Corporate Branding is really a strategy to help establish a distinct perception about the characteristics of a company in the minds and souls of the consumers and the rest of the stakeholders. This strategy is usually crystallized in a logo and a tag line. As a consequence, changing your brand is a complex exercise, directly affecting and being interrelated to your overall business strategy; it is an exercise that impacts your operations and mostly, the trust that you managed to build throughout the years with your customers and other stakeholders.
So, when do you need to change your brand and how do you decide the level of change needed?
- When there is a scandal or crisis related to your business that has caused an irreparable damage to the reputation of your company/product. In such instances, you would need to reconsider your business strategy altogether and by consequence develop a brand that disassociates your business from its past qualities and builds a new perception about the character and personality of your business. This is when you would usually opt for rebranding, the most serious level of brand change, where you would need to re-think and re-design the brand logo, tag line, colours and overall personality of your company/product. Re-branding comes with a heavy cost, as it misses out your past brand “investment”, the relationship you have built with your stakeholders, your entire company culture and modus operandi; In other words, re-branding happens when there is no other alternative but to re-start building your reputation from scratch. Examples of rebranding such as the one of Accenture -previously Arthur Andersen – have proven that this exercise -even though painful- can be successful.
- When there is a major change in your business strategy, such as a new activity or a merger/acquisition and your brand no longer fits the context of what you are doing. In such instances you need to become relevant to the new audiences that you need to conquer, or, in the case of a merger, you may need to incorporate elements of the second brand in your identity so as to reflect the additional qualities of your brand personality. In this scenario, you may opt for a brand refresh or even a rebranding, depending upon the level of change applied in your business strategy. Many companies have successfully managed such situations of transformation; an iconic example is that of Verizon, a telecommunications provider and currently the largest wireless telecommunications provider in the US by subscriptions. It was established in 2000, as a result of the merger of Bell Atlantic Corporation and GTE Corporation (formerly General Telephone & Electronics Corporation).
- When the external market conditions force you to develop your brand. For example, when your market is disrupted by a new player that has successfully changed the way consumers think about your segment, you would usually need to proceed in some form of change of your brand too. In this case you would opt for a brand refresh to reflect the evolution of your brand and connect better with the new needs of the consumer. Apple is a good example of how its evolution and disruption in the digital market, affected other market players and turned them to refresh their brands and follow a more minimal and neat style of branding.
In conclusion, brands need to evolve because they have to reflect the growth of an organisation. However, in going through the process of brand change, we need to remember that brands are directly linked to the core values and perception of what a company is all about; they crystallize the integrity and trust equity of an organisation; so, playing around with your brand too often and without giving it careful attention, can be a risky exercise.
Written by Lyda Modiano