To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand: When Is the Right Time?

John Rambow
To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand: When Is the Right Time?
It happens to every company. Maybe you’re looking around your website, and everything looks … OK, but a little flat. Or a little old-fashioned, or dry, or ... something. Nothing pops like it used to, if it ever really did. Did your brand change, or did you change?

Either way, something’s not right, and you’re wondering what you could do to improve what potential and current customers see, to really grab ’em. 

At that point, especially if you’re a can-do type, it can be tempting to pull up the website or the logo or whatever and start tinkering right away — changing a typeface here, moving things around there, looking at color samples, and fixing that copy you’ve always hated. This also might be the stage when you start looking around for the best website builders in an effort to figure out how you can do things differently.  

But thinking about how to rebrand should be a little like thinking about how to start your company all over again. It comes with lots of potential costs and benefits, and only by thinking them through will you be able to figure out the best way forward. 

So before you get too far into the weeds, take a big step back and consider the following questions. Your answers will have a great deal to say about what exactly you should be doing, and how you’ll get it done.

1. What’s This Rebrand For? 

What’s driving this effort? Is it about bringing in more traffic or a different kind of customer, who might think you look stale or old-fashioned? 

Or is it more than that? Has your company’s mission changed, are you entering a new market, or trying to escape a past that no longer aligns with your values? Try hard to be specific, so that you can think carefully about the message you want to convey. How will you get that across to your audience?

2. What Do Your Team and Other Stakeholders Think Should Be Changed? 

Survey the troops to find out what they think works about your current identity and brand and what doesn’t — and how that compares to the ways that competitors are viewed. Be sure to extend your fact-finding beyond the people you work with daily to include other employees, vendors, customers, and anyone else who might have a smart and refreshing perspective. 

You won’t be able to do everything that people suggest, but it’s a good way to get everyone involved and used to thinking about the process. You’ll be surprised by what they say.

3. Given Your Goals, and the Feedback You Got, What Kind of Rebrand Do You Need?

Think about the project’s scope and where it might lead. Do you just want a “refresh,” to make sure you don’t look dated or out-of-touch? Or do you need a fuller rebrand, one going much deeper, perhaps because you’ve merged with another company or because of a move into new areas? Think about everything that needs to be accomplished, so that you don’t end up having to do this all over in just a few months.

4. Do I Have the Time to Accomplish the Rebrand Right Now, or Should I Wait?

Just about every business has its slow periods and its crunch cycles. Target one of those relatively slack phases to make sure that you have time for testing, working out kinks and setbacks, and user-testing your new ideas. A rebranding is important enough to take it slow and to sweat the small stuff. 

5. What Can You Do to Make Sure the Rebrand Won’t Be Worse Than What You Have Now?

OK, that sounds pretty negative, but hear us out. Take time to think through your plans and make sure that anything new you’re doing won’t overlap with competitors and unrelated companies and will actually move your company’s plans and dreams forward. 

As the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum recently found out, changing your name (to Lady A, in their case) might not be the best solution to a problematic branding issue if it turns out that someone else in your industry has already been using that “new” name for many years. It’s essential to think about how others will perceive what you plan on doing. 

6. Will the New Logos and Layouts ‘Travel Well’?  

These days a logo might end up appearing in all sorts of locations, from print to billboards to elevator displays to smartphone screens. Not all those might be concerns to you right now, but it pays to future-proof everything you do. Get rid of any tiny print and any colors that turn into mush when they appear in small formats. You can also look around at the best logo design services for inspiration to see what they have to offer. 

7. Do I Have a List of Everything the Rebrand Will Affect? 

Business cards, websites, social media, and invoices are just a few of the places that will have to be updated. Don’t forget your email, either: You’ll have to make sure your employees stop using the old branding in their emails and in promotions. 

To help make the rebranding a success, plan ahead and designate someone who cares enough (and is detail-oriented enough) to make sure the changes get made consistently. 

And make sure that there’s a central, easy-to-find place for the new logos, company descriptions, taglines, and everything else that helps communicate what your company is. Doing this might not require anything more than adding an easy-to-find page to your website or your intranet.

8. Are You Ready to Tell Everyone Exactly What You’ve Done?

Let’s face it, this rebranding stuff takes a lot of time and effort (see above). Make sure you have a press release and other messaging in the works for stakeholders and everyone else who’s interested in your company. They should all be written to tell the story of why and how you decided you needed to change and what you did to make this rebrand a reality.

John Rambow
John Rambow is a writer and editor in New York City.