Let’s get the aphorisms out of the way: Change is hard, change is inevitable, and change is constant. When it comes to designing a smarter rebranding process, one that keeps these fundamental truths in mind, companies still have a lot to learn. Because people are more engaged with brands than ever before. And if they have something to say, they’re going to say it. Loudly. All over the internet.
Over the last five years more than a hand full of major brands have learned this lesson the hard way — Gap, Tropicana, and the University of California to name a few. In each of these cases, the vitriol of a change-averse crowd caused the dissolution of the entire rebrand. But it doesn’t have to be so bad. If you’re preparing for a rebranding process, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Have a good reason
Given that people are skeptical of new versions of old things they know and love, you need to make sure there’s a good reason to go through a rebranding process in the first place. These would include: pursuing a new audience, separating yourself from disaster, or targeting a new market. These would not include: craving attention, wanting to seem ‘more hip,’ or just trying to ‘shake things up.’ If you’re feeling like trying a new look for the hell of it, consider repainting the walls of your office. It’ll save you a lot of trouble. And money.
2. Tell people why
Having a good reason is one thing, but making sure people understand it is another beast entirely. If there isn’t a narrative that people can relate to, then chances are they will feel personally offended that they were not consulted. To ensure that your rebranding process is a success, make sure that this communication happens within your company as well as the wider world. The Kröller-Müller Museum made their reason very clear when they went through a rebranding process for their visual identity. Despite being the largest sculpture garden in Europe and home to the second largest Van Gogh collection, visitor numbers and brand awareness were low. The new identity system is extremely flexible for a wide range of exhibits, while the volume and movement signifies the world-class sculpture collection.
3. Accept that you will not receive universal applause
Even the best work will elicit fierce criticism by a foolhardy few. You know the type — people whose finest skill is having a bone to pick. These people love the internet because it makes them feel big, but really they are not a force you need to reckon with. Remember when the iPad came out? People ranted for a few days about the lousy name, but no one bats a lash these days. They’re too busy downloading productivity apps. If you’ve followed steps #1 and 2, then the people who matter will understand, and the people who don’t will forget about you in a day or two —when something else is worth hating more.
Are you considering renaming your company as part of a rebranding process? We have a renaming flowchart for you.