How do you know when your brand is ready for change?

Does it ever seem like some brands are constantly being changed, while others have defiantly looked the same for aeons? The latest rebrand of The Guardian seemed to come so soon after the previous one that you could conclude that either they are unable to settle on an identity, or the last one didn’t work. Maybe it’s unfair to pick an example from an industry that constantly and desperately needs to stay relevant, but you often hear words like ‘timeless’ ascribed to a new identity system that is deemed obsolete within a few years.

Justifying a rebrand can be a sticky business if you don’t have a clear goal to aim for, and there are plenty of examples of projects that have failed to live up to expectations, but there are good reasons to change:

1 Change of product or service
Let’s say you started as a window cleaner but then added car washing to your offer, your name as Bob’s Window Cleaning is no longer relevant. A brand that defines your scope can be limiting so if you plan to diversify, make sure your brand doesn’t limit that.

2 Change of mission, positioning or values
Healthy periodic introspection can stop bad habits calcifying or outdated practices becoming ritualised. A change in your approach to business often leads to a disconnect between how you look and how you’re perceived, which rebranding can address.

3 Out of date
This is an obvious one but it can get overlooked or shot down by an ‘if it ain’t broke’ kind of attitude. If you look old fashioned, the perception is that you are old fashioned.

4 Growth or merger
As a company changes in shape and size the need to clarify what it’s all about becomes sharper. Rebranding should help give a sense of purpose and direction. It can also do the job of reassuring everyone involved that there is leadership and a strategy in place.

5 Loss in market position
When you take your foot off the pedal you start moving backwards, and if you have been matched or eclipsed by competitors, rebranding can galvanise your company and act as a reminder of who you are and what you’re good at.

6 You look the same as everyone else
No good brand ever came from plagiarising market conventions. A strong brand differentiates itself from the field, while being clear about what it does. If you look like everyone else, chances are there’s no reason to choose you.

7 You’re planning for the future
There’s a cliche that says ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’. If you have a strategy that involves growth or you’re looking to sell your company, image plays a big role in value perception.

Rebranding may seem like an attractive idea but change without good reason it’s a waste of time and money. Here are some reasons not to rebrand:

1 Because you need a life ring
If your company is facing systemic problems, rebranding may be part of a rescue package but it’s not a cure-all. Pinning all your hopes on a new brand to save you from oblivion is not going to work.

2 Because you’re bored
Change for the sake of change is pointless. A defective brand can hold back or damage your company but don’t jeopardise your market position for the splash of publicity that comes with a new brand identity. Only do it if you mean it.

3 Because everyone else is
It’s one thing to be outmoded or left behind but if your brand has a strong position and is relevant and popular, believe in it.

Good branding is about the connection between how you perceive your product or service and how others perceive it. If you’re happy with both, then your brand is in good shape. If there’s a disconnect, pick up the phone.