Few companies can get away with maintaining one consistent brand identity as the world around them changes. Whether it’s for economical, sociological, or technological reasons, businesses need to know when to adapt to the times and update their looks, models and offerings.
When the time for change arrives, you need to ask yourself, “Does my company need a makeover or a rebrand?” These two options may sound the same, but they definitely aren’t — and mixing them up can have disastrous results.
A Fresh Start vs. Freshening Up
If your company feels the need to completely wipe its slate clean and start over, it’s time for a rebrand.
This could happen for a number of reasons. Perhaps a new piece of technology has emerged that renders your business model obsolete, a feisty new competitor has shaken up your industry, something happened in the world to turn public opinion against your offering, or your company’s brand and offering have simply drifted apart.
A rebrand is when you do the deep diving. You conduct thorough market research and reassess who you are, what you’re doing, and where you’re going. Everything’s on the table: your name, your logo, your product, and your mission.
Think of what companies in the war machine business had to do at the end of World War II. They had ample equipment, a sturdy workforce, and all the infrastructure they needed — but there was no demand for their product. These companies had to pivot dramatically to stay in business; they changed their names, their messaging, their product lines, and the very core of their operations.
A makeover, on the other hand, is where you apply a slight touchup to your existing identity. These types of tweaks can happen several times a year to keep up with seasonal trends or to temporarily address current events.
Consider companies like Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch. They’re constantly introducing new initiatives, new can designs, and seasonal products to keep their identities fresh and relevant.
The Dangers of Getting It Wrong and the Perks of Getting It Right
Rebrands and makeovers are two completely different things, and erroneously doing one instead of the other can have major consequences.
Just look at Gap’s dismal rebrand attempt a few years ago. The company decided to completely overhaul its products, store design, and logo — but didn’t conduct nearly enough market research before doing so or misread what research it did conduct. The rebrand was so poorly received that the company was forced to undo the entire thing within a few weeks, and the backlash on social media was so dramatic that it was almost comical.
On the other hand, J.Crew recently underwent a fantastically successful rebrand, the core of which was driven by celebrity endorsements that rang true with its core audience. The company went from dying to thriving as a result.
Facebook is a company that would have benefitted from a swift makeover years ago. When the social network first launched, its target demographic was college students. The company eventually opened its doors to people of all ages, but it neglected to make the necessary changes to remain relevant with its core audience. This resulted in a massive drop-off of teen users, and the platform quickly lost its hip appeal. By the time the company finally admitted there was a problem, its stock price had already begun to fall.
When searching for an example of a great makeover, look no further than Starbucks. To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the company unveiled a brand-new logo that was accompanied by a thoughtful explanation from the company’s CEO in which he conveyed the reasoning for the update and the symbolism behind it.
Which One Is Right for You?
Rebrands and makeovers are all about building better connections with your audience. Which adjustment you make and how far to take it really depends on your industry and the current events surrounding it.
If you’re in the tech field, for example, you probably need to rebrand regularly because core technology and target audiences evolve so rapidly. Or if you’re in a field that’s been plagued by recent scandal or controversy, a complete rebrand may be the only way to shed new light on your company and distance yourself from the negativity.
Constantly assess your company’s image, and keep your finger on the pulse of the global climate. Missing the makeover or rebrand boat — or choosing the wrong vessel — can be detrimental to your company’s footing and public perception.
Take a good, hard look at your company: Is it remaining relevant with the changing times, or does it need an update?