Think Before You Brand

What a brand stands for is one of the most important pieces of equity that you have. So you have to take that into account whether it’s time to make a change or you’re planting your flag for the first time.

Elon Musk’s rebranding of Twitter as X may be the boldest and most notorious recent examples of a major rebrand, with many users still referring to it as the “platform formerly known as Twitter.”

While the Musk “X” example is extreme, it demonstrates the polarizing effect rebrands can have, highlighting the challenges of changing a brand that people already have a strong point of view on.  But when done right, a rebrand can have a transformative effect.

Here are some branding tips.

When rebranding legacy brands…

Maximize the good:  When Burger King rebranded as “The King,” it took something that existed and made it new. The question marketers must ask is if the brand has anything worth hanging on to. If so, find a way to make it fresh. If not, let it go.



Don’t deny your brand’s history: Old Spice is a great example. People associated this signature scent with their “grandpa’s deodorant,” and the rebranding did a good job of completely changing the way consumers think about the brand, without trying to artificially be “cool” and pretend as though the brand’s history didn’t exist.

Remember why people care that you exist: Don’t lose the core of what makes you valid; it’s your reason for being. IBM did a good job, for example, in owning its “nerdiness.”  It didn’t try to out-Apple Apple; instead, it took what people already thought -- that it was a brand for nerds -- and owned that quality in a powerful way that has people thinking IBM's the brand to go to when you want “smart.

Marketers must ask, “What do we stand fo,r and does anyone care?” And then, “How do we put that out in the world that makes it interesting?”

When building a new brand from scratch

Figure out a way to make people care:  For a new brand, nothing exists -- which is wonderful in one way, but it’s like looking at an empty lot and figuring out what kind of house you want to build there.  Think about a good reason that separates you from the crowd -- and own it. Again, the central question is, Why does anyone give a sh*t? Why are people going to care about this brand? Marketers must build the reason from scratch.

Go all in: Whatever you decide to do, really commit and do it. If you are going to remodel your kitchen, and just get half the job done, that’s going to be messy and rarely works.

Have fun: The great thing about launching a new brand is that often startups and smaller brands are less worried about causing a stir; they are just trying to make their mark and more willing to experiment and have fun.  

Whether you are rebranding a legacy brand or launching a new brand, the most important thing to remember is to consider all the possibilities while grounding everything from the consumer’s point of view and always providing a compelling reason to care.

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