Your brand is your voice, your very essence of business being. It’s the sum total of everything you do, everything you offer, everything you believe, everything you project. It’s the way you speak, the way you behave, the way you present yourself: in person, in writing, in visuals, in values.
It’s your fingerprint. Your presence in the world, as seen by your customers.
And it’s flowing, ever-changing, transformative.
As you continue to transact in the community you diversify, mature, target, expand or specialise.
This movement, this metamorphosis, creates a need for change. You shed your old skin and deliberately curl into a new one, through rebranding.
And it all happens quite organically with the luxury of time and considered thought.
Sometimes, the situation is completely different.
Sometimes there are important reasons to rebrand urgently.
Here are four of those reasons.
1. Your branding makes people think of a pandemic
When I write the word “Covid-19”, what images do you think of?
Colors like red, black, clinical blue, and surgeon-gown-green?
What words do you think of?
Contagious? Sick? Quarantine? Death? Cough? Sneeze? Testing?
How do you feel when you think about Covid-19?
These are just a handful of common images, feelings and words associated with the pandemic, and none of them are particularly uplifting.
Yet, they may be the very words associated with your brand, if elements of your branding remind people of the virus.
You might be wondering, “How would any brand possibly be associated with Covid-19?”
Well, it might just be coincidence and plain bad luck. For example, years ago I saw a business logo on a van where the letter “o” within the logo was made into a little, spiky virus ball, almost identical to the ones we currently and constantly see on our televisions and news feeds.
If that company is still operating today, I’d suggest an urgent rebrand. Despite the logo possibly working for them in the past, it will now be linked, even just fleetingly and subconsciously, to something negative and dangerous. It could impact sales.
In the above example, the logo lettering was deliberately crafted to look like a virus, but what of all the quirky shapes and images that accidentally look like viruses?
In my opinion, they should change.
It’s true, Covid-19 will pass but in the meantime, the owners of those businesses are trying to run their brands under a banner of positivity, which is challenging given the possible association with the virus.
To be clear, my suggestion to rebrand is not a definitive rule based on scientific research of people’s reactions to visual images during pandemics. I might be wrong, I’ve never worked through a pandemic. However, my suggestion is steeped solidly in the basics of branding. In branding you want congruence. You want everything to agree and align. If you want a positive brand, you must create branding that triggers positive feelings, not negative ones.
Make no mistake, brands are getting it wrong.
Viewers in the United Kingdom were repelled by a KFC television advertisement featuring people licking their oily fingers in public spaces, after chomping on the chicken.
What did viewers instantly think of?
They were unimpressed that KFC was encouraging people to lick their fingers during a health crises.
KFC pulled the ad. If they hadn’t, their brand could have been temporarily fried. KFC would have been seen as reckless and irresponsible, and definitely not doing their bit for the pandemic.
In a nutshell, Covid-19 is currently imbedded in the collective global conscience. If your branding is associated with it in a negative way, consider rebranding ASAP. If you cannot invest in rebranding, try to remove or tastefully obscure the images that create the negative association.
2. Your branding is offensive
Stroll around certain parts of the internet and social media, and you’ll see rampant, chest-thumping, offense taking. You aren’t expected to know everything people are offended about, needless to say, it’s a lot! Some of it completely frivolous.
But there are also many legitimate reasons why people take offense.
With that in mind, the key areas to naturally avoid are: racism, sexism and anything that insults, attacks or marginalizes people because of their age, intelligence, religion, gender, sexuality, physical appearance, and mental or physical disabilities.
A timely and well-publicized example of rebranding amidst the foreground of Black Lives Matter, is the NFL team formerly known as the Redskins, who are now temporarily known as the Washington Football Team.
Redskins is a disparaging term for Native Americans, and it had been the team’s name since 1933 after initially being called the Boston Braves in 1932, prior to moving to Washington.
After years of protests from Native Americans, fans and players, the Redskins leadership announced they’d drop the name and logo after a review process, to the anger of some, and the relief of many.
There has been mockery around the temporary name: the Washington Football Team, and admittedly, it is beige – but likely deliberately so, to avoid any attacks relating to creativity, given it is impermanent.
Importantly, management understood the very message I’m highlighting in this article, that sometimes the need to rebrand is urgent. While it took the leadership a long time to get to this point, once the decision was made, there was urgency to follow through. Given the process of creating a new brand is going to take time, a temporary new name was pressingly necessary.
The term redskins has been relevant in Australia as well. Nestlé, the makers of Red Skins candy, under the Allens brand, have also decided to drop the controversial name. Additionally, they will be renaming their Chicos candy. Chicos is the term for “boy” in Spanish, and can be offensive to people of Latin American descent.
In a statement, Nestlé highlighted the need to “ensure nothing we do marginalises our friends, neighbours and colleagues.” And that the names had overtones which are “out of step with Nestlé’s values, which are rooted in respect.”
Companies around the world are assessing their branding for appropriateness and inclusivity.
As I write this, Saputo, the Canadian owners of Coon cheese in Australia have decided to retire the brand name after consistent complaints. The manufacturers of the cheese say it was named after Edward William Coon, but the term “Coon” is a racially offensive slur toward Indigenous Australians.
Although overdue, these brands are finally making changes.
If you’ve ever received complaints about your brand, or sensed a general unease amongst clients and potential customers toward it; or indeed, felt uncomfortable yourself, it’s urgently time to rebrand.
3. Your branding is not trustworthy
Recently, a friend sent me an opportunity to be interviewed by a printed magazine. I hadn’t heard of the magazine so I did some research.
The name of the publication carried such authority and power, and the opportunity carried such promise, but when I visited the site I was instantly repelled.
The website had low-quality images, strange text formatting, and a busy background.
Each page was splattered with different, unprofessional fonts.
The company logo was the icing on the cake though. The logo was cluttered, and within it were: outdated fonts, diagonal lines, dotted lines, off-centered text, uneven spacing, and varying odd colors that lacked depth. The logo was also not congruent with the power and might of the publication title.
The articles in the magazine might have been great, but I wouldn’t know, I couldn’t leave the website fast enough.
The words that spring to mind when I think of that brand are: amateurish, inconsistent, cluttered, confusing.
And as a result, untrustworthy.
Curiously, my friend who sent me the information, wrote in her initial email: “Seems like a good opportunity but this publication appears dodgy, and I’m not sure why.”
She knew little about design, but she got a feeling about the business based purely around their branding.
If your branding gives the impression of being untrustworthy or amateurish, the time to rebrand is now.
4. You’re embarrassed of your branding
An entrepreneur came to me with a common problem. She’d started her business years ago with little money, creating the brand entirely on her own, including designing the logo.
As her business developed, it quickly outgrew the branding, and certainly was not reflective of her polished image anymore.
Her embarrassment was so intense she stopped handing out business cards, using business stationery and telling people to visit her website. Yet, she saw rebranding as a low priority.
Until of course, sales began to dwindle.
All of a sudden, rebranding became an urgent task because she wanted to shout loudly and proudly about her business again, but couldn’t do so with her existing branding.
My suggestion is, don’t wait for business to falter. If you’re embarrassed about your branding, treat rebranding as a top priority, proactively rather than reactively.
A brand new you
Although rebranding is a process you’d like to undertake in your own time, there are occasions where it becomes an urgent matter, particularly if your branding causes offense or creates a negative perception around your business.
In some cases, saying goodbye to your existing branding might be hard, but saying goodbye to your business, as a possible result of that branding, is much harder. Stay clear, stay respectful, stay congruent, stay the course.