"Why All This Trouble?" How You Know It's Time to Rebrand

February 17, 2015 Marcus Varner

By Eric Morgan, CEO of Workfront. Article originally posted in Inc.

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Last Thursday, I arrived at the office, but instead of being greeted by the same AtTask logo I was so familiar with, I found myself staring at a new dynamic logo with new colors and a new name: Workfront. In the months leading up to this, there had been a flood of emails, scores of intense meetings, and countless man hours logged by our marketing team, communications team, and development team. Don't even get me started on all the surveys, brainstorming, consulting, and nitpicking that finally produced the new name and design. And we're only just getting started. In the days to come, we will be spending significant time and dollars into introducing our new brand to the marketplace and getting back to the level of recognition we once had with our former brand.

All of which might lead you to ask, "Why go to all this trouble?"

First off, let me say a rebrand is certainly not something company leadership takes on just for fun or on a whim. You don't do it just because you're tired of looking at your old one. A rebrand is the right solution for some very specific scenarios. If you can learn to recognize those scenarios, a rebrand could supercharge your company's potential in the years to come. So how do you know if your company needs a rebrand?

Reading the Signs

Yes, you'll see some situations where brands have taken on a negative association from lawsuits, scandals, or other negative publicity, and companies will rebrand to distance themselves from a sullied reputation. This is a common scenario where rebranding occurs, but there are other more compelling situations where a rebrand can provide more than just a new persona for a disgraced company.

When you start a new business, you don't have a name. You don't have a brand. You create things as you go and your brand forms organically out of this chaos. Sometimes, your company can create a brand name that fits at first, only to have your organization's focus shift to the point that your name is no longer relevant.

I started my career at a computer company called NCR Corporation. But it wasn't always called by that name and it didn't always specialize in computers. At its beginning a century earlier, the company was called National Cash Register. However, as their focus shifted from cash registers to computer systems, they saw fit to rebrand to something less product-specific.

Like NCR Coroporation, every company needs to ask themselves some serious questions periodically. Has your place in the marketplace shifted? Perhaps your target customer has evolved and expanded beyond your original brand? Is your brand creating emotional or psychological barriers to potential customers? Is it creating perceptions that will limit your product or service in their minds?

If the answer to these questions is 'yes'--and especially if your company leadership, customers, prospects, and industry influencers are confirming this--it might be time to invest in a new brand, a brand that will allow you to tell the story you want the marketplace to hear.

A Major Undertaking

I'll be bluntly honest: this is going to be a major undertaking. You've got to take people who have become familiar with your former brand and train them to recognize and draw the right associations from your new identity. This will take herculean effort and significant cost, not just in terms of money, but also of in terms of your internal resources and lost brand recognition.

What you don't want to do is settle arbitrarily on a new logo and name only to find yourself limited once again by your name two years later. Do your due diligence and keep asking how your new brand will affect your future growth.

Making the Case

One of the most surprising hurdles you will encounter will be the emotional connection people have with your old brand. Whatever you think about your brand, there are a lot of people--long-term employees and customers alike--who will have grown emotionally attached to it. You underestimate this emotional tie at your own peril, as these individuals can be vocal and may even try to undermine your efforts.

For this reason, your rebranding plan has to, in part, focus on convincing these fans of your old brand that a rebrand is truly the best step forward for the organization. Make it a point to build a case with those who care for why you're rebranding, and then communicate that case over and over again.

Well Worth It

As I write this, news of our new brand has been blasted out to news media, customers, and partners, and the work of establishing this new brand has just started. Whether the rebrand has been a success won't be known for at least another year, but optimism is high. Why? Because we asked the right questions before we settled on this course of action and as we crafted our new brand. With our old brand, as well known as it was, we could've survived for maybe the next few years but would've ultimately hit a ceiling. With our new brand, there's nothing keeping us from the solid partnerships with major enterprises we want in our future. And that makes all this effort well worth it.

About the Author

Marcus Varner

Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.

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