10 common mistakes that will ruin your rebranding

Don’t for a moment think you can roll out a snazzy new logo and be done. It requires a holistic approach, so before you address the ‘what’ and the ‘how,’ make sure you understand the ‘why.’


Rebranding can be tricky.

Do it well, and you set your brand up for success. Do it poorly, and you become a punchline. (Remember the infamous Gap logo that lasted exactly a week?)

A rebranding costs time, money and energy. When it doesn’t work, it’s everyone’s loss. Unfortunately, it’s easy for it to go off the rails. No matter how prepared you think you are, plenty of pitfalls can sabotage your rebranding. Here are 10 to avoid:

1. Doing a rebranding because you feel like it.

A rebranding is a huge endeavor that requires serious thought and planning.

There are valid reasons to pursue one:

  • You look like everybody else in your industry.
  • You’re going after a new audience.
  • Your brand has expanded.
  • Your brand is painfully outdated.
  • Your branding doesn’t reflect your values/identity.
  • You’ve suffered bad press.
  • You’ve merged or been acquired.

If you think you’re ready, have a serious conversation to justify why you’re doing a rebranding and how it relates to your brand strategy.

2. Not knowing who you are.

When an organization doesn’t know its core identity (purpose, vision, mission, and values), it’s hard to complete a successful rebranding. Your core influences every part of your brand, from the products you design to the way you talk to customers. If you don’t know who you are or why you exist, how can you shape a brand strategy? How can you communicate it through your branding? It’s nearly impossible.

Before you start rebranding, identify and articulate your core:

  • Purpose: Why do you exist?
  • Vision: What future do you want to help create?
  • Mission: How do you create that future?
  • Values: Who are you? How do you work?

Doing this will help everyone on your rebranding team ensure their work aligns with your core identity.

3. Changing only your logo.

A logo change is usually what people are most excited about, as it’s often the big revelation. Your brand is not just your logo or visual identity; it’s your strategy, your messaging and more.

The purpose of a rebranding is to reshape your identity. Before you even consider logo redesign, make sure you have a fleshed-out brand strategy.

4. Not doing enough research.

Before you pull the trigger on a rebranding, it’s important to know:

  1. How your brand is currently perceived (internally and externally)
  2. How your competitors are perceived

To find out about your own brand perception, survey your employees and consumers—including happy and unhappy customers alike.

To explore your competitors, conduct a competitive analysis to assess how they approach all aspects of their branding, from logo design and tagline to brand voice and messaging. (You might use this free template, which includes helpful questions.)

5. Writing a weak creative brief.

A rebranding is like any creative project. Though it sounds fun to just “go nuts,” you need parameters and guidelines. That’s what a strong creative brief provides. Organizations fail by either offering practically nothing or drowning the agency in information.

To strike a balance, try conducting a brand audit survey, which includes all the relevant info you’d need to fill out your creative brief. This will help everyone from project managers to designers stay on the same page.

6. Not getting approval.

To help your rebranding go smoothly, get proper approval at each stage.

A rebranding has many elements, each needing sign-off from relevant stakeholders. As you craft your timeline, build in ample time to get those approvals.

7. Copying trends.

Your company wants to be an industry leader, not a follower, so why copy others’ designs? At best, it looks reductive; at worst, it seems desperate.

For example, as type designer James Edmonson of Oh No Type Co points out, the tech industry has become particularly homogeneous.

That doesn’t mean you can’t reimagine and elevate your aesthetic, but remember that chasing trends can result in a boring and indistinct brand.

8. Not future-proofing your identity.

You aren’t rebranding only for today; you’re rebranding to help your brand grow into the future. You must build an identity, particularly a visual identity, that is flexible.

Consider the different types of content you will have to create. Think about how your logo will look in 10 years, or how technology and platforms will evolve. If you can think critically and anticipate these needs, you will set yourself up for success.

9. Not testing.

No matter how beautiful your logo, if it doesn’t connect, it won’t help you achieve your brand goals. (Remember that after Tropicana’s 2009 rebranding, customers were so unimpressed that the brand’s sales fell 20 percent.)

To find out whether your brand identity works, ask:

  • Does your rebranding resonate with people?
  • Does it accurately reflect who you are, what you’re about, and what you’re trying to achieve?

If there is a significant gap between what you’re trying to communicate and what people perceive, you have more work to do.

10. Not applying it correctly.

After putting so much work into a rebranding—the resources, the testing, the time—don’t let it go to waste by not teaching people how to use it. (It’s basically tripping right before the finish line.)

To keep your team on the same page, design a comprehensive brand style guide that includes clear directions and real-world examples. Without specific guidance, rules and boundaries, you set yourself up for a branding disaster.

Katy French is managing editor at Column Five Media. A version of this post first appeared on the Column Five Media blog.

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