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Launching a Successful Rebrand

By: Aniko Hill
Posted: November 5, 2008, from the November 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Although the successful campaign played a large role in changing consumers’ perceptions of the Target brand, the campaign alone did not make for the dramatic transition. Before any brand development began, Target embarked on its new direction by upping the quality and cool factor with an exclusive line by architect Michael Graves; today, the retailer continues to innovate and stay fresh with relationships with well-respected designers such as Isaac Mizrahi, Philippe Stark and Zac Posen. With the combination of a higher quality product lineup and an authentic brand expression, Target is now known for bringing quality products and great design to the masses with its low prices—as opposed to only being a “discount retailer.” The consumer was able to accept the dramatically new brand direction because the product was consistent with the message, and now Target captures a younger and more educated customer than its competitors.

Tips on Rebranding

A rebrand can be like therapy for a company or organization. It forces the individuals within the company to take a hard look at who they are and how they are perceived, all while staying open on how they can improve on it—which can be incredibly difficult. Although the creative agency employed to lead a rebrand will do the heavy lifting, it will require a lot of work on the company’s end in executing the new direction. Not only does the new brand have to be communicated to the customer through marketing, but it must also be reinforced within the company’s culture. Branding should be a collaboration between the decision-makers of the company and the agency creating the work, so it’s critical to enter into the process as well-informed as possible.

1 . Assess your existing brand equity.

The more familiar the public is with a product or service, the more equity a company generally has in its existing brand and, therefore, more care has to be taken to avoid alienating existing markets. For smaller companies, it is often appropriate to take larger risks with a more dramatic transformation, as there is much more room for new markets to become familiar with the brand. For start-ups, there is no existing brand equity; therefore, the possibilities are wide open.

2. It’s never too late for a new strategy.

Almost all companies start small and tend to grow organically—usually without much of a plan for the brand strategy. This often leads to disorganization in the product lineup, a variety of looks within the brand execution and, ultimately, dilution of the brand. It is not uncommon for companies that have never branded themselves to be successful, but there is almost always a wall if there is no strategy. If the rebrand is conducted with a solid strategy as a foundation, the consumer will accept, understand and even celebrate the new brand expression.

3. Don’t take it personally.

One of the questions that comes up in speaking with business owners who have never branded their companies is, “Why should I spend time and money on a rebrand when I have built everything myself and I am doing fine?” Understandably, it’s hard for business owners to emotionally detach themselves from the companies they built on passion and hard work. But branding is about connecting a company to the consumer on an emotional level, and although it is important for company leaders to believe in the result, they may or may not be the target market and must remain objective in order to lead a successful rebrand. Since business owners are so close to their brands, a fresh and unbiased approach can be invaluable.