5 Warning Signs You Might Need a Rebrand ASAP

Your brand has to change to stay fresh and appealing—but when do you need to make it happen? Here are the 5 key signs that it’s time to rebrand.

November 1, 2023

In 2009, Domino’s—the pizza brand that at one point featured a creepy puppet-like mascot named The Noid—held only nine percent of the American full-service pizza market. In a country that’s obsessed with ‘za, nine percent was awful. The public simply perceived Domino’s as being a low-value brand that you only ordered if Pizza Hut or Papa John’s was too busy.

But today, Domino’s is the best-selling pizza retailer in the country. They turned things around starting in 2010 with a new CEO and a new brand—or, more accurately, a rebrand. The company embraced technology and was the first major chain to accept delivery orders via social media; honestly acknowledged its less-than-ideal reputation with the “Pizza Turnaround” campaign; and laid out a transparent plan to improve its pizza and service.

It worked, but only because the company realized it needed a fresh, new start. Your organization may be in the same boat, but unless you know what to look for, you’ll never see the signs.

To help, our resident branding guru Lindsay Miller came up with five signs you might need to rejuvenate your brand with a refresh.

Sign #1 Key Performance Indicators Are in Long-Term Decline

Every business has key performance indicators (KPIs) that tell a data-driven story of success or failure.

Over the short term, those KPIs can dip south. Most of the time, it’s just normal business. But when the important numbers keep dropping over a longer timeframe, like over the course of a year, then your brand might be to blame.

One big reason why revenue, sales, and new customer acquisition all decline over time is because the company’s brand becomes stagnant and starts blending into the crowd, especially as a market matures.

“Your brand is in need of a rebrand when it’s no longer distinguishable,” says Lindsay. “If it fades into the background, or if it doesn’t prove value or stand out any longer.”  

If consumers begin thinking your company is the same as the rest, then you’ll miss out on opportunities to not only get new customers, but to keep the ones you already have from jumping ship to a competitor.

“This doesn’t mean that every brand should be flashy or ‘stand out’ for the sake of being seen,” cautions Lindsday. “But a brand should be recognizable and have a solid foothold in the market.”

Along those lines, if you start noticing that you’re consistently losing market share, getting few new customers or clients, earning less per unit or service sold, or suffering any other major loss over a longer period of time, a brand rework might be the solution.

Sign #2 Your Company Wants to Enter a New Market

It’s hard to turn on a TV, browse the internet, go on social media, or even visit a convenience or grocery store without seeing Red Bull—you know, the turbo-charged, action-packed energy beverage brand that “gives you wings.” It’s the quintessential American company: exciting, in-your-face, full-throttle excitement.

You’d probably be surprised to know, then, that Red Bull isn’t an American company at all. It’s from Austria! The fact that this comes as an eyebrow-raiser to most of us is due to a seamless rebranding campaign focused on adrenaline-fueled spectacles that helped Red Bull invade our shores.

In 2008, Red Bull had Aussie daredevil Robbie Maddison jump his motorcycle onto a Las Vegas landmark. In 2012, Red Bull sponsored the world’s highest free-fall from the edge of space with Felix Baumgartner. The brand also sponsors a wide range of athletes and sports teams so you associate the thrill of competition with its beverage.

When you want to enter a market where you don’t already have an established presence, it’s important to understand your customers and what makes them tick. If that doesn’t already align with your brand identity, then you need to conceptualize a new facet of your company’s persona to be attractive to this audience.

Sign #3 Your Company Changes or Restructures

Businesses change all the time, from hiring new leadership to acquiring (or merging with) another entity.

When that happens, the familiar can become unfamiliar—and that can have a negative impact on your bottom line.

Consumers may not always notice what’s different with your company, but if they do, and they feel like the company is moving in a direction they don’t like, then they won’t be happy. “People can actually hate your brand if you don’t do it well because they feel like it doesn’t fit them anymore,” says Lindsay. 

There was some concern among hardcore Star Wars fans when Disney purchased the franchise for just over $4 billion in 2012. Why? Because Star Wars, to most fans, was a far cry from animated, family-friendly features like The Little Mermaid and Monsters, Inc. Many thought that Disney was out of ideas, and had to “buy” creativity instead of using its own.

Not everything Disney has produced since then in the Star Wars universe has met with critical acclaim, of course. But it turns out, at its core, Star Wars and Disney share one common value: there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy, and they can enjoy it together. 

By focusing heavily on the sense of wonder (and nostalgia) that comes with Star Wars—two things Disney is exceptionally good at communicating—Disney’s marketing campaigns have drawn powerful connections between these two brands that have made each stronger and more lucrative.

Sign #4 Repositioning Within Your Market

Sometimes, like George and Louise Jefferson, you want to move on up. 

When a company repositions itself in a market—like, say, transitioning to a more luxury offering than an entry-level one, or vice-versa—rebranding is a must. 

Apple is a classic example of how a bit of rebranding allows you to sell a laptop computer for 15% more than a competing laptop that may actually be more powerful.

In the 1980’s and ‘90’s, Apple sold computers. That was it. Their computers were nice, but nothing spectacular, especially once the competition caught up to a graphical interface and this weird thing called a mouse. 

But in 2001, Apple Computers changed the game—and soon after changed their name by dropping “Computers” — with the release of the iPod. Apple modernized its logo and began talking about the Apple lifestyle, not just the technology.

Many other products and versions later, and Apple is perceived as the luxury name in personal computing devices—a far cry from its workmanlike beginnings.

Sign #5 Your Brand Has a Negative Connotation

Unfortunately, sometimes brands get saddled with a bad reputation that just won’t go away by itself. 

When that happens, rebranding can mean the difference between survival and obsolescence. 

Abercrombie & Fitch, once a popular teen apparel brand, faced a ton of backlash in the early 2010’s for its exclusionary marketing and controversial leadership statements (the then-CEO said they only wanted to market to “cool, good-looking people”). To say the brand represented elitism and discrimination is an understatement. 

In response, the brand underwent a significant rebranding effort: it ousted its CEO, overhauled its marketing to embrace diversity and inclusivity, diversified its product line away from logo-centric attire, and improved corporate social responsibility. 

The pivot was to reposition A&F as an inclusive, customer-centric brand—and in 2021, the company reported the second-highest quarterly revenue figures since before 2008.

Without rebranding, a negative aroma will linger around and stink up your sales for years to come (if your business lasts that long).

How to Rebrand the Right Way

So you need a rebrand. How do you do it?

It starts with a plan. “If you have a strategy for a rebrand, you’ll have a seamless transition,” says Lindsay.

“I would collect a group of trusted voices within a company that understand context, history, and have some say in future decisions,” she goes on to say. “I would hire a marketing agency or a talented strategist who understands the market. I would discuss the future of the company and see where you wanna go.”

From there, your rebrand should focus on overcoming the first major obstacle: confusion. According to Lindsay, “The most challenging thing is letting people know why you’re doing it and quality assurance. Rebranding can be a fatal thing as well if you don’t have a strategy nor good reasoning for rebranding.”

If you can lay out a convincing case, however, you’ll get people on board. “Far more often than not, people accept change if they feel like they’re a part of the journey,” Lindsay says. “If they feel like their identity changes along with brand identity, they feel like they helped change or influence the rebrand.”

Rebranding is a wonderful chance to make some real, positive moves in the market, build stronger loyalty and familiarity with your customer base, and even turn negative circumstances into positive opportunities. 

Go into the process with strategy, get the right people to help, and you’re on your way to a better and more bountiful brand.

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