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New business, new brand? 5 ways to re-brand effectively

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There is enormous power in a good re-brand. 

Look at Burberry - for a time given the kiss of death by the ‘chav’ contingent but now embraced by the fashion world and endorsed by the likes of Emma Watson and Kates Middleton and Moss. 

Or MacDonald’s. Having suffered greatly with its unhealthy and uncaring image in the politically correct nineties, the chain now sells itself as a nutrition conscious, family restaurant with a greater focus on salads, sandwiches and good coffee.

And even Old Spice…  the aftershave that has been fermenting on your Dad’s bathroom shelf since the 70’s has had a remarkable renaissance thanks to former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa’s appearance in its new ad campaign inviting you to ‘Smell like a man, man.’ The ads went viral, as did the product’s sales.

All these companies identified the need for a new direction and also for targeting a different demographic and they nailed it with uber-slick marketing campaigns.

If you are purchasing an existing business, you may not be able to afford the kind of marketing executives that Burberry can muster, but you’ll want to make it your own and effect some real change.

 Embarking on an image overhaul can be a swift and effective tactic in enabling positive developments, but only if you have approached the process methodically.

 1. Find out what the existing ‘brand equity’ is

You will need to ascertain whether the business has a strong reputation and solid customer base. There will be no gain in steaming in and changing logos, décor, uniforms etc. at great expense, just to announce your arrival, if you end up scaring existing customers off.

In an interview with CMO.com, Andrew Goldberg, Senior VP of marketing and strategy at Dialogic agrees that an unnecessary re-brand can have a negative impact on the business’s pricing position and what they can ultimately charge for their product; ‘This could result in an unexpected shift down market in terms of pricing strategies or the need for discounts to move inventory.'

He explains how re-vamping a visual brand can be detrimental: 'Rebranding can lead to customer confusion in that the imagery no longer connotes what the brand stands for or the products that are sold.’  

Conversely, if you can see that the business’s current image is excluding a potentially large share of the market, a re-brand will be well worth the effort.

2. Define your goals

If you want to differentiate yourself from the previous business, it is vital that you have some solid aims behind your motivation.

Take stock of the business’s current strengths, weaknesses and market position. If you can better any of these things with a facelift, then define what it is you want to change and what image would be most effective.

If your goal is simply a matter of personalisation and not a direction change, then it’s best to do things gradually. Maybe start with a few cosmetic changes and necessary repairs and work up to a name or logo change once you have won over the old customer base and have a healthy revenue.

3. Get chatting

A great way to assess the direction in which to take a re-brand, is to talk to existing customers, employees and experts that work in your chosen industry.

Ask them what they think in terms of the user experience of your new business, its visibility in the market, the value of your prices and whether the brand has a significant differentiation.

Their answers will help you decide which direction to go in.

4. Re-assess the market

As a new business owner, it’s so important to get a fresh perspective on the market you operate in.

There may be a whole swathe of customers that might be interested in your product that have failed to notice it so far, or the market might have just changed whilst the previous owners carried on regardless.

Once you have conducted some in depth market research, then you can ‘design’ your brand: ‘More than just a logo, rebranding should be accompanied by stronger marketing messages, fresh packaging, great design, and a notion of lifestyle not associated with more generic messages,’ says Goldberg.

‘Great rebranding can dramatically change market share within categories, justify premium pricing, or justify line extensions that open new markets or geographies.’ he continues.

5. Eye up the competition

Have a good look at your direct competitors and see how you can stand out from the crowd.

Take Seattle’s Best Coffee. They recognised that the coffee market they were operating in had become over-run with fancy names and mind-boggling choice.

Their re-brand, overseen by the company’s then president, Michelle Gass, prioritised simplicity – a clean, contemporary logo (incorporating a smiley face), competitively priced, yet good coffee, and distribution not only through its stores but also fast food outlets, petrol stations, convenience stores, bookshops and even vending machines.

In an interview with Adweek, Gass explained, ‘We need a brand that reflects our values, and the ones I’m speaking about are fun, optimism, simplicity and mobility... When you see Seattle’s Best Coffee and all of our marketing, you’ll get a very clear picture of what we stand for.’

This is the whole point of a re-brand – to become more relevant. It worked for Seattle’s Best Coffee as they had a clearly defined strategy behind it. 

However, if you are just re-branding for the sake of it – as Pepsi has done numerous times in the face of the iconic and never-changing logo of its arch-rival Coke, you will likely face a negative backlash.

Pepsi’s most recent reincarnation, like Seattle coffee, tried to incorporate a ‘smile’ into its logo but critics (and there were many) failed to see it, and more importantly the point of the exercise.

Independent brand consultant, Dean Crutchfield, explained for Forbes.com‘Offering a platform for consumer action was ambitious and seemed appropriate for the times, but it backfired. Why? Pepsi is a soda, not an iPad, and it disregarded the fundamental re-branding principle: “First, do no harm.”'

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