Minimizing the risk of rebranding

By Lynn Manternach / Guest Column

Rebranding. Does that word make you a little anxious? If you’re thinking about evolving your company or organization’s brand, you’re probably facing a variety of emotions, both positive and negative.

Rebranding is a big deal. It’s exciting, expensive and time-consuming. And it has the potential to help re-energize and change your company’s trajectory.

Every brand – large and small – needs to evolve over time to remain relevant. It’s a natural part of the life of a business. Change is a constant, and if your brand isn’t evolving along with your customers, competition and environment, you risk being left behind. A misaligned brand can lead to confusion in the marketplace, resulting in lost sales and opportunities.

But it’s risky, too. We’ve all heard the horror stories of rebranding gone wrong. So how do you make sure your brand evolution is good for your brand, your employees, your customers and your bottom line?

Start with why. Before you begin, make sure you can articulate why you feel there is a need to rebrand and what you hope to achieve with your effort.

What has changed in your company or in your marketplace? What problems do you need to solve? How has the competitive landscape changed? How have your customers changed? What matters to your customers? Is your company telling the right story? How will your business benefit from rebranding?

Answering these questions will help keep the brand meaningful internally and externally, and powerful enough to make a difference.

Invest in research. Remember – you are not the target audience. You may know your company well, but your view probably differs from that of your customers. The customer’s perception is brand reality, so if you’re going to invest in rebranding, you better understand how your brand connects with them. A clear understanding of what customers really care about is an important part of strategically evolving the brand for success. It can help you understand the elasticity of your brand, so you know how much change is comfortable for them.

Key questions to answer with your customer brand research include: What is your current brand, according to those who know you best? Do customers understand and appreciate your current promise? What do they think makes your product or service special? Why do your customers choose you over competitors? How relevant are your products or services to your customers’ pain points? How likely are your customers to recommend your product or service?

Customers aren’t the only important audience for your rebranding efforts. You need to look inside your organization as well. Conduct confidential employee research to understand what’s working and what’s not working with your current brand from the perspective of your employees. Your employees may have a clearer understanding of the customer pain points and how to solve them than you do. Building your strategy using the considerable insight of your employees helps with buy-in and the likelihood of developing a successfully evolved brand.

Consider working with an outside partner for your research and rebranding efforts if your budget allows. Working alongside experts who understand the process will minimize the time investment, uncertainly and riskiness of the process.

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. We all know change is hard, but necessary, for ongoing success. Your customers probably like you just the way you are. It’s up to you to convince them they’re going to like you even more once you’ve rolled out the updated brand.

Talk directly to your top customers about the rebrand before you roll it out to the public. Give them a personal sneak peek, and help them understand how their input helped with the evolution.

Use the insight you gleaned through your research with customers as your guide to rolling out the updated brand. Make sure they understand that you heard them. Connect the evolved brand to what they deemed most important and relevant.

Even though your customers are changing, they still crave the comfort of familiarity. By mindfully taking advantage of the brand equity you have already built and paying close attention to your customers, your rebranding effort can position you for ongoing success.

Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. ( in Cedar Rapids and LeClaire. Contact Lynn at