Does your startup need a rebrand in 2020?

By Martin. March 17, 2020.

Topics: Startup Marketing, Business Development

During the early days of starting your business, I bet that coming up with a brand might be the last thing on your mind. You’re too busy figuring out your product, finding your audience, sorting out your funding, and working out the logistics of getting the product/service into market. The font and colour scheme of your startup is an likely an afterthought.

Or, to flip the script, you might be more of the design and brand-minded sort, and perhaps had a snappy name and word mark already designed on a post-it note, and ran with it, before you realized that as you got deeper into building your business, it no longer aligns what your startup actually does.

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Then you went back to the drawing board with something that worked in the interim just to get to market, but it doesn’t speak to the ‘spirit’ of what your business is all about. And you find yourself dreaming of that original vision of what you wanted your brand to be.

However you got here, at some point, you might start to think that your brand needs a refresh. Then, maybe you start to panic. But, there’s no reason. Every brand, large or small, has gone through growth and change and had to tackle a new identity.

But, where do you start?

Consider WHY you need a rebrand

First, recognize that a rebrand is a huge undertaking and can get complicated, so you need to make sure you know the risks. Even the big brands have had mis-steps. Just do a quick Google search for rebranding failures, and you’ll find major mistakes from Uber, The GAP, Pepsi, and Kraft. These weren’t changes for the sake of change, but calculated and researched risks. But, ultimately, they didn’t work.

By understanding the risk inherent to a rebrand, it’ll help you to determine if you’re doing this for the right reasons. If you’re going to undertake this because business is slow, your brand awareness is low, or you feel your direct competition looks ‘sexier,’ maybe there’s a simpler answer. Look to your marketing strategy or do some market research first to find the underlying cause and rebuild your customer base.

But if the company’s vision, values, mission statement, and target market have changed, then a rebrand might be the right thing to do. According to Hubspot, there are 4 solid reasons that it would be wise to undertake a rebrand. If any of the following apply to you, then it's time to starting thinking of a new favourite colour:

  1. Expanding to New locations - If you’re expanding to international markets who don't identify with your current messaging and/or identity, this is a chance to stand out with something new and relevant in the market.
  2. Repositioning in the Market - Your brand should be a connection between the customer and your company. If you are going to target someone new, whether it’s through a new product, price point, or new promotion, then a fresh identity can help.
  3. Your Philosophy has Changed - If the business’ mission, vision or values have evolved, your brand should as well. These factors should be the heart and soul behind your business, and your identity will need to pivot to match.
  4. Any Mergers or Acquisitions - This is a common one. When two companies come together, it’s either a mutual agreement, or a takeover. Depending on the circumstances, the merger can can result in one company getting absorbed into a larger entity, or both brands battle it out in the marketplace. A wise idea would be to merge and rebrand to create a new face to continue that trusted relationship.

These reasons are all about growth and moving into new and uncharted waters. While this isn't an exhaustive list, it's a good start.

On the other hand, where there's a right answer, there's always a wrong one. Companies have been known to rebrand for the wrong reasons, and if you find yourself in the positions below, know that it's clearly not the right time to change your image. For example:

  1. Boredom - Too often, a business will throw our their existing brand because they're tired of seeing it every day. But your colours, tag lines, and logos mean something to your consumers. They're trusted, respected and, to an extent, worshiped. It's not something you should discard just because you're feeling restless.
  2. A Crisis Cover-Up - If there are internal issues or a public crisis, the last thing you want to do is to hide from the bad press with a new colour scheme. Consumers are smart enough to see through the blatant deception, and you'll break the trust you've built and lose your customer base.
  3. Ego (A Change for the Sake of Impact) - We've all seen it: a new manager or CEO wants to leave a legacy and make their mark. To them, the best way to do so is to change everything into their image for the sake of change. But without institutional changes and a solid foundation for the rebrand, it's just window dressing.
  4. A Cry for Attention - When sales are lagging and your brand awareness is nil, it's tempting to drastically rebrand, in order to make a splash and reinvigorate your market. At best, you'll generate some short term buzz, but it'll pass and you'll lose your brand recognition and set your marketing efforts back to zero.

Again, it's all about doing it for the right reasons.

Figure out if you need a partial rebrand or a total rebrand.

Now that you know you want to proceed, you need to decide how extensive the makeover is going to be.

The longer you’ve been in business, the more you have to lose by throwing everything away and starting again. A partial rebrand serves as a course correction, aligning your business and philosophy to match your new offerings and the state of the market but still remaining true to your identity. This could be as simple as modernizing a font or renaming one of your evergreen products and targeting a new demographic .

On the other hand, if your business is going through a complete identity shift and everything is in flux, then starting new and fresh out of the gate can make a huge impact. But note, in a total rebrand, everything is up for grabs: your name, your market, your purpose, and your entire identity. This is a dramatic make-over rather than just a touch up, and there's no turning back once you do it.

Once you decide which route to go, and you've got your research in hand, then it's time to start tearing things down, to build them up in a new and exciting way.

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Martin
Martin
Martin has survived a life in the trenches of ad agency marketing, only to find himself spending far too much time drinking coffee, searching for stable WiFi, and staring out into space, trying to remember the word that he was just thinking about.

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