Thinking of Rebranding? Four Steps to a Successful Overhaul

By now, everyone has seen Pretty Woman. You know the story: a “lady of the night” from the streets meets a well-to-do business tycoon who, through a whirlwind tour of shops, restaurants, and horse races, eventually falls in love with her.

Pretty Woman’s tale – of a woman rebranded – is the same as Eliza Doolittle’s transformation in My Fair Lady. In both cases, a woman’s brand is taken from way down at the bottom all the way to the top – through a bit of clever rebranding.

In business, it’s the same. (Minus, you know, Julia Roberts and Audrey Hepburn.) Through rebranding, you can take a tired, old look and reputation and, through the magic of marketing, transform it into a high-powered brand worthy of awards and accolades (and revenue).

It’s not easy, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. But like Julia and Audrey, your company’s brand can turn into a glamorous affair that will have everyone talking. Just follow these four simple steps.

Step One: Know What They’re Saying About You

A brand, as we all know, is merely your reputation and what others think about you. It’s manifested in logos, designs, fonts, messaging, content, and the like, but at its core, it’s all about your target audience and their impressions of your company.

The first step, then, is to figure out what the heck people think of you.

Is your business barely known in your market? Does it have – gasp – an unsavory reputation? You need to evaluate everything from the company itself on down to your products and services. Market surveys are a must before any rebranding effort – as are deep, soul-searching inquiries from the people on your team.

Step Two: Gaze In a Mirror – Who Do You Want to Be?

Once you’ve figured out who you are, it’s time to take the next step and figure out who you want to be.

For this step, let your imagination run wild. What reputation would you have for your company if you could create it out of thin air tomorrow? That will form the basis for the strategic goals you develop for your rebranding.

Abercrombie and Fitch had a rebranding experience some years back. It was created as a sportswear company. Eventually it turned into a casual, upscale clothing company similar to L.L. Bean that sold well to suburbia. But the Powers That Be at A&F decided they wanted to hit a completely new market: teenagers and young people. That’s why they dramatically rebranded themselves into the cool, hip, go-to clothing store for teens and young adults – complete with sultry women and sullen, chiseled men in their advertisements.

They created strategic goals for what they wanted their brand to do. And while they’ve gotten into a lot of trouble over the years for provocative advertising targeted towards pre-teens, among other segments, they’ve definitely made a brand for themselves that has survived and, err, thrived.

You should set goals for what you want your brand to be (and if your brand involves scantily-clad models staring moodily into the camera, so be it).

Step Three: Figure Out Your Look

A big part of branding is your visual element. How you look goes a long way to define who you are. Sure, it’s not everything, but a snazzy logo? It’s like buttah.
The part of the visual element that stands out the most is the logo. You don’t have to create a new logo by any means, but many businesses find it useful to start over to rebuild that brand identity – especially if there are negative connotations associated with the previous brand.

Virtually every major brand today has changed its logo and corresponding visual identity at least once. Apple? Yep. Wal-Mart? You bet. Starbucks made waves when it dropped “Starbucks Coffee” completely from its logo. From UPS and FedEx to Target and Pepsi, brands change their logos like people change pants.

It’s not just about logos, though. Websites are a major part of rebranding. On a more basic level, so are colors. Some people say that the visual element is one of the least important parts of a brand, but you can create a lot of meaningful change by presenting a fresh face to the world.

Step Four: It’s All About the Message

Sometimes, during rebranding, you completely change your company’s direction and hit up a completely new market, like with A&F. Other times, you want to change what people think of you and create more positive connotations.

Either way, no matter what your strategic goal may be, the end result is the same: You must have a strong, compelling message.

Rebranding, at its core, is about deciding what message people will believe and putting it out there. Apple used to be a run-of-the-mill computer manufacturer that had trouble competing with the big dogs like HP and IBM. That is, until they changed their message. In the mid-1990’s, Steve Jobs returned to Apple and jump-started a rebranding campaign that told consumers to “Think Different”.

The message had changed. Suddenly, Apple was delivering a message that it was different from the rest – that it was focusing on innovation and exceptional quality. They cultivated an idea that they were the “rebel” company, not like the stuffy old-school names in the market. Sure, their products cost more, but the message has resonated. Apple dominated the 2000’s and has developed a cult following of rabid, device-hungry superfans who camp outside of Apple stores every time an iPhone is released.

It’s all because Apple changed the message.

Condense into just a few sentences what you want your main message to be. Condense that into just a few words. Focus in on it like a laser. The message must be the central part of your rebranding campaign.

Putting It All Together

Julia Roberts was able to turn herself into a well-heeled socialite from her days as a call girl. Audrey Hepburn turned from a Cockney-speaking street ragamuffin into a charming aristocratic lady. Both characters were able to rebrand themselves into something better than before.

You can do the same. Follow the above steps to transform your brand into a supercharged, brand-new, shining, sparkling brand that is good enough for Hollywood.


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