Brands in Transition

People go through “life events.” Companies have “brand transitions.” When your company is experiencing transition, it may be time to re-brand.

What are examples of “transitions?”

Think about the most significant events in life and you will find a common denominator: movement. 

As the clock ticks, waves swell and break, carrying growth and advancement, fear and decline, windfalls and misfortune, pivots, and repositions. And yes, ultimately death and endings come, and they in turn give rise to new births.

Companies and brands are inherently human and they experience similar changes. However, when profit and loss are involved, the way those events are positioned has a direct effect on the value of the brand.

That’s why big life events in a company often involve rebranding; the way the company or organization presents its story to the world may need to change in order to capitalize on these events or mitigate the potential damage those events could cause.

There are many reasons why a company, organization, or product may need to seriously consider rebranding. The list below isn’t complete, but it should get you thinking about where your entity is in terms of its life cycle.

Merger or acquisition

When companies come together, their service offerings or products suddenly find themselves in a new context. It’s important that the freshly minted environment doesn’t create confusion for existing customers — as well as potential new ones. Same goes for your employees and team members.

Great brand strategy is the process of understanding where a brand has been, it’s current market position, and it’s long term goals. From it, we can achieve future goals based on a deep understanding of how its products or services solve problems for customers and what moves those customers to make decisions
Contact Ben Greenberg today to ensure that your vision and brand strategy is aligned.

During moments of transition, research and subsequent strategy are essential to ensuring a smoother road. Which of your established brand equities should you maintain in order to prevent loss of revenue, but ultimately modify to make sense in the new entity? Can your origin story drive a blended mission & vision? Which cultural attributes and processes make sense to carry forward and which need retooling? How can change happen without creating animosity, confusion, or a feeling of duplicity from  within (cannibalization and no clear purpose) or without (lack of differentiation with competitors, either inside the industry or from within a different consideration set.) 

All of these questions ladder up to brand architecture:the definition of how a master brand and its subsidiary brands—sub-brands or co-brands—interact with and support each other.

New executive leadership

When a new captain takes the helm, the perception of the entire ship changes; certainly the perception from the public changes, and expectations for how fast, far, and smooth the sailing will be.

During these times, brand management may be more subtle than overt, but discipline and rigor are key. New management will always have a new vision, and with a new vision will come new ways of executing. All of these require communication skills that profoundly impact the brand, sometimes changing its character.

Departing from your “origin story”

In the event that a leader enacts vision change, she must think deeply as to whether the brand that led the company to this moment provides a rosy future context. In the early years of a company, brands are developed by two forces: deliberate and emergent. 

Deliberate strategy is calculated, emergent strategy is developed through interaction with customers and the marketplace. A brand is the result of a business’s original experience in the market and through its owners original dreams and goals. This phenomenon is the origin story. 

If a brand departs from its origin story, a rebrand is necessary to steer towards balmier weather.

Significant employee change

Just as one or a handful of people at the top may affect brand representation to the public, its customers, or its shareholders, the same could hold true for a mass influx or mass exodus. When the balance of energy is changed due to the volume of staff, the brand may be in for an inevitable change in the way it looks and speaks about itself. 

In most cases, every attempt will be made to bolster the existing brand and to show that it's impervious to certain factors or strengthened by others. However, the potential for change needs to be strategically evaluated during these times, so that execution, if needed, doesn’t lag behind.

Think about the situation above wherein a company’s brand reflects its origin story, and if it was well crafted, the brand should reflect its resources, processes, and position. A flight of human resources can deeply impact the veracity of the brand particularly if your company deals in intellectual property.

Your brand story or vision has changed — or needs to

Grossly oversimplified, your organization’s mission is what you do. But your vision is why you do it. 

Every organization has wrestled with expressing why they do what they do. Working this story out is part of why it’s exciting to be part of a thriving organization. However, when the vision change is so profound that it requires a change in the behavior, output, and personality of the organization, a rebrand certainly may be in order. 

There are also a few negative drivers for branding change:

Over-complicated or murky — Have you added multiple social channels without proper editorial rigor? Have you introduced so many new products in a short span of time that your sales literature is inconsistent? Are customers able to understand why all of your products exist in your basket?  Growth is wonderful, but unmanaged growth can choke progress and cause weakening

Lack of differentiation — Keeping up with the competition can go one of two ways: it can breed innovation, or it can breed sameness. If the latter winds up becoming the lion’s share of your business, you’ll need to do something to shake things up if your customers can’t tell the difference between you and the competition. Commoditization happens when companies pursue operational efficiency or benchmarking as an end in itself. This flurry of terminology means: you’re giving away profit and setting yourself up for a short shelf life. 

Bad press, negative experiences, BIG HEADACHES — We all hope to avoid the big trainwrecks that we read about in the press: internal behavioral scandals, financial impropriety, outdated or tone deaf messaging. But in our wildly connected world, a simple misstep could be conflated into a negative equity-shattering event, and if shared amongst the right (or wrong) groups, you have a brand problem that has to be dealt with.

Rebranding is one way to escape such negativity. It is not the only way, but it could be part of your company’s redemption story—which must be lived and embodied as much as crafted and designed. 

OK. Enough of the bad news. What about a great reason to rebrand:

You’ve experienced explosive growth

When you look back on your baby pictures, your high school portraits, your marriage photos, you’re likely to see three very different people. The same is true for companies and brands.

“Grow or die,” as the old maxim says. The goal of every organization isn’t just to keep the lights on, it’s to get more and brighter lights (unless you are this 1020 year-old business in Kyoto, Japan). All this to say, the brand definition you launched will eventually not reflect where you’re going. You have to rebrand to tell your current story, defining your future aspirations, and revealing your strongest strengths.

RE-brand or brand evolution?

At BSLLC, we dislike the phrase, “brand refresh.” Why? Because it signals the presence of some misconceptions:

  • A lack of understanding of the rigor required to develop a comprehensive brand
  • A refusal to take the branding process seriously
  • An unwillingness to change despite clear signals

When we work with existing brands, we always start with the intent of a brand evolution; we want to keep as much of your hard-earned work and reputation intact as possible, and to do so in a way that allows us to build upon it, productively. “Carrying the brand essence forward” is one way to look at it, but it will always take research, time devoted to understanding market forces, and then a creative exploration to see what stays and what goes. 

However, sometimes, the market forces are so powerful that a new brand is an inevitable consequence. Research and strategic planning are, as always, there at the fore, but the output is much more robust.

BS LLC offers branding, strategy, and design solutions because we believe that businesses operate at their highest growth potential when guided by a holistic set of values and goals. 

If you would like to learn more about how BS LLC can help you grow from the inside out, please send us a message or give us a call.  Additionally, you can take an in-depth look at our services and resources.

Contact Ben Greenberg