6 Steps to Follow for Successful Rebranding

By on April 26, 2014

In my last post, I gave an introduction to the concept of rebranding, briefly touched upon its major types, and reasons to go for it. In this write-up, I am going to delve into a little more detail about the reasons leading up to a rebranding decision and walk you through the steps of rebranding. The information I am about to share is broad and generic in nature and may or may not be applicable for rebranding a very specific or niche product, business, or non-business entity.

rebrandingAs implied in the previous post, rebranding is not a casual exercise. It entails a lot of thinking, analyzing internal and external situations, and some critical decision-making. Once the rebranding decision has been given the green signal, tremendous efforts go into how best to go about it. Activities need to be chalked out and planned, the new brand communication and presentation need to be redesigned and re-framed. The following sections will walk you through the broad, general points on how to go about rebranding what reasons would justify a change as massive as rebranding.

Steps to Follow when Rebranding

Rebranding is a huge change for a product or an entity. It involves a significant, if not complete, overhaul of an existing, established image. Therefore, when taking a decision to rebrand, one must be absolutely sure that the reasons justify the exercise and must plan the evolution from the existing image to the desired image meticulously. Below are some important steps that must be followed by any brand looking to reinvent itself to ensure that it changes for success and not just for the sake of change.

1. Accept that change happens and be ready for it

Change is unavoidable. As time passes, people change, their demands change, and technological and demographic shifts lead to changes in the market. The longevity of anything depends upon its adaptability to a changing environment and this rule applies to brands too. A brand that doesn’t evolve in tandem with the dynamics of its functioning environment becomes outdated and, ultimately, extinct. A successful brand is that which sees opportunity in change and adapts itself to reap maximum benefits out of it. A brand may need to change its central idea, tweak its public image, and be open to explore previously unexplored venues, such as a revolutionary shift in its marketing ideology, a restructuring of its supply chain, a change in its communication and visual appearance, an upgraded or revamped product, etc.

A good example is Old Spice. If you have seen the latest advertisements and social media campaigns of this fragrance and aftershave brand for men, you could not have missed the complete image overhaul the brand has undergone. What was presented in the ’80s and ’90s advertisements as a cool product for cool, athletic guys has now, all of a sudden, presumed a red hot avatar, what with hotties like Milind Soman and Isaiah Mustafa communicating the brand’s message in a more engaging manner by addressing the audience, especially women, directly. This coupled with the viral social media campaigns has spelled great success for the brand’s fragrances as well as other toiletries like soaps and aftershaves.

2. Plan the rebranding well and invest in research

Rebranding is a gigantic step for a company and its product(s). It is costly and time-consuming. Therefore, before sitting down to brainstorm and chalking out a plan, it is absolutely mandatory to conduct research to find out exactly why the brand needs to reinvent itself, why the sales figures have become lower than before, what the successful competing brands are doing right, in what way has the demand for the brand shifted, etc. Research of this kind is also costly, time-consuming, and involves effort but the resources investing in such research is well worth it. The analyses and conclusions arising out of such a research point the company in the right direction by creating a foundation of logic on which the company can build its brand’s evolution strategy.

3. Find out what competitors have done to their brands recently

As discussed above, it pays to keep a close tab on the competition. When considering revamping its brand, a company should pay very close attention to what its competitor is doing right AND what it’s doing WRONG! While the ‘rights’ act as good lessons for the brand to follow, the ‘wrongs’ expose the chinks in the competitor’s armor which the home brand can take advantage of.

Researching the competitor can also reveal who the competitor’s competitors are! This information can be extremely valuable — a brand can form an ally with the smaller competitors of its major competitor and bite into the latter’s market share. Conversely, a brand can also find out if its major competitor is willing to form an alliance. Two major competitors joining forces is a force to reckon with for all other players in the market. This may also give either, both, or a joint brand a much needed image and goodwill boost.

4. Disclose the rebranding plan to all stakeholders and get them onboard

Although the goal of rebranding is to make the change apparent outside the organization, the process itself starts from the inside. It needs the belief, support, and enthusiasm of all stakeholders, right from investors, employees, supply chain people, and the allied businesses. This is because the brand represents them as much as they represent the brand. It is, therefore, important to get all stakeholders on board by communicating the rebranding plan and its rationale clearly and transparently to them and soliciting their support and participation (where necessary) in the reinvention process. Gauge their reactions, take their ideas and suggestions (as long as they are relevant and creative), and involve them in the evolution process thus. With all stakeholders on its side, the revamped brand emerges more confident, its message and persona are expressed more powerfully.

5. Communicate the current status and evolution of the brand through rebranding

The reinvented or re-touched brand image and message should be such that it is still identifiable with the original brand’s identity but also narrates its journey ‘from then to now’. A good case in point is Cadbury’s Dairy Milk brand of chocolates. If you compare its packaging from 1905 through the 2000s, you will notice how much change it has undergone in terms of color, packaging material, graphic elements (the two white ribbon rolls on either sides of ‘C.D.M.’ has long been replaced with the single white, curved ribbon running across the front), etc. You will notice how, with increasing urbani zation and modernization of its consumer base, the brand has adapted its color theme, imagery, and packaging material to fit the techno-snappiness of the space-age.

cadbury's rebranding

6. Consider existing and potential target customer base

The reasons for rebranding can be many, but one major reason is to increase a brand’s customer base. A successful rebranding exercise not only manages to increase the size of its target market but does so without losing any part of its existing customer base. The example of Cadbury’s rebranding success discussed above is a fit example here. While the look of the brand underwent several changes to lure in modern-age consumers who are attracted by bolder colors and simpler designs, it still retained some of its essential image-anchors such as the ‘real milk’ connotation (expressed by the milk icons and the white strip/ribbon occupying a central location on the wrapper-cover). This graphic allusion to ‘dairy’ and ‘quality’, accentuated by the words ‘dairy milk’ in the brand’s name (which still remains as an integral part of the brand) appeals equally to older and younger generation of consumers.

Once a brand has been revamped, news of it should reach the market through as many channels as practical. Social media, television, hoardings, billboards, radio, newspaper, magazines, road shows — tap as many media (relevant to the target market and the product category) as possible to let news out that the brand is reborn and now better than ever. Communication about the rebranding should ideally reach the market before the rebranded product itself, to build up the anticipation. However, once the reinvented product is out and available, be prepared for a difference between how the market responds and how you expected it to respond. This difference may be slight or huge, so be prepared for taking corrective action such as fixing glitches along the supply chain and in the marketing campaigns and the like. Keep a couple of alternative plans ready as far as the re-launch logistics are concerned. Keep some time and resources aside for this kind of troubleshooting.

It may take the market a little while to actually wake up or warm up to the new/tweaked brand, so don’t despair if you get a lukewarm response initially. Research is the key. A rebranding effort which is grounded in thorough research of the market, consumer base, latest trends and technology, and competitors leaves little room for error. Add creativity and innovative thinking in that mix and see another success story making its way to the ‘Rebranding Hall of Fame’!

About Ishani Chatterjee

Ishani is a commerce graduate with an MBA in Marketing and International Business. She worked as a financial analyst for a high profile custodian bank for a year before switching to writing and editing professionally. When she is not writing she spends her time reading and watching movies, listening to music, and traveling. Reading, for her, is a passion, nay, obsession and she fuels this obsession by collecting books on a wide range of topics.