Rebranding becomes necessary when an event or action causes a change in the equity of a product or service. It’s almost invariably present within cases of equity loss, since there is seldom a reason or an advantage to rebranding a highly successful existing image.
A Case of Public Perception
Let’s consider an anecdotal example of what we will refer to as “Terrible Airline LLC”; an airline that has been in operation for three years, and, while no one was ever hurt, experienced three significant incidents during that time which garnered a great deal of negative publicity. The first failure was a manufacturing brake fault causing a runway excursion; the second was an unpowered landing because the ground crew did not fuel the plane properly; the third was a tire blowout upon landing due to premature wear.
In the public’s mind, “Terrible Airline” is a disaster waiting to happen. Of course, no one would book a flight with “Terrible Airline” because something is certain to go wrong with this so-called “unlucky and cursed” business. Thus, what is a CEO to do?
Horse of a Different Color Solution
First, bring on a new management team; next, shuffle some workers around, distribute some new titles, and paint all your planes bright purple with lime-green accents on each wing. Rename your airline “Vacation Conduit”, and start running high-profile charters to very popular destinations, such as Las Vegas, and the Mexican Caribbean.
All staffers now wear purple slacks shirts with lime-green epaulets, and all they have for the baggage area are wide smiles and good-natured jokes to make sure everyone is having a great time. You charge break-even fares for the first three months to establish the client base, and then inch them up until they’re just below the competitors.
“Vacation Conduit” sheds the image of “Terrible Airline”, and the latter is soon forgotten by the public as they get swept up in the bargain fares and friendly atmosphere. The company is saved.
Tiger Changes Its Stripes
Another narrative model of this concept are actors (for instance, Schwarzenegger, Reagan, Eastwood, etc.) who become politicians, or perhaps singers who participate in the political arena (U2’s Bono, Joan Baez, Sonny Bono, etc.), and generally speaking, the public is often surprised by the shift. Yet, there is actually no genuine reason for them to be taken aback since “regular” people frequently change their occupation, including how they’re perceived by the public. However, it is that perception which must be overcome in order for the public to accept them in a new role. Notwithstanding your political affiliation, Ronald Reagan was a respected President; Sonny Bono was a good Mayor, and decent Congressman. People can surprise you.
Let’s take the example of old film buffs who are often astonished by the fact that one of their favorite actors was actually a (two-star) Major General in the U.S. Military. “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Harvey”, “The Flight of the Phoenix”, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, “Rear Window”, “Strategic Air Command”, and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” all starred Jimmy Stewart. He was one of only a handful that ever went from a “buck private” to an actual Brigadier General in four years.
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward”—Amelia Earhart
Is it Rebranding Time for You?
Pat Morita was of Japanese descent; Al Molinaro was of Italian descent. Both actors portrayed the owner of a restaurant named “Arnold’s” in the old television sitcom “Happy Days”. When the characters (and possibly show creators) were asked why they never changed the name of the restaurant they replied with a very practical answer: There was a great deal of “good will” tied up in the name. If they changed the name, they stood to lose a significant amount of “business”.
The same can be said for certain actual restaurants (or any businesses) bought by new owners. Perhaps the original owners retired and sold, but while still active, managed to uphold a respected and treasured establishment. Changing the outward appearance, name, and general culture and atmosphere of the establishment may actually cause sales to drop. As we see in cases such as this, rebranding is not always the right answer.
1. The product line has changed significantly. If “Mike the Butcher” now sells fresh vegetables, canned goods, and household items, it’s now time to become “Mike’s Meat & Grocery” or “Mike’s Variety”. This often happens when companies merge. The change requires repositioning of the company to reflect its new capabilities.
2. It’s time for an upgrade. Perhaps you’ve had a little restaurant inside a big city train station for years, but recently business has been going downhill because some popular new local comedian has included a new joke in his act about how someone would have to be “insane to eat at the “Terminal Diner”. “I don’t want to eat at a place that’s going to kill me”, he negatively quips.
It’s likely you have had this name for quite a while; maybe you even inherited the business from an older member of your family. However, an outdated image is not doing you any favors. It’s probably time to update the décor, the menu, and become “The Railway Café”.
3. Your brand shares too many similarities with another. If your logo looks too much like something that another company is already using, it’s likely time to make a change. Something both different and distinctive will make you stand out among competitors and eliminate any confusion. Additionally, and more than likely, it will help you avoid having to deal with a lawsuit, too.
4. Your purpose lacks clarity. If anyone asks you, “What do you do, exactly?” your message is likely not being effectively conveyed. It’s time to redesign your mission statement or objective description to ensure the public knows not only your brand’s name, but its purpose as well. If you can’t draw a clear verbal picture in under 15 seconds, you definitely need to figure out how to define yourself, and then rebrand.
Top Errors to Avoid
1. Sidestepping Customer Preference. It may be your business, but you are not the one ultimately buying your product. It’s the customer you need to please. If that means changing the layout of your store, do it. If it means adding new staff so that every single phone call is answered by a live person, do that, as well.
If it means changing your logo or revamping the color palette of your business, don’t automatically reject the suggestion. You are not “Pavlov’s dog”, so to speak, and this doesn’t call for a conditioned reflex; take some time to consult with partners, stakeholders, and customers. Little changes can move mountains.
2. Not Seeing Past the Facade. However, as noted above, this is far more than color schemes and logos. It’s about the type and quality of products that you sell; your price point (bargain or luxury); delivery strategy (months for imports, or hours for Amazon-type service); brick & mortar stores and offices, or an electronic presence on the World Wide Web. It goes much deeper than you think; it’s about the way you do business.
3. Avoiding Unbiased Opinions. You know more than most about your business, your platform, your customers’ needs, and your products. The problem is inertia. You become so accustomed to doing something one particular way that it’s often difficult to see another way to accomplish the same job. You need a “devil’s advocate” or at least an unbiased opinion. A rebranding consultant can look at your business with an impartial eye, helping you view your establishment in an entirely new (customer-based) manner.
4. Lack of Defined Strategy. Anyone can shift their course of action. However, if you don’t know where you want to end up, arbitrary changes are not going to get you anywhere. How is your new brand going to improve your clients’ experience? How are you going to convince them of the fact? Success follows on the heels of strategy, not simply guesswork and presumption.
You have to organize a buy-in from your customers, clients, suppliers, employees, and stakeholders. The rebranding is going to take time; it won’t happen in a day, a week, or even a month. Conversely, you can’t wait until everything is perfect, because it never will be.
It is really helpful to find ways for employees to embrace the brand, as well. Contests and prize incentives can help employees find new ways of integrating the brand into the everyday operations of the company. Keep open the channels of communication (social media and email) with your clients and the general public as your rebranding proceeds. Keep an eye on feedback, and you should get plenty of warning if you’re going astray.
Once you have a plan and a proverbial map to your destination, it’s time to start putting one foot in front of the other. It’s essential that you believe and have faith in your strategy; and that it is designed in such a way which will reflect every aspect of your business structure.
Realize that you can also modify your plan as you proceed because plans evolve, and that is to be expected. Yet, once you have decided to move forward, be sure to keep going.
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