How long were they working on it? What will the market’s reaction be? You can’t answer these questions when you’re standing on the outside looking in.

You need to hold fast. We call basing a corporate rebrand on what someone else is doing “reactive rebranding” and it’s risky.

Even if you think you’re due for a fresh start, never base your brand redesign on the what others in the market are doing. You’re giving away strategic control to them instead of working your strategy. 

Rather than focusing on the things that make you unique, you spend your energy on external forces you can’t control. This makes you reactionary and desperate instead of focused and deliberate. 

Redesign your brand when it makes proactive sense for your company, your customers, and your digital marketing strategy, not your competition’s.

3) Your personal design styles change

As we’ve discussed elsewhere, design styles are objective and continually evolving. Every year around January 1, the previous year’s design trends are replaced by what’s next. 

We’re human. Tastes change. What we like today will probably change tomorrow.

Pressing forward with a brand overhaul based on shifting personal tastes or a whim can lead to disastrous consequences for your company and your marketing strategy. Just ask the Gap.

before and after of the gap's terrible rebranding flop

Don’t be them. So, how should you balance a desire to shake things up when personal tastes are involved. Cautiously.

Here’s the thing, your individual preferences are perfectly legit. Your instincts might even be right about wanting to update your corporate image. But nasty things can happen when you let personal preferences replace a solid design based on your company mission and strategy.

“Nasty things can happen when you let personal preferences replace a solid design based on your company mission and strategy.”

As Pantone shows every year, trends come and go. That’s what professional agencies like Atomivox, that can manage the creative process of designing your new brand appearance, are for.

You need experienced professionals to guide you through a proper rebrand strategy. To expose your unique attributes and infuse them into an enduring style that will serve you for years to come. You’ll enjoy the process better, and the results will reinforce your marketing strategy rather than compete with it. 

The last thing you’d ever want to do is bet all your new brand identity chips on things like emotions or trends. Like the Gap, you might get stuck with a costly mistake that can threaten your market share and your corporate image for years.

Is rebranding right for you?

So back to our original question. Is rebranding right for you? And should you attempt a full rebrand?

It depends.

Yes, there are legitimate reasons to rebrand, but if you’re suffering from the reasons above, our advice is to hold off and do your homework. Speak with some experts. Be brutally honest with what’s going on inside your business.

A new brand design can always wait a day, week, or quarter until you’re absolutely certain it’s right.

Rebranding when the reasons are all wrong could cost you big time and set your brand position back.

If you’re ready to move ahead with a rebranding strategy, drop us a line. We’ll help you plan your rebranding effort, define a new brand voice, and identify your target buyer personas so that the fresh visual identity we create has its desired effect. Making your people proud and growing leads, visits, and sales.

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