In 2017, Redbox rebranded. Unsurprisingly, the new logo received quite a bit of criticism, and in some cases it was pretty harsh.
One would assume, though, seeing as how so many of the critics are involved in branding, logo design, marketing, and the like (including the afore-linked), that they might know better. Of all people, they should understand that branding is about communication, not about getting my aesthetic jollies.
In our view, unless a person sits in on the research meetings, hears the client’s desires and objectives, and knows the target market, they are simply not in any kind of position to make an informed assessment of a rebrand. You don’t know what Redbox was trying to accomplish. You don’t know what they were wanting to say. You don’t know who their target was. All you know is what you’re looking at, and that doesn’t qualify you to speak on anything, regardless of how good a designer you think you are.
Well, that’s a little bit of a rant, but it actually leads us to our first point, which is actually a negative—i.e., how do you know when it’s not time to rebrand?
1. Do NOT rebrand just because ignorant outsiders don’t like your logo.
“Branding is about communicating a message. Specifically, it’s about communicating who you are and what you do to your target market in a way that’s clear and attractive.”
Branding isn’t about what some loudmouth thinks “looks cool.” Branding isn’t about trends, aesthetic preferences, or opinions about things like colors, fonts, or design details. Logos are not about what someone likes or doesn’t like.
Branding is about communicating a message. Specifically, it’s about communicating who you are and what you do to your target market in a way that’s clear and attractive.
So, for example, someone with high esteem of his own opinions and absolutely no knowledge of your business, your product, your past, your future, or your target market, opens his mouth and independently decides as objective fact that your logo is suggestive of certain features of the male anatomy.
Well, you can probably be assured that it is not time to rebrand. In actuality, and quite literally, the aforementioned has said more about himself than he could ever say about your logo.
As the venerable Hugh Laurie has so poignantly said, let them talk. In the full gallop of an unburdened conscience, set all external preferences aside and let reality and facts determine when you should or shouldn’t rebrand.
That said, let’s look at some instances when it is a good time to rebrand.
2. When the focus of what you do changes.
Sometimes businesses begin in one field but end up focusing on something else. Sometimes that focus is radical enough that it almost requires a new identity in order to make sense to consumers.
‘Wait a minute, doesn’t Pianos, Inc. make pianos? I just saw a commercial for a burger joint called Pianos, Inc. Is that the same company?’
One of the most important (though not necessarily well-known) instances of this is the 1961 rebrand of Xerox. According to Investopedia:
“[Prior to 1961,] Haloid sold photography paper, until it developed a photocopying machine that used xerography technology – Xerox for short. As the company grew and the Xerox machine became so popular, the company wisely changed its name to the Xerox Corporation we know today.”
When the focus of what you do changes significantly, intentionally or not, it’s a good time to think about rebranding.
3. When your target customer changes.
Another circumstance that justifies a rebrand is when a brand’s target customer changes. This is somewhat related to our last point because it often follows a change of focus. Sometimes, however, it’s simply the byproduct of the gradual evolution of what a business does. As your business evolves, so does your customer base.
A great example of this is Austin-based TLC Book Design. TLC’s founder Tamara Dever explains:
“When we started 20 years ago as TLC Graphics, we designed logos, business cards, brochures, and books. Over time, we grew into a full-service book creation firm, offering not only design, but editorial, printing, coaching, and more. Last year we began the process of a complete rebrand and name change—we’re now TLC Book Design—to reflect our focus on book creation.”
The lesson from TLC is just this: when your customer base changes, it’s a pretty good time to consider a rebrand.
4. When you’re gearing up for a new generation of customers.
There’s one other monumental example of this that’s familiar to all of us—a brand that helped define the generation of probably everyone reading this article, namely, Pepsi.
Just run through your own memory banks for a second and you’ll find that, for as long as you can remember, Pepsi has constantly refined the angle of their brand to appeal to teens and young adults of that particular generation.
Want proof? Just look take a look at what they’ve been doing the past few decades:
Pepsi looks at customers the same way NFL teams looks at running backs: the day you turn 27 is the day they start thinking about your replacement. And for Pepsi, there’s nothing like a fresh look to spark the new beau’s interest.
5. When your current branding is dated, irrelevant, or just plain ugly.
The purpose of making something attractive is (wait for it…) to attract. If you don’t get that, you have bigger problems than bad branding.
Things that are ugly are often called ‘repulsive’ because, by definition, they repel. They drive people away, generally in disgust. Which, of course, is the opposite of attracting, or drawing in, or creating appeal.
Sometimes the first thing a brand needs is some good ol’ fashioned honesty. Come on. It’s bad. Just admit it. It’s ugly, it looks cheap, it makes absolutely no sense. It wasn’t done well or thoughtfully to begin with. Your 13-year-old nephew designed your logo because you didn’t have a budget, and it looks like it. It makes your business look like it belongs in a corner shopping center next to the liquor store. We could go on and on.
However, if your branding is ugly or inappropriate and you’re in need of a makeover, don’t feel too bad, you’re in good company:
Bad branding is always a great reason to make the decision to rebrand. And sometimes, simply admitting that you need help is the best step toward recovery.
Is your business or organization thinking about a rebrand?
James Heaton rightly points out that the actual dwelling place of your brand is in the minds of consumers. He writes, “They create your brand from their experience of you.”
At the end of the day, if people don’t believe your product is great—whether it is or not—they’re not going to buy it.
We specialize in understanding exactly what you need to say to your target market, and we’d be happy to start that conversation with you. Contact us today and let’s get to work on building your best brand.