What is rebranding and why it matters to your business

12 min read
Toshani B

Often times we notice that a company has changed its logo, its slogan — or even its name. What exactly are they trying to do? To stay relevant, it is vital for companies to continually reinvent themselves by updating their look, voice and message. This in the marketing parlance is called “rebranding.”

Remember “Hutch is now Vodafone” from 2007?

Cheeka the Vodafone pug

So, what exactly is rebranding and why does it matter? By definition, rebranding is a technique of revamping the business image in order to stay relevant, fresh and up-to-date.

A rebrand can be done for various reasons, such as:

  • When one company buys another
  • To repair a damaged reputation
  • To refresh an old, outmoded logo or tagline

It is an essential part of the marketing strategy for any business that wants to succeed in today's market.

In this post let us look at:

Why companies undergo rebranding

What are the different types of rebranding

How companies in India and globally have rebranded successfully

Steps to rebranding a business

Editor’s note: Every business, no matter how small, needs a logo or wordmark. Create a logo yourself with our free logo maker.

Why companies rebrand

There are many reasons for a business to take up a rebranding exercise.

First, most companies begin small. However, over time they grow and:

  • Expand into new markets
  • Create whole new product lines
  • Acquire different types of customers

Their new identity needs a new logo, colours, mission — in short, a new brand. It is then that rebranding becomes vital.

Sometimes, a companies realizes that a brand revitalization is needed because they’re losing customers or market share. Again, many rebrand to start afresh and beat competition.

Then there are times rebranding becomes essential to off-load a negative image.

If a business decision doesn’t align with public sentiment, it can destroy the brand image among the people most likely to buy from you.

If your brand suffers from some kind of backlash, especially after a scandal, rebranding is essential.

Finally, a change in leadership and top management reshuffle can result in rebrand. This can be seen when two companies merge, resulting in a huge impact on brand perception. The need to keep both company’s audiences, while changing products, services or geographic footprint may result in a rebrand.

Related: How to craft a company slogan and tagline

Types of rebranding

While a company can rebrand as often as the owners want to, a rebrand should never be undertaken rashly. Any logo, colours, photo treatment or tagline you’ve been using for years has likely built up brand recognition.

You don’t want to throw away this hard-earned visibility without good cause.

Makeovers can range from simply changing a brand slogan to changing everything — including the company name. Experts have classified rebranding three broad categories:

Brand Refresh: This is the most basic type of rebranding and is perfect for businesses that are already successful. For example, when a company has made slight shifts in its goals or mission and wants to remain relevant with a freshened-up logo, website, text and images.

Brand Reboot: Companies that have outgrown their initial brand identity due to the increase in new products and an evolved vision go for brand reboots.

This may include a brand audit that leads to a partial overhaul of the:

  • Corporate logo (with new typeface and colours)
  • Website
  • Tagline and slogans
  • Marketing materials
  • Corporate stationary

The biggest difference between a brand refresh and a reboot is that the latter includes a lot more research and strategic thinking and happens at a larger scale.

Full Rebrand: A full rebrand is a complete overhaul that involves a new approach, and a change in direction for your entire brand.

In most cases, a full rebrand is carried out when:

  • There is a shift in the company leadership
  • The current brand fails to connect with the company’s audience
  • There has been a merger

A full rebrand helps a company re-establish your brand image in the market and reconnect better with its target audience.

Related: 6 best tips on updating a website

Some examples of successful rebranding campaigns

Coca-Cola, the American multinational beverage corporation founded in 1892, has gone through several rebrands since its inception.

  • In 1985, for example, the brand introduced the now-iconic “Coke” can.
  • In 2001, they changed their logo to a more contemporary look.
  • And in 2005, they tweaked their message to focus on the idea of happiness.

The company went through a major revamp in 2016, when they refreshed the logo during the “Taste the Feeling” campaign. The goal of the campaign was to remind people that Coca-Cola is more than just a beverage, it is an emotion, and so on.

The rebranding every time focused on refreshing the look and feel to stay relevant.

It’s arch-rival Pepsi also evolved from the dull Brad’s Drink in 1893 through a series of rebrands. The most notable was in in 2008, when Pepsi updated its logo to a more modern look to target the Millennial. They also adjusted their messaging to focus on the idea of refreshment.

Coming to technology firms, Apple is an excellent example of rebranding. Previously known for its computers, in 2001 the tech titan ventured into the music industry by launching iTunes and the iPod.

The rebrand was successful because people started to see Apple as innovators in every technology, and not just computers.

Netflix is another prime example of how rebranding can help you increase your brand awareness and boost profits. Netflix was initially known for postal DVDs and Blu-ray rentals. In 2007 they shifted to video streaming with a focus on original content and using advertisements to pay for free programming.

Netflix saw a rise in its subscriber base from 7.5 million subscribers in 2007 to 12 million in 2009.

Another good example is GoDaddy, the U.S-based web hosting company founded in 1997. The company changed its entire brand and messaging in 2020, shifting focus from the sale of domains and hosting to the broader goal of becoming known as a “trusted advisor” to small businesses.

GoDaddy logo 2006
GoDaddy logo 2006

Professional social media platform LinkedIn underwent a rebranding exercise in 2020. They did that by changing their logo, colors and messaging, with the aim to position the company as a more professional platform.

Rebranding examples closer to home

Indian companies too have rebranded themselves to stay relevant and one step ahead of others.

One classic example is Hero Honda, the famous two-wheeler brand. Honda and Hero separated ways in 2011. Hero Moto Corp decided to go for a complete overhaul with a change in their logo and slogan.

They also roped in Oscar-winning musician A.R. Rahman to compose a song for the ad, which was launched on India’s Independence Day, August 15, 2011.

The black color in the new logo stands for solidity and classiness while the red gives a feeling of energy and confidence.

Another example is Godrej, a pioneer in the refrigeration space since 1958. It only made sense for them to refresh their image according to the changing times as they entered into consumer products, agro-goods and furniture sectors.

Godrej logo history

They changed their logo color in 2008 from red to that of maroon, green and blue to give it a more contemporary and diverse look. That said, the brand has also ventured into the real estate market today.

Other examples of successful rebrands include:

  • Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign in 1988 to position itself as an active lifestyle brand, especially in the athletic clothing industry
  • Fast food joint McDonald’s rebranding in in 2006, to reflect their shift towards healthier food

Both illustrate why companies need to go for rebranding exercise from time to time in order to stay relevant, trendy and powerful.

Related: 15 Indian unicorns to learn from

Steps to rebranding a business

Rebranding, like most business efforts, requires time, money, and energy. Hence, it is important to consider whether rebranding is a necessary step for your business. As an overhaul is never an easy job, it should be determined ‘what are you trying to change’ and ‘who are you changing for’ before coming to the ‘how’ part of the exercise.

A strong brand used consistently can increase revenues by 23%.

There are a number of steps in the rebranding checklist.

1. Brush up on branding

Whether you need a total overhaul or a simpler brand refresh, a good first step is to read this post on branding a business. It will put you in the proper frame of mind to review your current brand and make decisions on how it should evolve.

2. Assess your brand vision, mission and values

Every organization has a brand vision, mission, and a set of values — even if they are not written down. When you decide on rebranding, it is time to re-evaluate them.

These statements are the cornerstone of your brand and should be established before undertaking any marketing efforts, including rebranding.

  • For example, ‘What are we doing?’ Is it to provide fast, high-quality repair service for Indian motorbikes in Bengaluru? Is it to provide reliable transportation services to pharmaceutical manufacturers? This is your vision and the basis for every decision that you make.
  • Second, ‘How are we doing it?’ If this has changed, whether due to internal or external forces, your company message needs to change.
  • And finally, ‘Why are we doing it?’ This creates your values or why you’re working towards your vision and mission.

Now, any changes to your mission, vision or values should reflect in your rebranding vis-à-vis how you present your message to the world. This may involve changing the logo, tagline or even adopting a new name to better connect with your customers, partners and other stakeholders.

3. Researching your competition

It is essential to research other companies in your niche to build an impactful rebranding strategy. Knowing what your competitors are doing and how they are doing it can help you gain insight into how to set your business apart.

The research process may also reveal the success or failure of past rebranding efforts taken on by your competitors. In this way, you can learn from past mistakes and get a helpful leg-up in the effort to establish a more dominant brand name.

Read this helpful article for details on how to identify your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats by doing a SWOT analysis.

4. Identify your right audience

It goes without saying that a successful rebrand strategy is centred on reaching the right people.

It is a waste of time to promote your products or services to people who will never buy them.

Hence, in a brand-building exercise, successful image makeover is only possible when you know:

For example, you need to take into consideration your customer’s age, gender, geographical location, socio-economic status, their interests and hobbies, education level and other factors (these are known as customer demographics).

You may seek this data in your web and social analytics, your CRM (customer relationship management) system, and by asking customers to complete surveys and polls.

It is important to evaluate whether your target demographic has changed, how to reach the new set of customers and how to remain loyal to the existing ones.

Related: How to learn what your customers want

5. Understand your budget

Businesses rebrand all the time and for many reasons. But without the proper level of funding across different communication channels — particularly digital marketing, social platforms and online advertising — it will be hard to launch that new brand with the force it needs to maximize impact.

According to a report by HiveMind Studios, “The average rebranding initiative costs about 10%–20% of the marketing budget.

“… if your annual revenues are $15M and your marketing budget is $750K,” the report said, “you can expect rebranding costs in the range of $75,000 to $150,000 to overhaul your company’s brand.”

That said, it is also important to consider the commitment of time and labor needed to perform your brand facelift.

Hence, businesses should determine that the ROI (return on investment) will be worth it before taking the plunge to work on their rebranding effort.

6. Evaluate what changes are necessary and what’s not

When it comes to rebranding, it is of utmost importance that business leaders evaluate what changes are necessary and what’s not.

For some, it is about:

  • Renewing a stale or outdated logo
  • Replacing an irrelevant slogan
  • Devising a social media strategy

For others it can extend to adding a shopping cart to the business website or making the site more interactive.

In any case it is important to identify the changes and ensure the benefits of each change — keeping in mind its cost as well as impact on customers — when crafting your rebranding strategy.

7. Promote your ‘rebrand’

Rebranding efforts can succeed only when they're combined with the right outreach strategy. Throwing the message of change to customers, partners, investors and even competitors suddenly and without warning may actually hurt your brand image.

Having a good strategy for unveiling the new changes is a smart move. Coming up with a strong marketing strategy for rebranding will help you get the most for your investment of time and effort.

Wrapping up

Rebranding is not a process to be undertaken lightly. Whatever brand image you already have, whether intentional or not, has business value.

You don’t want to be too hasty in throwing away a logo that people have come to associate with good products or reliable service.

This is why the rebrands mentioned above involved an evolution of the business logo and colors, rather than a complete rejection of all elements of the original logo.

However rebranding can be a powerful tool for small businesses that are looking for ways to grow their customer base and stay relevant in the market. A fresh approach and a new look can often re-engage customers while helping firms expand into new markets.

So what are you waiting for? If you’ve figured out your brand needs a makeover, take the plunge and make a difference to your business.