My basic motivation for writing this article is the pervasive use of the word “re-branding” with its attendant misconception. It’s written with fewer technicalities and marketing jargon to make it understandable by the “ordinary Joe” or the non-marketing inclined person.
Generally, the use of the word re-branding refers to the change in brand identity elements or visual cues. Visual cues refers to what the target audience can see about a brand i.e logos, colours, buildings, staff appearance, dressing etc. For most people to re-brand is to change visual identity cues. Unfortunately, this re-branding misconception is even prevalent amongst marketing practitioners and this leads to a situation where the implementation of re-branding efforts is not strategic or comprehensive enough to make it effective.
CORPORATE BRAND IMAGE
To understand re-branding it’s important to understand the concept of corporate brand image. I will link two definitions to make the understanding clearer.
A brand can be defined as an identifiable product, service, person or place augmented in such a way that the buyer or user perceives relevant unique added values which match their needs most closely (de Chernatony, 1997). According to Arnold (1992), brand strategy is the process whereby the offer is positioned in the consumer’s mind to produce a perception of advantage. Therefore the concept of branding involves achieving a certain distinct position which is deemed superior in the minds of the consumer. Therefore to re-brand could mean totally changing the current perception, strengthening or even re-inforcing the current perception.
Therefore for branding to be successful, there must be a convergence between how the company intends to be perceived and how it is actually perceived.
WHAT MAKES UP THE CORPORATE BRAND?
As explained earlier this article will not be technical and will be as simple as possible. Simplistically a corporate brand is made up things you can see and things you can’t see about a company. Davidson (1997) equates the components of branding to an iceberg and argues that it involves features that are visible to the external eye and those that are not immediately obvious. Those visible to the external eye include brand names, logos, symbols, infrastructure, advertising etc. Those that may not be immediately obvious include the level of skill, inherent knowledge, systems, behaviour or intelligence of staff. Davidson argues and rightly so that branding goes well beyond names and symbols and a strong brand is the result of successful business strategy.
WHAT IS RE-BRANDING THEN?
Understanding what the components of a brand are leads to the concept of re-branding. Therefore to effectively re-brand it’s important for the organization to not only focus on the visual cues (colours, logos, visual identities) but focus on re-orienting the entire organization towards the organization’s intended positioning. The way organization operates must change and this involves changing staff attitude and how things are done.
For example, If a fuel station keeps running out of fuel, pumps keep breaking down and the company decides to change its visual cues like logos and colours but the way it operates does not change, will you classify that as re-branding? Unfortunately, that is the basic misconception of the word re-branding.
RECTIFYING THE RE-BRANDING MISCONCEPTION
The concept of changing visual cues and bandying it about as re-branding is over flogged and there’s the need to review the key strategic issues related to re-branding.
The fundamental step in embarking on any re-branding exercise is to embark on brand analysis to determine how your target audience actually perceives your brand (actual image or perceived image) vis-à-vis how your company intends to be perceived (desired image). Usually, the objective of re-branding is to re-position the brand in the minds of the target audience. The definition of re-positioning is to create a distinct and superior image to how the organization is currently perceived. Re-positioning is successful if there’s a convergence between an organization’s intended image (how it wants to be perceived) and its actual image (how it’s actually perceived by the target market).
Brand Analysis also involves assessing how the organization operates, how its systems and structures operate, how efficient it is as delivering value for its customers. Various models like the Value Chain can be used to conduct the analysis.
There must be a clear definition of how the company is currently perceived and how it intends to be perceived. The definition must be very basic and unambiguous.
Employees are critical brand identity elements who must project the brand. It’s therefore critical for staff to be re-oriented and re-directed towards the intended positioning. This is what I will prefer to term the change of “psychological cues”. Lewin’s “Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze” model was developed in the 1950’s but its simple and very relevant in achieving a re-orientation of psychological cues. To achieve staff buy-in staff must be clear as to why the re-positioning is important. There must be clear reason as to why the intended position is superior and more refreshing. Staff must know why the status quo must change and the objective must be clear to all staff in very basic terms. Consistent internal communication is important for anchoring the change together with training and staff empowerment.
This part of re-branding is fundamental to ensuring a successful re-branding strategy but it is largely ignored.
Change of Visual Cues
The change of visual cues is what is popularly termed re-branding and it’s what attracts the most focus but it’s only one element of the re-branding process as the psychological cues of staff, attitudes, systems, structures must be strong enough to re-inforce the desired image.
Re-branding Review & Re-enforcement
Organization should have mechanisms in place to consistently track brand performance in order to re-inforce the desired image and ensure that it’s sustained.
Re-branding is only successful if there’s a convergence between how the organization intends to be perceived and how it’s actually perceived.
THE CORE RE-BRANDING ISSUES
|Level 1||Brand Analysis||Determine Brand Health, Actual Perception & Deeper Strategic Issues that impact the brand|
|Level 2||Re-Branding goal||Clear statement of intended positioning|
|Level 3||Attitude Change, change of status quo & Psychological re-orientation||Explain the rationale for re-branding to gain employee buy-in, set standards of behavior to project intended positioning and implement systems & structures to support the new positioning.|
|Level 4||Change of visual Identity Cues||To give visual & symbolic representation of intended positioning|
|Level 5||Brand Review||To ensure re-enforcement and ensure that intended positioning = actual positioning|
Source: Author’s own creation
According to de Chernatony and McDonald, (1998) to view branding as naming, design or advertising is too myopic and will shorten the brand’s life expectancy. They argue that to take full advantage of brands as strategic devices, a considerable amount of marketing analysis and brand planning is required but many organizations and destinations are too embroiled in tactical issues and so fail to gain the best possible returns for their brands. Therefore, the notion of re-branding transcends just changing signs and symbols and using them as a point of differential but it involves a holistic review of the organization to ensure superiority in performance to capture consumer preference and loyalty.
Figure 1: The Re-Branding Goal & Influencing Factors
Source: Author’s Own Creation