Rebranding a business is a great opportunity for a company to show how it has evolved over time and debut its forward-thinking vision and mission to its constituents. It also is a tremendous undertaking, which requires precise strategy, exact timing and a great amount of preparation that must be communicated from the top all the way down.
CEOs must make sure that everyone on the rebranding team understands why the rebranding is happening, and what new company vision will be communicated. The team should know when to bring in outside experts and what resources they will need to effectively present the rebranded company to the world.
Companies sometimes rebrand for the wrong reasons. RadioShack was trying to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world of electronics retailing in 2009 when it attempted a rebrand. But the new name—The Shack—came under some harsh criticism and it did little to stem the company’s financial distress.
“Some companies are good at reinvesting in employees, but it’s about helping them become better employees.”
A rebrand shouldn’t be a reaction to something new, but an initiative that is set in motion because it embodies the core values and direction of your company. By recommitting themselves to producing America’s most reliable, high-performance motorcycles in the 1980s, Harley-Davidson built a massive community of die-hard Harley fans and investors that are loyal brand enthusiasts to this day. Before starting your rebranding, revisit your mission statement and see if it aligns with what your company seeks to provide once the rebranding dust has settled.
Telling a Story, Finding a Hero
Not every rebranding involves a new logo, but if yours will, think about the story your new design will tell. Nike’s swoosh logo, which was the result of a 1971 rebranding, has inspired many other companies to try to incorporate a similar flowing line in their icons. For many observers, the swoosh evokes thoughts of an athlete in motion—the story that Nike sports gear supports every day. However, when Capital One added an inverted swoosh to its logo in 2008, it was hard for many observers to see the relationship of the new image to its core mission as a financial institution.
When Bizfi rebranded last year, we changed both the name and the logo. The switch from Merchant Cash and Capital to Bizfi signified the expansion and diversification of our financing product set. Our graphics team created the Bizfi logo with a leaf in place of the dot over the final “I” to symbolize our dedication to providing capital to small businesses to promote their growth.
David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, believed that all brands should position their product as the “hero” of its marketing. When you rebrand, check to make sure your hero is still the focus of your story. It’s a single-minded approach, but it remains every bit as effective now as when Ogilvy first posited it.
It’s OK to Seek Assistance
Transitioning your company is a monumental undertaking, and as good as your internal team is, an outside point of view from someone with different strengths can make the difference between success and failure of your rebranding efforts. The world’s biggest brands have relied on brand consultants, and your company may want to consider this as well.
An outside firm is, first and foremost, a fresh pair of eyes on your product or service. It can share the experiences of other companies in your industry or it may bring perspective from brands like the one that you seek to become. It might also give you the customer’s perspective.
Presenting your New Brand to the World
I sometimes wonder what David Ogilvy would make of all the marketing and advertising tools now at our disposal, and all the outlets for brand communications. There are many wonderful options, but with them we have lost the certainty and consistency which used to come from releasing one message to one dominant media outlet.
Traditionally, a company will put out a press release to announce to the public that it has rebranded. That still needs to be part of a rebranding effort, but it no longer is the only step. Your rebranding may need a commercial, or it may choose to create a guerilla marketing campaign that builds buzz. YouTube has put a whole new spin on brand marketing through video and companies are actively experimenting with short video clips about its brands on social media. And of course, there are rebrandings bolstered by celebrities. When Weight Watchers wanted a new story for its approach to weight loss last year, it struck a deal with Oprah Winfrey, who has been very public about her struggle with weight gain over the years.
Whatever avenue you choose, make sure it aligns with your values and your organizational goals.
Stephen Sheinbaum is the founder of Bizfi, an aggregation marketplace that offers many kinds of alternative funding, from short-term finance, to longer term loans, equipment finance and lines of credit. Since 2005, Bizfi has originated in excess of $1.6 billion in funding to more than 29,000 small businesses. It has also provided technical assistance to alternative finance companies outside the United States. In 2015, the company rebranded from Merchant Cash and Capital to Bizfi.