The five biggest pitfalls of rebranding

Changing your company’s messaging and imagery may be necessary if you want to align people’s perceptions with your values and ethos. Get it wrong though, and you may do irreparable damage to your brand. In this, the third of five blog posts about rebranding, Fifth Ring looks at the most important things to avoid in a rebrand.

One of the most valuable brands of the modern world has undertaken a significant rebrand recently. The brand which has become part of the vernacular (it has been a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary since 2006) has reinvented itself. They’re called Google. Or rather their brand is called Google. Their parent company is now called Alphabet.

The launch of this parent company allows founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to focus on the future, keeping investors happy and continuing to have their toys like Google Glass, robot cars and X lab, which incubates new efforts like Wing, their drone delivery effort. Incidentally, they included an easter egg or hidden link in their announcement, attached to a single full stop or period. If, like most people, you missed it, here’s the link.

They didn’t stop there.

They also decided to rebrand Google, using a font somewhat aptly entitled ‘product sans’.

According to vice president of product management Tamar Yehoshua, and Bobby Nath, director of user experience, the logo has been designed to be more in-line with people's multi-platform experience of the search engine.

In creating a fifth incarnation of Google’s logo in 17-years, has Alphabet got it right? Time will tell.

Remember that a brand can be both rock solid or incredibly fragile, depending on the way you approach it. Its strength can be brought out in the perceptions of stakeholders, whose opinions may stubbornly refuse to change in response to your messaging. On the other hand, the fragility of a brand can be brought about simply through a negative press release, doing significant damage outwith the company’s control.

Attempting a rebrand is a big commitment - you’re shifting perceptions, but make sure it’s a move in the right direction.

Here are Fifth Ring’s top five tips for a better rebrand.

1. Don’t try to do it yourself.

Rebranding an organisation is as sophisticated and as dependent on professional input as any legal or accounting procedure that you can think of. The temptation to carry it out in-house should be avoided, unless you have expert experience. Even with a background in rebranding, an outsider’s perspective of your company can be invaluable.

2. Don’t rush it.

Rebranding involves getting under the skin of your stakeholders. You need to understand what people think about your brand before you can work out how it should change. It takes time to research this and collate the findings.

3. Don’t assume your brand is just your logo.

This is a big one. There’s more to your brand than people’s perceptions of a small picture with your company name on it.

4. Build a consensus.

You need to be careful how you build a consensus on your chosen new route. On the one hand, you will need a senior group of decision-makers to act as a guiding coalition who can drive the process and make decisions. On the other hand you need agreement across the business. That doesn’t mean you need a unanimous decision from the entire workforce. David Ogilvy said “Look in all the parks in all the cities and you’ll never find a statue to a committee.” Brands, by their very definition, need to stand out and a consensus will never allow that. You may have to swim against the current to make your point.

5. Don’t avoid tricky issues.

It may be tempting to avoid the challenging issues concerning your brand portfolio strategy. Rebranding may involve several separate entities, and some people assume they will just ‘work’ individually and as part of a whole. Using an established methodology to determine the equity in your brands helps you ensure that there is clarity in the marketplace.

So there we are. Fifth Ring’s top five tips for rebranding. The list is by no means exhaustive. Rebranding is a complex process offering unique challenges to different companies. One of the biggest obstacles is often employee acceptance of the new messaging, which we have only touched on here. We'll look in more detail at how to manage the internal response to a rebrand in our next post. If you can’t wait till then, Google us.