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A rebrand is an exciting venture for any organization, but the process can be painstaking and overwhelming. Where do you start? What do you tackle first? Who can help? It’s easy to find yourself paralyzed if you haven’t done it before. Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone.

We’ve helped many people rebrand, so we know what pitfalls and stumbling blocks can sabotage the project. In our experience, it all comes down to oversight, structure, and consensus. The good news is a simple step-by-step process can help you get all three.

The 5-Step Process to Rebrand

To help you keep your sanity, we’ve put together this simple guide to get you from A to Z with less stress. If you’re embarking on a rebrand or struggling because you’ve stalled out, we hope this helps put you on the right path.

STEP 1: Ask Yourself Why You’re Rebranding

A rebrand takes a lot of time, energy, and resources, so it’s a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly. Just because you feel tired of looking at your logo doesn’t mean you need to dive into a rebrand. Every brand is different, but there are certain reasons to consider rebranding. For example:

  • You look like everybody else in your industry.
  • You’re going after a new audience.
  • Your brand has expanded.
  • Your brand is painfully outdated.
  • Your branding doesn’t reflect your values/identity.
  • You’ve dealt with bad press.
  • You’ve merged or acquired.

Make sure you have a deep discussion with your leadership before you dive in.

STEP 2: Do a Competitive Analysis

If you have the green light to rebrand, you need to consider your positioning. Branding is all about communicating, knowing both what to say and how to present yourself to your target customers—particularly in relation to other brands.

For this step, it’s helpful to do a competitive analysis to assess how your competitors approach all aspects of their branding, from logo design and tagline to brand voice and messaging. (You can use our free template, which includes useful questions to ask.)

As you work through the template, analyze both your competitors and those you aspire to compete with.

Once completed, you should be able to identify opportunities to differentiate yourself. You’ll also be surprised by how many similarities you’ll see amongst your competitors. This is particularly useful information, as it reveals how you might zig where others zag. (For example, if everyone uses a blue logo, you can make a statement with a different color.)

STEP 3: Do an Internal Analysis

Now that you have an understanding of your competitive landscape, it’s time to delve into your own brand. Gather relevant stakeholders to conduct an internal analysis.

Using the same questions you answered in your competitive analysis, you want to look at every aspect of your brand to understand what is and isn’t working for you. (For example, your messaging might be strong but your website might be a mess.)

We find it’s helpful to look into the three core components of your brand, with a focus on how each is currently working and how it may need to work in the future.

1) Brand strategy: Is your brand strategy current and comprehensive? Things to consider:

  • Is your core identity articulated? Your core identity includes your:
    • Vision: Why your company exists
    • Mission: What your company does
    • Values: How you do what you do
  • Do you have target personas that represent the people you’re trying to reach? Follow our guide to create personas if you haven’t already.

If you need a refresh or never actually had a brand strategy in the first place, follow our step-by-step guide to build a strong brand strategy.

2) Verbal identity: Your verbal identity can become stale over time, especially if it’s been decades since you rebranded. The language you use and the channels you use to communicate should always match your vision. To make sure your verbal identity is accurate, review your:

  • Brand positioning
  • Value prop
  • Tagline
  • Messaging architecture
  • Voice and tone

For help here, check out our tips for writing taglines and value propositions, as well as finding your brand voice.

3) Visual identity: When most people think about doing a rebrand, they think about a brand’s visual identity, focusing only on what it looks like. This is a crucial element of branding, and as communication and technology evolve, your visual identity must be flexible enough to fill your future needs. As such, certain elements may need to be updated or added, including things like:

  • Colors
  • Logo
  • Fonts and typography
  • Hierarchy
  • Photography
  • Illustration
  • Iconography
  • Data visualization
  • Interactive elements
  • Video and motion
  • Etc.

STEP 4: Identify Your Priorities

If you’ve done a thorough brand audit, you should know what areas need the most immediate help. The instinct may be to dive into these all at once, but keep in mind that your brand is a complex ecosystem. You can’t just change a tagline and order a thousand new business cards. A strong brand is crafted with thought and intention, and each element relies on the other.

We suggest tackling a rebrand from the ground up. That way everything you do has a solid foundation and works as a natural extension of the brand. If you need a total rebrand (strategy, verbal identity, and visual identity), this is the order to tackle them in:

  • Brand strategy comes first. Your strategy informs your entire brand identity. It encapsulates your reason for existing, your mission, and your ultimate goal. The other elements, your visual and verbal identities, are the tools you use to communicate your brand strategy.
  • Verbal comes second. Most of the elements of your verbal identity are either included in or directly influenced by your brand strategy. Everything from your positioning to your brand stories is an articulation of that strategy.
  • Visual comes third. Visual is one of the most powerful forms of communication (fact: your brain processes the symbol of an apple faster than it reads the word), but you have to know exactly what it is that you need to communicate before you can begin to visualize it. It’s also important to approach your visual rebrand from the top down, as different elements influence each other, such as color and logo. Whatever you design must be flexible and work for every application, whether it’s a motion graphic on your website or a banner at a trade show.

STEP 5: Build Your Rebrand Team

When it comes to finding the right people to execute your rebrand, you can go entirely in-house or consider a brand agency. There are benefits to each, and it really just depends on what you need.

  • In-house benefits: No one knows your brand like you do. If you have the knowledge, resources, and skills to tackle the rebrand yourself, you can certainly consider it.
  • Branding agency benefits: While no one has as much intimate knowledge of your brand as you do, brands can sometimes function in a bubble. (Remember when Gap debuted a logo that only lasted a week?) Outside perspective can be tremendously valuable here. Branding agencies have plenty of expertise, they know what can go right and wrong, and they can steer you in the right direction.

Of course, doing a mix of both can also be beneficial. (We’ve collaborated with many brands to help them through the process—with great results.) No matter what team you work with, it always helps to focus on clear communication and directives.