Rebranding can take many forms, from renaming your company to implementing a new business model. While these changes are taking place, businesses must still work to connect and communicate with customers.
Is it possible to rebrand a business without losing your audience and disappointing current customers? Find out what a rebrand involves and learn tips from five business owners on how to make it all work.
Your business may have outgrown the design you initially put together years ago and maybe it’s time for a refresh. Overall design can include your company’s logo, email templates, brand colors, website and business cards. Because these design elements are so closely aligned with your firm, it’s imperative to allocate significant time and resources to create a comprehensive plan that touches each element.
A successful business must adapt to an evolving world and changing customer preferences. Maybe your business started selling one product but have since added more popular items. When an opportunity to expand or reach a new market presents itself, it’s time to rethink brand strategy for customers to continue to connect. It is important to consistently look at how your customers engage with your brand and adapt with their changing habits.
Much like the design, your business may have outgrown its name. Perhaps your company merged with another so the name must reflect the new partnership. In any case, a name is what is most associated with a business, so changing it must not be taken lightly. The name should reflect the company’s identity and support your core mission, but is still able to adjust to future growth.
Rebranding your business can add value, market share and customer engagement while making you stand out from competitors. It is, however, an incredibly complicated undertaking that requires planning, strategy and research.
A rebrand is a major undertaking, involving your marketing, web presence, client list, employees and mission. The process is more likely to succeed if you can focus on a compelling reason to change.
As head of marketing and customer support for RetireReady Solutions, David Black helped guide his company through a rebrand that involved both a major name change and a refocusing of services. In their case, a rebrand was necessary to encourage growth and clarify their services. However, if that’s not the case for your business, he explained that rebranding could do more harm than good.
“If it isn’t essential, there may be easier ways to grow your business,” Black said. “If [your] company is leaning toward rebranding, make sure to think through everything that will be affected and consider the time, expense, and work that will need to go into it, and whether the [return on investment] will justify the expense and effort.”
When Rod Hughes, president of Kimball Hughes Public Relations, helped oversee the company’s rebrand from Kimball Communications, he worked hard to disclose that the change was primarily about earning and maintaining their clients’ trust.
“I became an owner [and] partner in the business in 2016, and we wanted clients to understand when they worked with me, they were working with a decision-maker for the business,” Hughes said. “We felt it was important to our existing clients, as well as prospective clients, to see a continuity of leadership and a long-term transition plan for management of the agency.”
Don’t commit to a rebrand without clear, strategic and customer-centered reasons. Once you do, make sure your customers know exactly what those reasons are to maintain their loyalty.
Many businesses are surprised by the complexities involved in a rebrand. While initial plans may focus on a new name and matching domain, the process is likely to involve designing new logos, products, a new website design and content, product guides, the services you offer and even the clients you pursue. To ensure the process runs smoothly without losing customers, have a strategy in place before you begin.
“The decision to rebrand was a fairly easy one to take,” Black said. “The difficulties arose in the details and the implementation. Like peeling back layers of an onion, you don’t realize all that goes into a rebrand until you get into it.”
Plan for the changes that will need to be made as well as which parts of your marketing and business strategy will be affected. Designate members of your team to be in charge of each area, from making design decisions to communicating with the public.
“Rebranding is a process through which you reset your mission and priorities going forward … [so] work to reflect that in your branded materials as well as in the minds of your customers,” Hughes said. “It’s a significant undertaking and should be treated as such.”
Communicating with customers during a rebrand is key to maintaining your existing client relationships. If customers don’t understand why changes are occuring, they may lose trust in the business, and you could see a significant drop in revenue.
Brian Moak, owner of HEART Certified Auto Care based in Chicago, rebranded his family’s business to expand it into a national franchise. But during the process, he found that many existing customers worried that the name change and expansion meant the family-owned business had been bought out. To preserve their trust, Moak worked to anticipate the questions customers would have and provide answers before they took their business elsewhere.
“During a rebranding process, keep your communication simple, straightforward, and speak to people’s fears and concerns,” Moak said. “Change is scary, and people … need clear explanations and reassurance to understand, support, and buy into your vision.”
When marketing agency RepuGen – formerly GMR Web Team – rebranded to focus on clients in the healthcare industry, owner and founder Ajay Prasad found that understanding the concerns of employees was as important as anticipating questions from customers. Employees, he pointed out, are the ones responsible for communicating with customers, and without their support and understanding, customers will be left in the dark.
“Make sure you have a sound business reason for rebranding,” Prasad said. “Discuss [it] with your team and get their buy-in. That way, your employees can easily communicate it to existing and potential clients, and understand the goals they should be tracking. Every rebrand is meant to improve a business, so everyone needs to understand where to expect those improvements.”
Communicating with your customers doesn’t have to be internal or even private. All of these business leaders found that talking about their rebrand as publicly as possible didn’t just help them maintain their current level of business – it led to an increase.
“We … used social media, press releases, and media contacts to communicate with customers and the general public,” Black said. “We saw an increase in traffic to our website and greater interest in our company because there was a better understanding of what we offered, and it was easier to find us in search engines.”
When Moak’s team went public about the reasons for HEART’s rebrand, his customers stepped up to offer their encouragement and support. “Our customers are thrilled that we are trying to expand our mission to other communities,” he said.
Kris Gösser, vice president of marketing at Shipium, oversaw the rebrand of his former company, Datica, right before its industry’s largest trade show of the year. With such a high-profile event coming up, Datica’s team was slated to publicly discuss the rebrand and the reasons behind it.
“We had an overwhelming positive reaction from our customers,” Gösser said. “They definitely liked our new name, new identity, new aesthetic and new vibe in the market. [Customers] were more happy to associate with Datica than they were with [our former] brand.”
The ultimate goal of any rebrand should be to grow the company by better serving your customers. Sometimes, that requires putting client services ahead of the rebrand.
Strategies like being transparent about your rebrand and having a clear plan for how to accomplish it will go a long way toward retaining customers. But the best way to avoid a drop in business is to focus on maintaining excellent service, no matter what else is going on. Learn more about maintaining customer service to avoid drop-off in business.
“If possible, ensure that the rebrand affects your existing clients as little as possible,” Prasad said. “It will take time for the new focus to start paying off, so you do not want the current revenue flow to drop.”
In the course of its rebrand, RepuGen narrowed its client-acquisition focus to the healthcare industry. But Prasad also made sure that existing non-healthcare clients knew they were still a priority. “We sent a blast [by email] telling them that we will only accept healthcare-related businesses as new clients and that nothing will change for them. Our clients like us, and no one had any issue with our repositioning decision. We even kept our old website live … and told our non-healthcare clients to use [it].”
Hughes found that his firm’s rebrand took longer than anticipated, partly because existing clients had to be the company’s top focus. “The process of rebranding will take longer than you expect,” he said. “Competing priorities – especially client- or customer-facing priorities – will always require your time and attention ahead of the rebrand.”
That willingness to delay the rebrand to focus on service paid off, Hughes added. The firm didn’t lose a single client during or after the rebrand, and old customers are just as happy as new ones.
Hannah Tayson contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.