10 Things to Know About Your Customers

As any successful business owner knows, the most important part of sustained business success is knowing your customers. No business can last long without its owner understanding the customers and what they want. After all, if a customer doesn’t feel appreciated, he or she isn’t going to stick around for long. Taking the current business world’s size into account, 100 competitors or more is a healthy number for a business.

With so many options available to consumers these days, it’s no longer enough for a business simply to offer the best product or service in its industry. It also has to connect with customers in a way that keeps them coming back consistently. No matter what you’re selling, you need to reach customers on their level. You need to know who they are, what matters to them and how your brand fits into that puzzle.

The best way to do that is by asking the right questions and constantly staying abreast of who your customers are and what they’re about. Here are a few things every business should know about their customer base.

1. How Old is Your Customer?

This might seem to be one of the most basic things to know about your customers, but it’s still worth saying because it’s an important part of developing your strategy to keep and obtain customers. If you don’t have a general idea of the age of your potential customer, you’re going to have a hard time knowing where you need to shift your advertising focus and strategy.

For example, a product typically used by people in their mid-50s would probably do very well if advertised in AARP Magazine, which is heavily circulated and enjoyed by the demographic you seek. But a product that’s mainly used by people in their late 20s wouldn’t find much of a market in AARP Magazine, making an advertising campaign there a complete waste of money.

The best way to find out the age of your customer is to conduct trustworthy research on your product and determine the types of people most likely to buy and engage with it. From there, you can craft your message accordingly to meet their needs.

2. Why Do They Buy Your Product or Service?

Consumers need to have a reason for what they purchase. Sometimes, the need is obvious, such as paying an HVAC repairman when the existing HVAC goes down, or buying new baking sheets to make cookies. Other times, the need isn’t quite as straightforward, but the product somehow appeals to something in the minds of customers and triggered their desires to own it. Decorative or specialty products, such as a welcome sign, fall into this category.

In some cases, their desire isn’t just to make their lives better with your product, but also to contribute to your business because they share your values. A great example is when a customer buys Girl Scout Cookies, which cost more than most cookies in the grocery store. The customer knows that the money from their purchase goes toward benefiting girls around the world; the money is going to a cause they care about.

In all these cases, the customer has decided that for whatever reason, they need to purchase the product in question, because it will make their lives better in some way. What you have to do is figure out how your product improves the lives of your customers and emphasize its benefits in a way that speaks to their needs. Once you figure out why someone chooses to purchase your product, you can decide whether to emphasize the rational or emotional benefits (logos vs. pathos) of buying from you, depending on what your research shows you.

3. How Did They Find Your Business?

In one early episode of Family Guy, when discussing his plan to help the struggling Quahog Theater attract customers, Peter Griffin pulls out the most simple strategy in history. “I’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and that’s like 10 people right there.”

Peter’s math might have been off, but for once, his reasoning skills were right on the money. People like to talk about things that make their lives better. Chances are, if your product has gone a long way toward improving someone’s life, that person is going to tell someone else, who might then spread the word to their own social circle and create even more chances for your business to gain revenue.

Or perhaps your business gets its customers through a robust social media campaign that turns likes and clicks into genuine leads, or maybe customers find you because you’ve got a strong internet presence and great SEO skills. There are many different ways for you to reach potential customers, and you’ve got to find out which ways reached the majority of your customers. Whatever the answer is, that’s where more of your customers are, and that’s where you can increase your market and your brand loyalty.

4. What Do They Like About Your Company?

As brands and companies start to establish themselves and their personality traits, they’re discovering that consumers like to feel good about the products they’re purchasing. For some customers, that means purchasing products that seem cool or popular and make them feel like they stand out from the crowd. These consumers value the benefits of your product and how it helps them live their lives, so their focus will likely be limited to the product itself.

Other customers might take a view of the social scene in the world and want to support companies that share their values. These customers might not view your product as being far superior to similar products, but they buy your product anyway because they like what you stand for and want to support you. These consumers are likely to be very brand-loyal because they view your company as more than just the purchased product. Instead, they support what you represent, and they’re going to do everything they can to help you succeed because they share your values. That’s a great situation for any business owner to have.

Whatever the reason your customers choose to purchase from you, you need to emphasize when crafting your marketing message. Remember, when one customer finds your company to be one that they can trust, it bodes well for developing future interactions with customers of the same mindset.

5. What Do They Expect From Your Brand?

Consumers don’t like to be lied to in any situation. Even when your brand is upfront and honest about who and what it is, consumers will depart if they feel that they’ve not received what they were promised.

A great example is the case of Nissan Computers. If you visit Nissan.com, you’re not going to find the car company’s stylish website or its fleet of vehicles. Instead, you find a bare-bones website with a few buttons related to computer services. That’s because nissan.com isn’t owned by the car company, but by Uzi Nissan, the owner of Nissan Computers. However, this can be a major backfire for Nissan Computers, because many of its visitors come in looking for the more famous car company. When they don’t get it, they’re often gone and they don’t come back.

That’s a bit of an extreme example, but it emphasizes the larger point: Customers come in with expectations, and if those expectations aren’t met, they’re going to go elsewhere. Whether your brand is built on luxury and fails to make consumers feel like they’re getting the best in the business or simply doesn’t live up to its tagline, your brand is often acknowledged as an unwritten contract with the customer to meet a certain expectation. When you fall short, your entire relationship with your customer can fall into a precarious position, and it can make them look elsewhere.

6. What Do They Think of Your Competition?

No business is without competitors for long, and that’s especially true in this day and age, when consumers can easily purchase products from across the country or even from around the globe. In order to stay a step ahead of your competition, you have to know what your customers think about the other options on the market.

The best way to stand out is to offer products whose quality outshines that of your competition.  Is there something that your product has that makes consumers gravitate toward it, or does their product have a feature that yours needs to add? It’s a good idea to keep your ear to the ground and constantly monitor what your competitors are doing to give yourself as much of an advantage over them as possible.

You’ll also want to consider the values of your competitors and how you differ from them. Perhaps you’re able to get customers to pay slightly higher prices for your products because you use a vendor located an hour away, while your competition uses a supplier who’s cheaper but in another state. Or maybe you supported a local charity that touches a lot of lives in your community. These things matter to consumers, and often mean more than you think. If you have a way to separate yourself from the competition with your community work, that’s not something to overlook.

7. Where Does Your Customer Like to Buy?

E-commerce is growing every year. As millennials and Generation Z gain a greater share of the market, the market will have to adjust to their expectations. Millennials now do 60 percent of their shopping online, and that number is likely to keep increasing as they continue to become the driving force in the market.

You need to make sure that you’re offering your customers as many options as possible to purchase your product. Is your website set up to maximize sales, or is it just a place to get information? If you’re seeking millennial buyers, you would be wise to make sure that your site is set up to turn leads into sales. Even if millennials aren’t your target market, older generations are becoming more comfortable with buying online and getting a product shipped to them, and businesses who only offer one way to buy risk getting left behind.

8. How Does Your Customer Like to Buy?

Millennials might prefer buying online with their laptops, but Generation Z has grown up on their mobile phones and has gotten used to doing just about everything with their phones. Send money to a friend, pay for dinner, check their bank statement: it’s all right there on their phone, and it’s always been that way for as long as they’ve had any purchasing power.

When designing your site to maximize web traffic and convert it into sales, you need to remember your mobile site as well. The mobile version of a website is often drastically different from the computer version, and a mobile site that’s commerce-friendly goes a long way toward sales.

You’ll also want to consider alternative forms of payment. Gen Z and millennials have grown up with PayPal, Venmo and other electronic payment options, and offering these services can make it even easier for these customers to make a purchase when they spot a product they want on your site.

9. How Much Does Your Customer Like to Buy?

Some products are designed to be purchased one at a time and last for a while, while others are meant to be bought in packs or purchased on a fairly regular basis. As a business, you need to understand how much a customer is likely to buy so that you can set your bottom line and price point accordingly. If your goal is to make $10,000 in profit each month, you need to figure out how to allocate your resources and set your prices to make that possible. If you don’t know how much of your product your customer likes to buy at once, that work becomes nothing more than an uneducated guess, possibly the worst thing you can do in business.

10. Why Don’t They Buy More?

There could be a number of reasons why your customers buy only a certain amount of your product at any given time. If you sell the kind of product that only needs to be purchased once, that’s not a worry. But if your product is designed to be bought repeatedly, you need to find out why your customers aren’t buying as much of it as you’d like.

Maybe the price point is simply too high to justify a regular purchase. In that case, you can figure out how you can your manufacturing costs lowered. Or perhaps your website isn’t set up to generate sales. That’s a problem that you can have your team address, and in doing so, you can make your company even better.

In all cases, your customers are the lifeblood of your business, and without them, you don’t have much of a business for very long. The best way to keep them around is to listen to them and try to understand them as best as you can. By getting to know who your customers are and what they think, you’ll put yourself ahead of the competition and set yourself up for real success.

Experiential Marketing: What Is It?

“Experiential Marketing”, also called Engagement Marketing, is a strategy that encourages active engagement from the consumer. It’s not a new concept, it’s become larger and more creative over the years, thanks especially to Instagram.  We’ll explain the idea behind it and three examples.

How does experiential marketing work?

Modern customers have become more savvy or even somewhat immune to blunt, directive messaging. It’s everywhere, and the mind has to filter somewhere.

In response, brands have picked up on ways of actively engaging consumers in their creation, personalization, and experience. Creating something gives customers something to own, to take pride in, and, importantly, to show off on social media.

The key is striking a balance between providing an experience for the customer and creating something they truly invest in and share. Here are three of our favorite recent examples.

29Rooms

29Rooms is the oft-cited example of experiential marketing. It’s an interactive art installation Refinery29 created in celebration of their 10th anniversary. Refinery29 is a digital media company with a mostly young, mostly woman audience, and that audience (generally speaking) loves sharing content visually through Instagram.

This exhibit brings visitors, but also brings high-profile collaborators like Kesha and Lena Waithe. Because of this, the primary audience has a sense of being a part of something with their heroes and brings them closer to feeling like potential peers.

Cheetos Museum

On a more lighthearted note, Cheetos put together the Cheetos Museum as a playful repository for the different shapes customers find in their snacks. Fans won prizes. The exhibit itself mimicked other art installations, like the Cheetos infinity room. If you’re already a fan of Cheetos, there’s nothing like having your own discovery on display in a hall composed of 128,900 of them.

Luke’s Diner

Luke’s Diner is a location featured in beloved TV show Gilmore Girls. When the show came back on the air, marketers created the idea of having fans literally interact by going to visit a pop-up version of the location. With decor and accessories from the show, it creates a mini version of an experience like that of Disneyland — a moment where you can pretend to be part of your favorite show.

Has your brand tried any kind of experiential marketing? We’d love to hear about it.

Audience Engagement: Creating Love & Loyalty

Audience engagement isn’t an exact science. We talked about target audience last week — why it’s important, how to do it, and a little about our own. But now that you know who they are, let’s talk about how to keep your audience engaged.

Be human.

Above all else, people hate feeling like they’re talking to a full-service marketing machine. Take the time to develop a consistent voice to use in all engagements, from web content to social media management, to other customer service functions. Be sure your team understands and uses your voice.

Encourage interaction.

Marketing a two-way street. Gone are the days where simply suggesting, directing, or compelling an audience is effective. If something doesn’t spark joy in 2019, you’re going to lose your audience. Just saying “like, comment, share” isn’t going to cut it. You need to…

Make it worth their time.

Time is a valuable resource and today everyone is more aware than ever of what it means to their OWN brand to endorse a company or product. Even further, the people who endorse you are an extension of your own brand. If they’re not your target audience, this can actually scare off audience engagement.

So do something that encourages the right kind of interaction. Ask real questions. Give away products and services with real (and enviable) value that your clients will truly be excited to receive.

Respect their time.

Once you have their attention, use it wisely. Don’t barrage them. Have a real and genuine conversation. Respond to questions thoughtfully.

One way you can do this is by making your message skimmable by using images. People are busy, and don’t have the time to read a wall of text. No matter how well-written, your audience does not have time for a novel. Give them the info they need and move on.

What have you found works for your own audience engagement? We’d love to hear about it.

Defining Your Target Audience

Target Audience is a well-worn concept and a commonly cited reason for a rebrand. It’s also the foundation for your brand to create its position, which helps guide decision-making going forward.

Why Is Defining Your Target Audience Important?

How could it not be? Your target audience is central to everything you do, say, and create. You have to understand who you’re speaking to in order to make your message resonate or even matter.

If you’re not doing that, or not being specific enough, you’re missing a valuable opportunity to really connect with the people who will not only buy your product but participate in your brand’s idea, development, and overall journey.

This isn’t limited to your buying public, either: placing yourself in a landscape of other companies helps you create valuable partnerships.

How Do You Define Your Target Audience?

Defining target audience is really about starting somewhere, observing, and reporting than it is about getting it perfect the first time around. Your audience will inevitably evolve. You might realize you’ve been trying to target the wrong people. You might find you’re using the wrong language to speak to them.

In other words, there’s no rigid way of getting this “right”. Your approach needs to be nimble enough to adapt when you take steps to assess.

How you decide to assess can be based on metrics like social media data and analytics. But it should also reflect your company’s stated goals and what really drives you. For instance, you may have started as a young company working with a much younger audience, but as you grow and change you might find your audience grows and changes with you. Their interests and passions will likely evolve, too.

Our Audience

Our own target audience has undergone a change to reflect our evolution as a company. Where we once engaged with entrepreneurs broadly, we’re making an effort to narrow our focus to entrepreneurs in certain industries. This will allow us to better engage with our own specific niche – something we’ve been working toward over the last few years.

Elevating Our Brand Culture

Brand culture, or company culture, is where a brand “lives” its own values. Basically, what goes on within flows out.

Fostering great, on-brand corporate culture is a huge step toward avoiding this problem. That means more than just saying what it is you believe in. It means enacting it every single day.

What Is Brand Culture?

You know those moments where something about a company’s culture bubbles to the surface in news reports and works in total opposition to what you thought you knew about the brand?

Uber, for instance, purports to be a brand that connects people, facilitates travel and therefore experience, and innovation. So it’s jarring when you hear about discrimination against female engineers, safety concerns with drivers and vetting, and practices that can disadvantage their employees trying to make a living.

How Do I Know What Our Culture Is?

Take a moment to list — yourself and your staff — what drives their work. What motivates them? Why do they come into work each day? Answers could vary from “well, I have bills” to “I really believe in our mission” to “I have the freedom to create” to “I need to achieve and I can do so here”.

Once you understand the broad sense of worker motivation, you should have a clear basis to understand what drives your workplace. Once you understand the why, you can clearly observe the how. Do your employees procrastinate, are they achievers who are driven to complete projects ahead of time? Is there a mismatch in that they want to excel but are bogged down by workload?

These two things will give you a pulse-check of how your workplace does what it does.

What is BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE’S Brand Culture?

In the spirit of our new Brand Promise, we’re taking steps to revise our culture. Our strategy defines this as one that’s inclusive, collaborative, and creative where employees are empowered, challenged, and truly recognized for high performance. Not just at the executive level — it’s important this comes from all levels of our culture to really create a thriving ecosystem.

Articulating Our Brand Values

With a rebrand comes a reimagining of Brand Values. Along with Brand Promise, Brand Attributes, Brand Voice, Value Propositions, and other characteristics, your organization’s values guide how your brand behaves, the goals it sets, and how you work.

What Are Brand Values?

Basically, Brand Values are guiding principles of behavior that deliver on your brand.  You’ll often hear conceptual language like transparency, humanity, or accessibility. These concepts are then illustrated with more language expanding on what these specific principles mean to their brand and why they were chosen.

We’ve seen a trend of brands placing their values front and center. For example, Everlane provides their values on their website as part of their overall presence.

Other brands typically use Brand Values to guide internal organizational culture, create policy, make hiring decisions, measure employee performance, and define the brand experience for customers. Brand Values are considered fundamental to the brand’s DNA. In a competitive marketplace, they help companies retain talent, make tough decisions, and allocate resources.

In other words, if you value everything, you value nothing.

Our Brand Values

In redefining our Brand Promise, it became clear we needed to realign our values to match. Shifting our focus from “Performance Fueled by Creativity” to “Simplify + Elevate” means our own DNA needs to shift. In order to deliver on the new promise, we needed to refresh our own fundamental language.

With this in mind, we arrived at three guiding principles of behavior: clarityrelationships, and kaizen. 

Clarity

Clarity is pretty, well, clear for a brand that promises to simplify. But clarity as a concept for BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE also imagines the client’s response to finally seeing their own vision clearly. Of course, we want to be clear and easy to understand. Because we want business owners to take action when they’re clear on the direction they’re heading. In addition, we also want to inspire that specific a-ha moment for our clients when they are crystal clear on who they are…and who they’re not.

Relationships

Every business values relationships, but how does BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE value relationships? By placing this as part of the value system that defines us, we make people and relationships central to everything we do. We want to work with you, not over or under. We don’t just take on more projects for the sake of it. We value long-term, collaborative relationships in which it’s a win-win for both parties. We are truly for the people — both in the sense of accessibility and in elevating those we work with through thriving connections.

Kaizen

Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning continuous improvement within business culture and practice. It’s a concept that is a sum of its parts, not a static condition. We value incremental change at every step as a commitment to overall improvement. If you’re not continually growing, your business will suffer. Simply by the very fact we’re evolving our brand is an indicator that we value continuous improvement. The market changes. People change. And, our business (and yours) will also change.

If you don’t have Brand Values guiding your internal culture and the brand experience for your clients or customers, it might be time to get clear on them. Of course, if you need help uncovering your Brand Values, schedule a call with our team today to explore how we can help.

Our New Brand Promise: Simplify + Elevate

It’s time: our new Brand Promise is Simplify + Elevate.

Our goal starting in 2019 is to make a transformational impact on brands — not inch forward.

We are evolving away from fragmentation and toward unified, cohesive imagery, words, and messaging.

Here, we’ll give you a bit of insight into what a Brand Promise actually is, what it means to us to elevate, and why this.

What is a Brand Promise?

Before we talk about why: what is a Brand Promise?

It’s the single unifying idea behind everything your brand does. It’s also the why and the how of your brand’s behavior.

In traditional media, it was simpler to keep messaging controlled and unified. With digital, it’s challenging to keep everything – social media, content, visual – on the same script.

But a Brand Promise keeps your message clear and consistent. It guides every part of your brand’s vision, presence, and communication.

What does it mean to elevate?

“Simplify” is a verb with a clear meaning. And, there’s sophistication in simplicity. But “elevate” is more abstract.

The answer is: we raise brands to a level above their own market. How that happens isn’t the same across the board. It takes effort on both parts toward that same goal.

We work with brands that share the desire to reach that raised point to help them realize their goals.

More importantly, we work with you to clarify exactly what it would look like to achieve your goals. What your marketplace looks like. Who your audience is. What they respond to.

Knowing each piece of your landscape on a high level creates clarity and purpose.

Why Simplify + Elevate?

Up until now, our Brand Promise was “Performance Fueled by Creativity”. That was an idea that reflected a different time and vision.

We’ve done performance. We’ve embraced creativity. It’s time to get back to the center of why we do what we do.

And now, taking a look at ourselves as an agency, our strengths, our weaknesses, our audience. With all that in consideration, it’s time to create a future for ourselves and our clients that’s uncluttered. Direct. Easy to understand.

If this sounds like you, we’d love to hear from you.

Best of 2018 Wrap-Up: Our Favorite Posts

We saw a lot of change in 2018, but there are certain things that stayed consistent.

These are the blog posts we feel best represent what’s to come in 2019, either in their simplicity, the values they represent, or in terms of what BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE can offer. Here are our best of 2018.

How To Request a Proposal From a Branding Agency

If you’re interested in working with a branding agency, one of the first things you can do to set yourself apart is getting familiar with creating a Request for Proposal. Commonly shortened to RFP, the Request for Proposal is exactly that—reaching out to a select list of agencies with your info, budget, needs, etc. and encouraging them to bid on your project.

Is The Latest Uber Rebranding Enough?

Uber rebranded again in 2018, ostensibly with the goal of improved legibility, especially from a distance. But it’s difficult to see this rebrand as separate from the controversy the company is already well-known for. From “Boober” to spying on Beyoncè, to Trump ties, to sexual harassment, to a Google lawsuit, to Travis Kalanick, Uber has a significant reputation problem. The question is, is yet another Uber rebranding—this rebranding—enough to help Uber move past it’s short, dramatic life?

Why You Need To Build A Brand Apart From Amazon… Even If You Have A Successful Business on Amazon

The high-level view of this conversation is “do you just want to sell products and make money, or do you want to build a business?”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with either answer. But if your goal is to really more to build something more substantial, you need to consider the benefits of having that strong brand in place. If you’re just chasing tactics and gaming algorithms exclusively for the sake of selling, you can easily overlook building trust and relationships with your customers.

Is Your Brand Proactive — Or Reactive?

proactive brand is, basically, a brand with a plan. It knows itself, it knows its place in the market, and it knows how to occupy that position effectively through what it does—and doesn’t—do. A reactive brand, by contrast, is one that does just that—reacts to whatever is going on around it at the time. With modern consumers ‘trained’ to see organized, cohesive, consistent brands, being more reactive can come off as erratic and alienate your customer base. Equally worrying, being too reactive can rely on consumer awareness of what you’re responding to.

The Real History of Five of Your Favorite Brands

Brands aren’t beholden to the absolute truth. Lots bend it, stretch it, make it work for them. In this article, we look at the real history behind Banana Republic, Madewell, Shinola, and others.

That’s our best of 2018 – what are yours?

Rebranding in 2018: 5 To Watch

Lots of big brands decided to undertake rebranding in 2018.  Cultural shifts have made updates to messaging critical. Keeping up with trends, bringing renewed energy, and displaying a forward focus are all reasons brands are rebranding in 2018.

There are lots of great examples, but some of the most notable examples of rebranding in 2018 are older, bigger brands ready to let the world know they’re making changes and keeping up. Here are some to watch.

 

WW (Weight Watchers)

With diet culture under more scrutiny than ever, how does a brand like Weight Watchers stay relevant? By revising its name to match a new, modern message. To pivot from a focus on numerical weight, they’re removing it from their name. The shift to “WW” leave room to reinterpret the old diet standby as one focused on wellness and overall well-being.

 

Dunkin

New England natives have referred to Dunkin’ Donuts as just “Dunkin'” forever. The brand decided to shorten their name officially and add more modern products, like cold-brew taps and digital ordering. This is supposed to be the future of the chain, and all locations will drop the “donuts” by January.

 

ACLU

In 2018’s political climate, the American Civil Liberties Union is more prominent than ever. In order to reflect their robust past and vital importance to America’s future, their rebranding includes modeling what they say by creating a “new standard of accessibility” and inclusion in their choices in UI, text, color, and language.

 

Tupperware

That classic stalwart. Vintage is hot, but Tupperware’s image had cooled. They needed to catch up to the modern marketplace. To regain consumer confidence, they created a new image, new messaging, utilized new fonts, and created a new logo. You can see the complete rebrand here.

 

 

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport

DFW’s new brand idea, “a clear path forward” is the crux of their new brand identity. “We’re in the best position of any airport in the U.S. to compete on the global stage. We just need to go do it.” stated DFW’s CEO, Sean Donohue. The new image and idea were received warmly by customers and stakeholders, elevating DFW to a world-class airport experience.

 

 

Those are some of our “rebrands to watch” for 2018—what are yours? Let us know in the comments.

Rebranding: the “Should you / Shouldn’t you” guide

Rebranding can revitalize a company… But should you do it?

 

Have you ever thought about rebranding?

If you’re like many business owners, the answer is a resounding yes.

After all, in the face of stagnant sales, incessant competition and changing markets, the idea of becoming a new, “different” company can be alluring.

But rebranding isn’t a walk in the park—and if you do it wrong, the consequences to your business can be dire.

Should you consider rebranding?

Here are some scenarios where overhauling your brand might make sense.

  • New product. If you’ve recently launched a new product or service that has the potential to confuse your customers, you might think about rebranding that part of the business. We don’t often recommend this approach, though. At BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE, we feel it makes sense most of the time to create one Master Brand and then roll out sub-brands underneath it.
  • New mission. A shift in your most basic reason for being definitely merits a rebranding conversation. For example, if you’ve been providing services to clients and now want to focus exclusively on teaching them, a rebrand is probably in order.
  • New image. If you’ve had a PR disaster—or an actual one—and you’re trying to distance yourself from it, rebranding may help you achieve your goal. This is difficult to do though, especially in a world where the internet can help even the least savvy customers see through your efforts. Witness tobacco giant Philip Morris and their attempt to rebrand as Altria.
  • New customers. If you’ve managed to attract a new market—whether by choice or by accident—rebranding may make sense. In the early 2000s, for example, Andersen Consulting split from its parent because its best clients wanted only consulting services. It then rebranded to Accenture to further distance itself from the accounting giant. (Good thing, too, as Andersen collapsed over its ties to Enron.)
  • New needs from current customers. The Canadian arm of Radio Shack, after being bought out in a consumer electronics deal, initially rebranded as The Source by Circuit City. But when its new owner began to falter, it became simply The Source—a move whose timing couldn’t have been better. Circuits and radios are things of the past, and the new name suggests that no matter where electronics go in the future, The Source will be there to provide that tech to its customers. (And both Circuit City and Radio Shack are now distant memories.)
  • New competition. To say things were different in the 90s than they were in the 50s is an understatement. But through that whole time, Kentucky Fried Chicken had the word “fried” right there in its name. 1991 saw a move to KFC, however, in a move away from that F-word. Too many healthy restaurants were giving the chicken giant a run for its money—so the move made sense. (Unfortunately, they handled the rebranding poorly; rumors persist to this day that they switched to KFC because they were no longer legally allowed to claim their product was “chicken.”)

When shouldn’t you rebrand?

Occasionally, businesses undertake a rebranding for the wrong reasons. Here are three.

  • New management. If all you’ve changed about your company is the management group—and the same problems you’ve always had continue to exist—your rebranding will never work.
  • New whims. Department store Macy’s lost a staggering amount of brand equity when it moved to a “one-brand” policy and renamed iconic brands like Chicago’s Marshall Field’s and Memphis’ Goldsmith’s. At the time, the decision was seen as foolish; Macy’s seemed to have recovered by the beginning of this decade but is struggling again.
  • New internal issues. If you’ve identified that you’re having trouble connecting with your market, is that a branding problem? Or is it because your marketing is horrible, or your customer service is poor, or your services aren’t delivered well? Be careful—not every issue is one that rebranding can solve.

Takeaway

In a perfect world, your competition would never change their strategy, your customers would stay loyal forever, and you’d see exponential growth year after year. This is obviously not the case—and while you don’t want to be too hasty with a rebranding exercise, don’t discount the power of reinventing your brand, either.