Companies often come late to the rebranding process.

Sales may not be up to expectations or growth has slowed. Often, companies tweak their advertising messages or change agencies.

They rarely work on their brand.

Moreover, what we've found surprising based on our experience is that...

  • 85% of branding work does not include a name change.
  • 50% of the time the logo remains unchanged.

If the name and logo—what most marketers consider the foundation of their branding strategy—remain unchanged, what on Earth does the rebranding process entail?

The Rebranding Process

First, it entails discovering what the cause of the slippage in growth or preference really is. You would be surprised how often companies invest in marketing solutions that never address the underlying market space.

So, let's look at rebranding as the science of persuasion it is. After all, the only reason to do it is to persuade prospects to change their minds and prefer whatever it is you are selling. If you embark on this process for any other reason, you are just wasting your money.

And if you believe the look, feel, and attitude need refreshing, then you are really thinking that the current work is not as persuasive as it needs to be.

Your advertising and marketing campaigns never exist outside of the context of your brand. Take a long, hard look at this context, and ask yourself if your current messaging is a believable reflection of the brand equity you credit as owning.

Your Marketing Message Revisited

That is a reflective process, meaning that your marketing message needs to seem natural to your brand's equity. Starting with your brand promise, does your current marketing message say why that brand claim is true?

The best brand messages own an emotional intensity unique within the category in which you compete. All too often, the claims are more indicative of the company's mission statement than anything with emotional meaning to the prospect and customer.

Does your brand promise right now consist of meaningless drivel like the following?

  • Focused on quality
  • Delivered with integrity
  • Customer-friendly
  • Priced fairly

Ask yourself this: Is anyone in your category not claiming these values? Aren't they more about you than about the prospect?

If your claim is in any way like these statements, it is time to rebrand because it is not working hard enough for you.

The kind of brand message that creates preference is never about your product, service, or category. It is instead all about the emotional values that your target audience hold as important to their sense of self.

You don't choose a product based upon rational values. You may convince yourself that you do. But if you were being absolutely dispassionate about it, you would admit that you rationalize the choice rather than making a rational choice.

Your prospects make an emotional decision about preference and then backfill that choice with rational support. If that were false, then the best product in every category would be the most efficacious. The market leader would always be the best.

Rebranding is about changing the rational meanings associated with your current brand and instead grabbing and owning the single highest emotional intensity that causes your prospects to change their mind and choose you.

Your Promise to Customers

How strong is your current promise? That is easily measured by looking at how much more customers are willing to spend to own your brand and how willing they are to inconvenience themselves to own it.

It is not a coincidence that the iPhone and iPad are more expensive, offering Apple greater margins than anyone in its competitive set.

You don't necessarily have to redo anything except your focus and meaning.

But you must be willing to live up to your promise.

Apple promises its loyal band something unique. Apple says you are discerning and appreciative of great design and simplicity when you buy into the Apple brand. Delivering that promise requires discipline and patience on Apple's part. The iPhone is not why Apple is Apple. Apple is why the iPhone was created in the first place.

One way to understand your need to rebrand is in evaluating the focus that the promise brings. It affects more than marketing. It is well to equate brand "with the Force" (to borrow a line from the Star Wars movies). It is everywhere. It both controls you, and you influence it. It obeys you, and you obey it.

A powerful rebrand influences your product offerings, R&D, and mergers and acquisitions because it is a cultural. It is a firmly held belief about who your target audience believes it is.

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image of Tom Dougherty

Tom Dougherty is CEO and president of StealingShare, a branding company.

LinkedIn: Tom Dougherty