There are only three reasons to change an established brand identity.
Changing a brand identity in the marketplace should never be undertaken for reasons of fashionable style and decoration.
“We want to change our logo”, said the Client.
“Why?” I asked.
“Our company is nearly 25 years old and we want to update our image.” replied the Client.
“Is your reputation with customers outdated?” I asked.
“Not at all! Our customers love us!” the Client proudly exclaimed.
“Are your products outdated or no longer competitive?” I prodded.
“Oh no! Our products are the most advanced in the industry.” the client answered impatiently. “We want our new logo to reflect that.”
I paused for a minute and offered the Client this advice…
Your current brand identity is already an established symbol and reflection of the equity of your established business, excellent reputation with customers, and the most advanced products in your industry. Changing your identity in the marketplace must have a strategic purpose not a decorative one.
I’ve had this conversation many times with prospective clients who believe their inherent marketing challenges will be solved by a rebranding campaign and changing their brand identity.
True enough, the identity of your organization or product is a central component to the quality of your presence in the marketplace. However, your identity is far more than just the form of your logo. Customers build critical identity associations in their mind based more on your behavior in the marketplace than the shapes and colors in your logo.
In my view there are only three strategic reasons to rebrand an established business:
1) Your current brand identity does not work well when applied to digital media.
In the 20th century the medium was paper. In the 21st the century the medium is the screen. Your legacy logo may not render well with all the different marketing mediums of the digital age. The long established MasterCard logo recently changed for this primary reason.
2) Your established name and associated brand identity is no longer an accurate representation of the value your business provides to customers.
Every business will evolve and change over time. The marketplace is a dynamic environment. Entities will reinvent, merge, affiliate, or break off in new directions. If there are significant shifts in product development, targeting a new customer segment in a new market, or responding to catastrophic public relations disasters are all solid reasons for rebranding and changing your established brand identity. For example, the Accenture name and logo were created by the accounting firm associated with the Enron scandal.
3) Your current brand identity lacks the perceived gravitas associated with a benchmark aesthetic established in a premium category.
If you’re premium priced, in luxury categories, or in certain professional service industries, there may be an established aesthetic benchmark that customers associate with all competitors in the category. Your brand identity may diminish your competitive advantage as a result. ThedaCare Health System (one of my clients) rebranded their organization for this very reason. Sophisticated competitors entering their market presented a visual identity that, by comparison, made ThedaCare appear like the lower value choice.
Of course, brand identity is just a small component of the larger brand ecosystem that surrounds and supports the meaning customers associate with your value to them. Changing an established brand identity in the marketplace should never be undertaken simply for reasons of casual decoration.
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