When is the Right Time for Rebranding? Don’t start that brand update before you read this

One of the biggest questions clients ask us at Relish is whether and when it’s time to do a brand refresh. However, knowing that branding is one of our core offerings, you might be surprised to discover that sometimes, our most strategic answer is, “Not yet.” Which is why we’re sharing some best practices and lessons learned about the right time for rebranding.

Are you rebranding too soon?

Don’t get us wrong – a strategic, creative rebranding effort can address issues and jumpstart ambitious plans for growth and development. But the effort is probably premature if it’s driven by either of these common circumstances:

  • Your executives are bored.
    Yes, that sounds a bit crazy – who would rebrand in response to boredom? But here’s how we’ve seen it happen: A company launches a fresh brand identity, and everyone embraces it in a flurry of excitement and energy. Then, living and breathing the brand every day, it becomes ordinary. And, missing the thrill of the brand launch, some executives lament that the “new” identity feels stale and needs updating. This would be a serious error. Our experience and research have shown that it takes about a year (sometimes longer) for a new brand identity to become firmly established in the minds of customers, investors, the media, etc. In other words, when internal stakeholders tire of a recently updated brand, that’s the time to build on brand equity. It is not the time to change to something new.
  • You hope rebranding will fix internal problems.
    An organization shouldn’t seriously consider rebranding if team members are not ready to embrace and reflect the new corporate identity or if the company is experiencing dysfunctional, divisive behavior. Rebranding won’t fix any of that. And, serious issues like these are likely to undercut new branding efforts. That said, an organization like Relish can offer strategic workshops designed to help struggling teams discover common ground and inform a rebranding effort that everyone can support.

Have you waited too long?

There are three times when companies should engage in a branding update. And, if you see your organization reflected in any of them, take heed. By the time most companies in these situations recognize the need to rebrand, they’re under pressure because they should have started sooner:

  • The existing brand is out of step with your business.
    When an organization’s existing identity feels outdated, too generic, or otherwise out of step with the reality of the business, that’s a sign that a rebranding effort is overdue. For instance, a company’s brand says, “small, mom and pop company” but they’ve actually transformed into a sizable business. Maybe a brick-and-mortar business now conducts most of its business online (or vice versa). Or perhaps the owner’s nephew developed the original logo, and the company has outgrown it.
  • You’re penetrating a new market space.
    Sometimes, business leaders recognize that the company is well-positioned to serve a new market – and needs to look like it belongs there. The right brand architecture approach can guide sub-brand development and differentiation while continuing to build and reinforce the primary brand.
  • You’re acquiring or merging with another company.
    When a large company acquires a smaller one, the smaller company almost always adopts the larger organization’s brand. When two competitors merge, however, they may want to create a new company name and brand to reflect the new, united entity. Likewise, when a company acquires a business with significant brand recognition, it might be wise to leverage that equity.

How to rebrand right on time

The best way to hit the timing sweet spot for a rebrand is to plan ahead. Take time to explore your brand in the context of a potential market expansion or possible change in corporate structure, leadership, or ownership. You may find ways in which minor yet strategic adjustments can provide differentiation and possibly pave the way for a more extensive future rebrand – all while continuing to maximize brand equity. For instance:

The Greeley Company came to us during its acquisition by The Chartis Group. Both companies’ leaders sought to communicate Greeley’s offerings in context with Chartis’ larger suite of hospital and health system services. We conducted a combination of competitive analyses and brand messaging research, which revealed significant insights and opportunities. By updating Greeley’s messaging and making minor adjustments to their fonts and color palette, we distinguished their services in the context of the primary Chartis brand, reinforcing the Greeley-Chartis relationship.

Likewise, the Taylor English law firm built its brand on serving the needs of small to mid-sized companies. However, when leaders embraced a new opportunity – election law – they realized the need to visually reinforce their market fit. Relish helped them do it, providing competitive research, strategic insights, and creative design. The resulting Election Law Group branding reinforced the firm’s legacy identity while communicating concepts of patriotism, government, and public service.

And when the Lenbrook senior living community began planning its Kingsboro at Lenbrook residences, leaders recognized the need to distinguish the new expansion in the context of its overall brand. Our solution for Kingsboro communications and environmental graphics stuck closely to existing brand guidelines, emphasizing key colors while stripping away others. This approach reinforced the overall Lenbrook brand while elevating the feel of the new expansion.

The decision to rebrand can have a significant impact on any organization. Whether that impact is positive or negative depends on your timing – as well as your strategy and creative. Full disclosure: this is where we at Relish Marketing shine – and deliver significant value to our clients. If you’re thinking about rebranding, tell us more about it and let’s see where our experience can be your advantage.