What marketing managers need to know about rebranding

Branding Vs. Marketing

Most of us accept the standard premise that branding/rebranding and marketing are different functions. In a formal organizational sense, they are. The expertise of a team of branding experts is essential in navigating this high payoff/high-risk process. And, of course, marketing must help implement all the facets of this new or refurbished organizational identity to expand sales.

It also stands to reason that a rebranding team will benefit by accessing the granular customer data the marketing team has at its fingertips. This includes the demographic breakdown of the customer base, representative psychographic customer profiles (with information about their likes/dislikes), and where the current brand messaging hits and misses the mark in generating sales. The branding team can then check both sets of data to cross-validate. There is no formal process for this collaboration. However, a marketing manager has access to valuable information that should be made available to the branding team.

But first, some definitions–

Brand defined

A company’s brand is essentially its personality—as revealed in its website, social media, logo, packaging, pricing, advertising, and other content—including the scope of your customer support training. The goal of branding is to make an emotional connection with the customer to establish positive customer expectations. This invariably includes the promise of exceptional customer support, product or service quality, and superior value across all product lines. A successful branding is designed to create greater customer loyalty–ideally for a lifetime and even from one generation to another.

Both artistry and careful data-driven research are involved in the complex but high payoff process of creating a new or revised brand. Your brand should make your customers feel that they align with and support something more meaningful than your good products and services.

A band will stand out in a crowded marketplace once a compelling, seductive emotional connection is established with customers. People don’t like to take the time to evaluate every purchase with objective certainty—so they go with the assumption that a brand’s products are unquestionably the best. It’s no exaggeration to say that people fall in love with brands, establishing what can be a life-long relationship that significantly expands an organization’s customer base, leveraging the psychological advantage of ‘confirmation bias,’ explained below.

In essence, your brand is designed to define how your customer perceives you. It isn’t what you say it is, but rather what your customers believe it is. A company’s brand is comparable to a person’s reputation. A brand is not reducible to a single name, logo, website, or slogan, any more than an individual can be understood by only one characteristic.

Among the reasons, a company may choose to rebrand—

  • A new company. A new company has the advantage of establishing an entirely new brand with no potentially negative past baggage. Creating a carefully crafted, integrated design, theme, and uniform tone will help you stand out from the competition.
  • Name change. A weak name is too easily overlooked and can limit your brand exposure. A careful, data-driven evaluation of new name options will help you create greater brand recognition and credibility.
  • Revitalizing a brand and identity. Revitalizing a brand requires that all stakeholders buy into the newly defined company purpose, promise, people, place, and price.
  • Merger. When two or more companies merge, navigating rebranding can be tricky—but well worth the effort of getting all stakeholders’ buy-in.

A new or revitalized brand package must align with an organization’s core values, objectives, and product/service advantages. –It’s essential to have credible, research-based answers to questions like the following.

  • Does the new or revised brand resonate emotionally with my target audience? Will it encourage customer trust and loyalty?
  • Does the brand tap into the uniqueness of what I am offering and why they are of value to customers?
  • Does the brand convey the promise made to my target audience while also holding value to motivate my internal audience of company employees?

Creating brand loyalty

Developing a solid brand that cultivates loyalty relates strongly to promoting values that resonate with customers. According to the Harvard Business Review, 64% of consumers say that sharing the same values with a brand is the primary reason they have a relationship in the first place.

Similarly, a brand that elicits loyalty results in the word-of-mouth promotion of a company’s products and services to the families and friends of your customers. Getting recommendations, positive reviews, and other kinds of social proof that your brand ‘lives its values’ can be posted on social media to increase brand awareness and grow your customer base.

Brand confirmation bias

All of this underscores the sometimes overlooked importance of ‘confirmation bias.’ As social creatures, we are hard-wired to seek identity with a ‘tribe’–or in our modern world, we seek out groups of like-minded people, often on the internet. Once so aligned, we will unconsciously discount evidence of the superior merits of competing brands, no matter how compelling objectively. The phenomenon of confirmation bias is as valid for consumer brand preferences as it is for one’s political alignment. Effective branding results in customers buying into the full range of your company’s products and services. The Virgin Group brand, for example, offers services and products ranging from international flights to mobile phone services, digital health, finance, commercial radio, soft drinks, and even wine. Virgin’s high ‘band equity’ (customer willingness to experience new products and services within the brand) translates into customers feeling more secure in purchasing its different services and products. It has been the same story for iconic Tiffany’s, dramatically expanding its initial reputation for fine jewelry to many other high-prestige artisanal products.

A prestigious brand name can result in unparalleled benefits for your organization. This is confirmed by the fact that when one company is bought out by another, there can be an amazingly high dollar value placed on the brand itself. One recent example is renaming the multi-venue Los Angeles Staples Center to Crypto.com Arena, a brand equity transaction that cost Crypto.com $700 million! Regardless of company size, any business plan (including marketing materials with accompanying graphics) inevitably makes you more attractive to potential buyers.

Even if you are a new company, a nicely crafted brand identity can make you appear more established and increase your credibility. It also gives your clients a sense of confirmation bias stability as they develop a strong bias in favor of your products and services, all of which works to expand your customer base.

Marketing is tasked with ensuring that brand guidelines are implemented consistently throughout your marketing materials–down to fine details that may only be picked up subconsciously. For example, if your branding materials are white and blue, and the font is Arial Nova size 12 in black font, with a spire logo, marketing managers must carefully implement these elements throughout all materials.

It’s up to marketing to finesse a brand’s messaging and expand its recognition among potential customers by tweaking your brand messaging to match the specific psychographic profiles in your customer base. However, your essential band elements should not vary. Having a consistent brand message and voice helps ensure that new and existing customers embrace your business values and how doing business with you can benefit them. Establishing that baseline recognizability and emotional connection is what can distinguish you from your competitors.

Integrated marketing communications (IMC)

There have been times when companies launched a new brand without carefully evaluating whether it would appeal to their customer base. IBM is a prime example. The company badly miscalculated when it entered the personal computer market in 1981 by not considering that PC customers had no real commitment to IBM. Those buying personal computers at that time and ever since have had an altogether different set of criteria. This opened the door for success by Dell, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard.

No matter how excellent a rebranding may seem, if a company’s products or services have gained a bad reputation, it’s best to move forward with different products and create a new brand from the ground up. Established management will often resist such a transition, especially band managers who have invested so much time and energy in what they are unwilling to admit are failed products. If they control the resources, they can block necessary change. The resulting scenario can be like the sinking of the Titanic.

Even more rigorous quality control and leading-edge product upgrades will not be enough to turn things around. This is because competitors copy one another’s features as soon as they’re introduced, and continual manufacturing advances make quality issues irrelevant. Today, customers prioritize gut-level emotion and the symbolic attributes of a brand, which may or may not relate to anything objective or easily confirmed. It follows that once a brand’s reputation is tainted, it’s game over.

‘Brand facelifts’ can also waste money and potentially cut into sales. An example is GAP’s unfortunate logo change in 2010, which the company had to reverse quickly when customers rejected it.

And everyone is familiar with the disastrous launching of the ‘New Coke’ in 1985. Because rebranding is a lengthy and costly process, mistakes like this can seriously damage even the most established organization.

When integrated branding and marketing does not work

Underscoring the extraordinary impact of NFTs, the term itself has been selected as word of the year by Collins Dictionary. But what are they? Essentially, NFTs are the blockchain-based equivalent of collectible trading cards. This innovation has introduced new artists to the art market while creating a growing speculative frenzy among buyers. Anyone can now own a unique or limited edition NFT art with just a few clicks. NFTs constitute a digital art revolution that radically changes how art and collectibles are bought, sold, tracked, and authenticated globally.

An NFT links a digital work with a token, which the artist can access on an encrypted artwork platform. The key can then be passed to the buyer to certify authenticity and proof of ownership. For example, digital artists can sell one (or a limited-edition) offering by issuing a set amount of tokens to ensure the scarcity that investors insist on. Each NFT is unique and cannot be destroyed. This is the first time in history that a single person can own digital assets, available in limited quantities tracked on the blockchain, making their ownership wholly transparent and verifiable. More specifically, blockchains are decentralized digital ledgers that maintain a continued record of transactions. This record can be used to provide unquestioned proof of authenticity and origin for digital artworks.

Artists can create new forms of an NFT, using the central part that already exists on the public blockchain. It can then be extended with new tools that allow artists to create entirely new art categories. This versatility of NFTs enables artists to innovate and increase their sales beyond traditional revenue streams. NFT technology also facilitates the experiencing and distributing valuable art more equitably. For example, graffiti and street artists can create murals that integrate image recognition into their designs.

Blockchain technology has already upended industries like banking and insurance, and it seems the art industry is the latest market to be disrupted and enhanced by this technology. The most dramatic evidence of this was Christie’s sale of digital artist

Mike Winkelman’s NFT– “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” NFT for $68.3M in March 2021. Unknown in the traditional art world before the auction, the sale of his collage was the third most valuable artwork in history. Yet this work was estimated to be worth only about $100 before linking it with an NFT! The sale also set a milestone because this and other NFT art is paid exclusively in cryptocurrency (usually Ethereum). It’s primarily because of Ethereum’s central role in NFTs’ growth that the value of this cryptocurrency has climbed more than 1,700% since the beginning of 2020. However, its value has been variable in recent months.

In 2021, the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, NFT sale volumes surged 1,000%. People are interested in using them in many areas: visual arts, videos, music, collectibles to raise brand awareness, gaming, publishing,  carbon trading , and fundraising. If you Google NFT offerings, you’ll be amazed to see how many high-profile celebrities are offering NFTs that may seem frivolous but are nonetheless generating income. (August 11, 2021, 07:18 ET | Source: Research and Markets <).

The luxury market, video games, music, and sports teams are also jumping on the bandwagon. –The first tweet by Twitter’s Jack Dorsey was sold as an NFT for almost $3 million in March of 2021. Another breakthrough development–St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum plans to photograph its works and tokenize them, selling off images in the public domain for thousands of dollars. This underscores the potential for virtually any asset being sold for a high amount. And we’re still in an early stage of this seemingly unstoppable process of digital art being seen as an asset class.

Branding and customer retention

An effective brand strategy encourages repeat business by keeping customers engaged and intrigued by new product and service innovations you promote.

Developing a brand with the objective of customer growth is critical. Loyal customers can become your best advocates by sharing their positive experiences with your brand with their wider social circle. According to customer referral expert Grace Miller, 92% of potential new customers trust personal recommendations more than any other kind of marketing. This underscores the importance of your brand being distinguishable from competitors and that it earns a reputation for living up to its values. The better the experience a customer has with your brand, the more likely they will recommend your products and services to their friends and family. Related marketing activities such as referral campaigns increase brand awareness, build trust, credibility, and strengthen customer loyalty to ensure repeat business.

By implementing your business’ brand strategy throughout your marketing initiatives, you enhance your brand’s credibility with your customers while increasing your recognition within the marketplace.

Brand equity

Brand equity refers to the value a company generates from a product with a recognizable name compared with its competition. Businesses increase their brand equity through marketing that makes their brand more memorable and recognizable, motivating customers to buy their new products across the board as they are introduced.

A compelling branding can exponentially multiply the effectiveness of your marketing by establishing yourself as a market leader, even an icon—so that customers gain respect and confidence in what you have to offer. Companies like Coca-Cola and Apple are examples of companies that inspire a passionate, even stubborn loyalty that isn’t amenable to the appeals of your competition, no matter what evidence they might present to convince you they are the best.

Internal branding

Internal branding, when implemented effectively, transforms your employees into passionate advocates for your brand—taking pride in their company’s identity, values, and mission to represent something much greater than just a line of products and services. (https://www.wise-geek.com/). Research demonstrates that engaging and aligning your employees to the company brand can be the single strongest element in ensuring the success of your business.

“Business success is all about people, people, people. Whatever industry a company is in, its employees are its greatest competitive advantage. As Virgin Pulse CEO Chris Boyce said recently, “They’re the ones making the magic happen – so long as their needs are being met.”

– Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin.com

Internal branding requires focused planning that is comparable to external branding.

Companies with a higher sense of purpose outperform others by as much as 400% (http://strategicdiscipline.positioningsystems.com/bid/78471/Brand-Ideals-A-400-ROI-Identify-Your-Competitive-Advantage).

Key components of your internal branding include–

  • Getting feedback from your employees on their perception of your brand, using employee surveys, focus groups, open discussion forums, and Q & A sessions. These efforts engage your employees with ‘a sense of ownership.’
  • Aligning your internal brand with its own iteration of your external identity may include “its own logo, font, set colors, tone of voice, taglines, critical statements, look and feel.” (https://www.crowdspring.com/blog/brand-identity/). A memorable identity will provide ‘meaning’ that motivates your employees as they engage daily in their roles and responsibilities.
  • Use a multi-pronged approach to introduce and explain your internal branding to every internal touchpoint. Ensure that more detailed information is easily accessible via your intranet software.

Building and embedding an internal brand strategy takes time and investment. However, the rewards can be enormous. Engaged employee brand ambassadors contribute to tangible returns for your business, including:

  • Advocacy: 78% of engaged employees would recommend their company’s products and services
  • Retention: Highly engaged organizations can reduce staff turnover by as much as 87%
  • Customer Service: 70% of engaged employees say they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs
  • Revenue And Return: During a study, companies with highly engaged employees improved operating income by 19.2% over 12 months, according to Towers and Perrin’s landmark study.

In conclusion, effective external and internal branding takes prodigious research and careful planning that can dramatically grow your business and even launch it into iconic status. Without thorough groundwork, however, things like a ‘brand facelift,’ for example, may not only fail but hurt your business.