To respond to the problem is necessary to understand the difference between branding and rebranding. Both branding and rebranding have very similar strategies. They are virtually identical within brand management but occur at different times and evolutionary stages. Therefore, what we should differentiate is not the what but the when. The context in which we decide to make a branding or rebranding strategy.
A branding strategy consists of designing, planning, and managing different actions to ensure that the brand image that reaches customers is precisely what the company wants. Branding actions cover the entire design process, from the logo to the corporate image. We must also include the marketing strategies that ensure the consistency of the brand’s communication and appearance with the strategic guidelines sought by the company.
Thus, branding is a process carried out since a brand is born. Added to this are progressive actions that make the consumer’s mind establish specific predetermined patterns or associations about it. The identifying elements of a brand – be it a physical establishment, its web page, billboards on public roads, television spots, or the messages it communicates – end up configuring associations towards the brand in the minds of consumers. They are the ones that give an idea of what it is. And that idea is generated from all the actions – or inactions – the brand has carried out over time.
On the other hand, in the case of rebranding, the story is very different. Rebranding is the process that is carried out at a time when brands want to change the perception that the consumer has of them. That can be due to several factors. For example, problems in executing marketing plans, product failures, or errors in market research. Also, because of a reputational or economic crisis, corporate mergers, or simply because you want to renew for any reason.
Therefore, rebranding is a challenging process and has certain risks. If the strategic planning of branding is a remarkably complex and challenging goal, rebranding has an even higher degree of difficulty. That is due to the risks involved in the possibility of confusion among consumers.
Currently, there are many academic interpretations regarding rebranding. The best known and used is the one that establishes that rebranding is essential to business success. Therefore, it’s necessary to evolve the brand in a way that keeps pace with the times and meets the changing needs of consumers.
Another position considers rebranding as a radical brand change. Radical not only in the sense of name, logo, and corporate image but also a complete identity change. Finally, a less favorable position considers that we must avoid this radical change at all costs and wonders if rebranding is crucial. That is because, all too often, companies perceive rebranding as a simple cosmetic exercise. It could be a new color, logo tweak, and launch of some good T.V. spots associated with the first position.
An example that clarifies and justifies the second position and questions the third occurs in corporate mergers. Often these will result in a complete rebranding due to a new entity that may be visible or interpreted. However, a gray dot appears when organizations have failed to establish a brand or have suffered a scandal that seriously compromises their image. It is here where the total renewal of the brand can also be in order. In these cases, the intention is to erase any previous brand identity and replace it with new images and messages.
For his part, David Aaker identifies other factors that imply a rebranding strategy within the company. First, when the target segment becomes saturated. Second, the need for new partnerships to generate growth. Third, the aging of the target market. Forth, the obsolescence of the product.
Therefore, there are almost as many reasons for rebranding as there are problems with brands. Some may be proactive, such as significant growth or a new line of business or market. Also, new audiences or when a company realizes its brand is losing relevance in the minds of consumers. Others can be reactive, as in the case of corporate mergers. That may be the case when the current brand has suffered a crisis, a failure in the marketing plan, or a confused, non-existent, or obsolete image. Finally, there is the case when the main benefit has changed from a differential benefit to a price one. Also, when a competitor with a higher position is targeting the same market.
And then… Branding or rebranding?
According to Guillermo Altube, director of Interbrand, thinking about branding or rebranding work is complex and requires prior analysis. For this reason, it establishes that it is crucial to rebrand from different degrees. When the brand is completely changed, we can call it repositioning. On the other hand, when we make an update, it is linked to more organic factors, such as the passage of time or other minor adjustments. Likewise, it affirms that the advantages or disadvantages of rebranding depend on the need of each particular case.
In conclusion, the variety of problems leads us to think of branding or rebranding as a methodological issue that could provide different solutions for different evolutionary stages of an organization. To reduce it to this would be to devalue a complex discipline that seeks to revalue brands and reposition them to remain relevant in an increasingly changing market.