In a fundamental sense, a brand is a commitment and the way in which that commitment is perceived by employees, customers and the market. This perception is shaped and built over time through hard work, consistent attention and is obscured by layers and layers of interactions, cultural context, personal experiences and the thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams of massive groups of people. These all need to be separated, organized and analyzed to see if the strategic efforts can remain fresh, relevant and top-of-mind and have been working or, if changes need to made to the brand’s commitment or the perception of it.
Sometimes the decision to rebrand is easy—there has been a merger or the organization’s structure or the strategy has changed significantly, or perhaps, through growth and time, your focus has narrowed and the company has specialized or diversified—but sometimes it is less clear. Occasionally the brand drifts slowly away from its target and over time, ends up in a place where it is no longer relevant or highly diluted without shifting far enough to be recognized at first blush. This frequently happens with older brands that met with enough success to feel self-important. Through reluctance to break from what has worked in the past and constant introspection, these brands have become so arcane that they can no longer compete. In either event, perspective is the solution. Ask your employees. Ask your customers. Ask outsiders. Have them tell you, who you are. Have them tell you what they wish you were. Have them tell you why. Don’t ignore the small stuff, but it’s the bigger things that you’re looking for. If your widget keeps coming up in the answers from your survey set – don’t stop there. Follow up. What is it a part of? What does that whole do? How does it do it? Why is that important—to a person, group or the world?
Once all of the research and analysis is done the answer should be clear. Re-branding should never be undertaken because someone thinks “it’s time for a change”. That is a recipe for disaster. Ask the questions, look at the answers, and your course should be clear. Acknowledge your past and plan for your future but make sure that you address today’s needs today. Whether that means your brand needs to evolve to meet changing needs, to be aligned to a completely new strategy or just re-activated through initiatives that revitalize employees and energize consumers – good research, thoughtful analysis, and thorough understanding will show you the way forward.