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.


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.



Editorial Calendar Basics: Organize Your 2019 Content!

You’re busy running a business, but you know you need to put out content with some consistency to keep you engagement up and Google interested. Yet every week, you’re sitting in front of a blank document, feeling equally blank.

Head into 2019 prepared with our simple approach to a content calendar. We’ll give you a 30,000 foot view of everything you need to assemble a simple editorial calendar, intended for smaller teams (up to five people working with content).

Where do I start?

Before you start gathering your information, you need a template to put it into. The simplest, most accessible tools you can use are either a calendar or spreadsheet, depending on your needs. This may come down to personal preference and your own comfort, but both are good, accessible options for a small team. We’ll show a couple of examples that use Google Sheets.

Create a structure

If you’re using a calendar (like Google or iCal), your dates will, of course, be populated already. If you’re using a spreadsheet, you’ll need to enter them by hand. We recommend putting each date in, including dates you don’t intend to publish, and noting the week number (see image).

Decide on frequency

It doesn’t have to be a super-rigorous schedule, but you do want to create some sense of consistency in publishing. You want to define what you’re publishing and when. One key to good content is to publish info people look forward to, and making it available on a specific day of the week helps garner loyalty. For example, Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty puts out a new YouTube video themed #TutorialTuesday every, you guessed it, Tuesday. They can then promote this new piece of content across social media and email.

Get specific

Now that you’ve created a skeleton schedule of where and when you want to publish, it’s time to decide the what. This is where you get specific about exactly what those posts are going to be. Of course, if something timely or urgent comes up, you can alter your schedule, but keep in mind that the more you have written ahead of time, the less you have to worry about it when the moment arrives. Greater specificity also helps if you’re contracting to freelancers or having someone assist you.

Don’t forget these…

Again, you can be as specific as you want or need to be, but examples of some basic information to include would be who’s responsible, a due date, notes on what to include or a question you want the content to answer, SEO keywords you’re targeting, your call to action, and any relevant links. You’ll want to specify how your team hands off info as well (if you have a designer working on images or a social media manager posting as well).

Mastering Customer Confidence in 4 Steps

Building consumer confidence and your brand’s credibility is essential to the success of your brand. If you’re rebranding, it’s even more critical. Why go through the process only to repeat the same mistakes that shake customer confidence? 

Here are four key ways to make every single person that interacts with your brand feel like your best client.

Know your audience.

We talk about this all the time: It doesn’t matter how fancy or well-crafted your message is if it’s wrong for your audience. Even more than just knowing who they are, you need to understand what really makes your audience tick. Still more important, you need to know what really turns them off. And then you need to avoid doing it.

Be human.

Corporate brands run the risk of sounding, well, corporate. But as a personal brand, small business, or entrepreneur, you’ll sound human by default, right?

Not necessarily. Jargon, overly technical or specialized language, and hyper-specific acronyms or slang can cloud your message. While it’s audience-appropriate for some brands to use jargon heavily, many gain far more by simplifying their message for accessibility. Engage with your audience like they’re real people (because they are!), and they’ll respond in kind with confidence in your brand.

Be available.

The faster people can communicate directly with a real person, the better they’ll feel about your brand. Have processes in place where people can reach a real person who will take care of them. Keep your contact information up-t0-date and clearly stated on your website so people know how to reach you. 

Communicate like crazy.  

Communicate early and often. Let people know what you stand for. Keep your goals transparent so people can understand and get on board with what you stand for.

And when things go wrong? Address it directly, clearly, and openly in order to maintain client and consumer confidence. People love to be in the know and you have every opportunity for them to love you.

At the heart of all of this is having a brand that feels more like a fully-developed personality than a corporate robot. If you’re feeling like your brand needs a refresh on its communication strategy, we’d love to talk!

The Brand Story, Explained

Your brand story isn’t just your history, your CEO’s story, your stats and numbers, anything like that.

Any of those things can effectively be part of it, but an actual brand story is much more than a narrative. It’s about inspiring emotion and forming your audience’s beliefs and responses to your brand as a living thing with its own living tale.

And it has everything to do with your audience—how they feel and what they believe about you based on the signals your brand sends. The story is a complete picture made up of facts, feelings, and interpretations. It goes beyond the copy on a website, the text in a brochure, or the presentation used to pitch investors. Your story isn’t just what you tell people. It’s how you tell it. 

Your Brand’s Character

Just like in a story, your brand has a certain character. You’re always going to be the hero (or anti-hero) of your own story, and central to your own plot. Action never happens without you.

But as a character, how do you navigate tense situations? How do you negotiate your way through life into change? The way your character — your brand — handles these situations is what inspires your audience.

Create a Narrative

Storytelling is the most powerful element of your brand’s story. Think about the distance between describing Grey’s Anatomy as “it’s about people in a hospital” and an enthusiastic fan describing major plot points and long-running character developments that help to explain why it is that this person is so enthusiastic about the show. Think of this person as your client or customer: this is exactly why you want to provide thoughts, feelings, and beliefs for them to pass along.

Guest Speakers

You’re not going to be the only one telling your brand’s story. At one time, word of mouth was critical. But social media never sleeps, and your brand has its own 24-hour news cycle. People are out there engaging with your brand constantly. Having a story to fall back on is essential. You need to maintain control over the public perception you’ve worked hard to create.

Everything you do, from the colors and texture of your packaging to the staff you hire, is part of your brand story, and every element of it should reflect the truth about your brand back to your audience. If you want to build a successful, sustainable business, start here.

Five Steps to Perfect Your Lead Magnet

In order to build your email list, you need an effective, compelling lead magnet to bring customers into the fold. But actually sitting down and writing a lead magnet can be more daunting than you expect. What kinds of content will draw in the readers you want, and keep them around? The answer’s easier than you think.

We’re going to outline five crucial things to plan out before you sit down and compose your lead magnet copy. Ready?

Review Your Brand Platform & Know Your Audience.

First things first: You need to know what it is you’re delivering to your audience. What’s valuable enough to them to swap an email address for? What can you offer that nobody else can?

The first place you can look for this kind of info is your brand platform. It’s already spelled out for you there! Make sure you know who you’re targeting with your copy, and make sure you can provide what you’re promising.

Decide on a Format.

Next up, you want to decide on the best format for your content. Not everything has to be in eBook form, although that’s certainly a common format. You can provide a checklist or cheat sheet, you can create a calendar, a worksheet or workbook, or a template. Think of what you have to offer anyway – it doesn’t need to be complex or complicated, it just needs to be something worth something to your reader.

Think of the last time you were Googling and trying desperately to find specialized information. What did you find? Pretty good chance you came across a template or something that made you say “Oh, thank goodness.” THAT’S your goal in writing a lead magnet. Solve a simple problem and provide value.

Give a Quick Summary.

Before you get started, you need to be able to give a succinct description of what it is you’re writing. This is an exercise in specificity. Your audience has about three seconds to skim and decide if it’s worth their email, and you need to convince them it is.

Nail Your Title.

In the same vein, you need a catchy, irresistible title. This doesn’t have to be excessively clever, and probably shouldn’t be. You want the reader to know exactly what to expect, what form to expect it in, and deliver!

Think back again to that time you were Googling: were you looking for something crafty, superlative, or poetic? Nah. You wanted a push in the right direction – and something not so involved you had to follow it exactly. You want a crib sheet you can modify to fit your own needs.

Craft Your Opt-In Copy.

Maybe more important than the title: the opt-in copy. This is what lets people know exactly what it is they’re downloading and why. If you get this right, you’ve nailed it!

Looking for further examples? Check out some of what we have to offer!

Target Audience Mapping: How To Reach the BEST Audience

Going into business, we all have a pretty good idea of who we want to attract and how to speak to them.

But equally important is really knowing which customers you DON’T want. Or, more specifically, the customers and customer attributes that are wishy-washy, so-so, unengaged, uninspired, and overall not really part of the base you’re looking for.

It can be ok to turn away

It might seem odd to “turn away” customers, but one of the easiest traps to fall into is trying to be everything to everyone. It’s a slippery slope. After all, excluding feels counterintuitive. It feels rude.

But “turning away” is really a way of saying “I only want the best, most loyal customers who will loudly and proudly advocate for me at every turn.”

But in order to identify who these people are and who they are not, we need to identify everyone in our group, and then strategically sort them by degrees to which they align with our brand and vision.

Target Audience Mapping

If you’ve worked with us on your brand platform, you’ll know this as Target Audience Mapping. Target Audience Mapping helps us to create a lay of the land – an overview of everyone in our purview.

To begin Target Audience Mapping, you first need to determine a range your customers fall within. In our own example, one axis spans from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses (the range of what potential customers might fall under).

Our other axis describes an approach, ranging from strategic and holistic to tactical or specialized. When you cross the two, our target audience is looking for strategic and holistic approaches geared toward small businesses.

On a separate page, we identify the types of people who might be seeking out our services. This is sort of a Goldilocks process: Are we too big, too specialized, not quite the right fit? Or are we Just Right?

If we’re just right for them, they’re just right for us.

Marketing Messages: 5 tips for understanding your competition

You have a concept, a vision, a product, an audience. So why do you need to know what anyone else in your market is doing? You need to know what your competitions is using for marketing messages in order to make a splash.

It might seem like a sidetrack to your success, but every entrepreneur should know who their competitors are. In fact, they should know more than just who they are. Having a good understanding of your competition’s brand idea, color scheme, primary marketing messages, and key differentiators will help your brand to stand out.

We call this a competitive review, and it’s the process of putting together a dossier of your competition. This exercise is valuable in helping you to differentiate yourself from your competition. Sometimes brand messages are so ingrained with their product, it’s difficult to think of a similar product on its own terms.

But you can’t rely on the same marketing messages that are already out there, and in order to know what

Who are they?

Take a bit of time and write down every brand you’d consider a competitor to yours. Try to make the list exhaustive. Think of brands that aren’t necessarily a 1:1 comparison. For instance, are you a smaller coffee shop chain? Don’t limit yourself to just other coffee chains of the same size in your geographic area. Try to think of other value your clients might get from you. Why are they choosing you over grabbing a Red Bull? What do you offer that a home-brewed cup of coffee in a travel mug doesn’t? Try to come up with at least 10 brands you’re competing with for attention, and in your list, provide their logo for reference.

Brand Idea

A Brand Idea is the brand’s essence, it’s central focus and drive distilled into a brief phrase. Volvo might use “Safety First” as their idea. Campell’s might be “comforts of home”. This information might not be readily available to the public. If not, you can put it together with some thought.

Visual Themes

Once you’ve made a list, you can easily see visual patterns emerge. Is your corner of the market overwhelmed with pink? Are all the fonts bold and sans-serif? Fantastic. If you want to stand out, this is invaluable information. Seeing it aggregated together allows you to easily see what colors, fonts, patterns, and other visual elements will truly stand out in the marketplace.

Primary Marketing Messages

Your primary marketing message is the thing that makes your core audience need to know more. It speaks directly to them as if your brand knows them personally. By taking some time to identify your competitor’s marketing messages, you can identify subtleties in both how they define their market, and in how they speak to them. To go back to the coffee example, if you know your competition is speaking to the market’s need for caffeine, you can differentiate yourself by speaking to the need to slowly enjoy your coffee.

Key Differentiators

These are self-explanatory. What makes you different? Are you faster, cheaper, chicer, more niche, less frilly? To really know what makes you different, you have to understand what the competition is doing to differentiate. If you discover you’re very similar to a competitor, you can decide to change your point of differentiation, or focus on a particular aspect of your differentiation.

Avoiding duplicating the standard brand message is essential. After all, if you’re blending in? You’re not standing out.

Writing marketing copy for your OWN business

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, you’ve probably found yourself in the position of writing web and marketing copy for your business. And it can be really hard! So BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE wants to help make it a little easier.

Writing for your own business presents a unique challenge in that you both KNOW your business better than anyone—but because you know it so well, you can be your own worst editor. You might leave out important details, thinking they’re common sense. Jargon you understand clearly might confuse your audience. And sometimes, when your livelihood and focus is selling, it can be tough to translate that into content people will actually read.

For the sake of this article, we’ll focus mostly on web and blog copy, but these tips apply to most of your marketing writing needs.

Here are five pointers to help you craft the most compelling marketing copy for your own business.

Simpler is Better.

Dense, complex prose might help demonstrate that you’re an expert in your field. But if people are coming to your blog or website for information they can use and understand, a thick wall of text is going to leave them feeling alienated. You can try an “explain it to me like I’m five” approach to your topic. How would you tell your niece or nephew what you do for work? Would they get it? You can always add more info, but starting simple is your best bet.

Focus & Find Your Zen.

In the same way that simpler is better, focused is always better than scattered. While drafting, it’s easy to think “ah, they’re going to need to understand x so I can explain y”. You’re just trying to be as thorough and helpful as possible! But shooting in lots of different directions will lose your reader fast.

Make Us Care.

We hear a lot about storytelling in copywriting for a reason: because people want to arrive at a conclusion themselves. They want to feel they’ve considered a purchase, and they want to feel like they’ve taken a journey others have had success with. Pummeling with facts will make people feel like they’re being sold to. But if they walk away from your page really feeling something, even the seed of something, they’ll be back.

Keep it Short.

We talked about simplifying. Keeping it short is different. Your audience is most likely skimming and probably on a smartphone. They might be waiting for an appointment, and close the page when they’re called in. Giving quick, punchy, skimmable information helps your reader absorb your message in the limited time you have with them.

Don’t Bury The Lede.

Burying the lede is a journalism expression that means you give less important information to begin with, and hide your primary message until further in. This was not best practice in print journalism, and it’s even worse in web writing. Instead of just annoying your audience, you run the risk of them missing the point completely.

Struggling with your own marketing copy? We’d love to help!

Is the latest Uber rebranding enough?

If you follow branding trends, you undoubtedly heard about the most recent Uber rebranding. They’ve replaced 2016’s odd, blue circuit board pattern with a simple, clean font, and in doing so, invited the opinion of every branding professional, designer, and enthusiast.
According to Fast Company, one of Wolff Olins’ primary goals was legibility. The old logo had caused problems both being viewed at higher rates of speed and distance and across languages. They wanted something clear and visible. They developed a typeface for the brand with this in mind. It’s worth reading into the thought that went into its creation with respect for these points.
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? Maybe.

It’s a strategy.

It may appear like simply a bid to shed an old persona when the old one no longer serves, but there is a method to it.

“We tried to kick out all the micro-moments where trust was eroded,” says Forest Young, Creative Director at Wolff Olins, the agency who did the rebrand. This meant every moment where a rider couldn’t reconcile the old, atomic logo with the vehicle in front of them had to go. They had to re-create trust with customers in a tangible way, not from a high tower.

It’s not immune to criticism.

Our own creative team had mixed reactions. Some felt the changes were too safe and even safe to the point of disingenuous.  “The logo seems to get safer as their reputation gets worse”, one person said. “Design saves, but not if your vision and purpose are polluted by your actions” was another.  Some felt exasperation over the frequency leading to customer confusion, and some were disappointed they abandoned the old design. At the end of the day, it’s indisputably well-done. But whether or not it changes minds or eases suspicion is hard to predict.
Uber has an uphill challenge to undo the damage to their reputation. This rebrand may represent a step in that direction. It’s certainly clearer, less confusing, and more visible. But at the same time, rebranding too frequently may raise questions of credibility and instability.

Our 7 most popular branding blog posts

Fonts, mood boards, touchpoints, attributes: branding can be a complex process. If you’re new to branding, we’ve put together a list of some of our most popular branding blogs from the recent past to help you on your way.

How to make a mood board

Mood boards can be elusive. Most people more or less understand what they are, but are less clear on why they need one and what they can look forward to in the process. This post explains what a mood board is and what it does, when you should make a mood board, and how you can do so. This is a great starting point for those who are looking to crystallize the “mood” of their brand and a reference for those who are starting the Visual Identity process.

How to find a font that matches your personality

This is a fun, visual post breaking down 23 fonts you may or may not know. Fonts are critical to brand identity, and you need to know what kind of message your fonts might send. If you want to create an effective brand, you need to create a cohesive, comprehensive experience for your audience. Knowing fonts is a key element.

Building a brand of affordable luxury

This post both explains the concept of affordable luxury and teaches you how to achieve it. Michael Kors, Tory Burch, and other fashion names used the concept to propel them toward massive profit from slumping sales. We detail some of the key takeaways you can use in your own branding and brand messaging.

Branding vs Design

These two concepts can be easily confused, especially if neither is what you do. This post helps to break down the finer distinctions between the two. Think of the brand strategist as the architect of the brand, and the designer as the contractor who puts that design into physical being. Learn more about why it matters to you.

Are you using your archetype?

Jungian archetypes come up frequently when we talk about branding. They help provide a framework for bringing your brand to visually, in writing, and in presence. They’re an essential part of branding, plus… they’re fun!

Here a touchpoint, there a touchpoint, everywhere a touchpoint!

A branding touchpoint is more or less exactly what it sounds like: the points where you come in contact with your target audience. This post outlines strategies for both making those points happen, and what to do at those points.

Brand Attributes

This post has everything to do with the perception of quality. Brands of similar or equal value need to set up ways of differentiating themselves, or risk being seen as the inferior product despite the raw quality. Learn more about what you can do to create a perception of high quality.

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments!