Change can be scary. It’s a risk. The outcome is not known and even educated guesses and predictions can be wrong. Change, however, could be just what your brand needs. Take the example of KFC. At it’s inception and for many years KFC was called Kentucky Fried Chicken and had loyal followers. Why change the name to KFC?? Yes it’s shorter and simpler to say, but KFC also realized having ‘fried’ in their name was no longer a good thing. Fried food was coming under heavy fire for being unhealthy. Promoting themselves as ‘Fried’ was alienating potential customers. KFC even began offering baked options but the name was still holding them back. Changing to KFC not only made the brand seem hip and current (think texting acronyms!) but also removed the negative ‘Fried’ from their name. While KFC still stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken, using the acronym means customers aren’t reminded every time they say the name that it’s a fried food restaurant.

Another good example of a change is J.C. Penney. This store recently unveiled a new logo and they are attempting to convert the name to JCP. Much advertising is being aired and it would appear they are going after a younger target and trying to compete with the Targets and Macys of the world. It’s too early to say if this will work or not. I would speculate that JCP realized their current brand and logo had become old and stuffy. Their current customers were also getting older and they weren’t picking up new younger customers. It will be interesting to watch this transformation and see if over time JCP becomes more relevant with Gen X and Gen Y.

If you are considering making a change to your brand, logo, name or overall look here are some things to consider:

1. Have a solid reason for making this change. KFC wanted to get away from a negative word in their name. JCP needed to gain new consumers and modernize their brand.

2. Make sure the change you make will address your need and is not just a change. I know KFC researched their change (KFC was a client at an agency I worked with) and I suspect JCP has also done quite a bit of research. Research is not a guarantee but it is a good way to test how consumers will respond. Sometimes a group of smart marketing folks sitting in a room can miss something basic and everyday that consumers will notice. Make sure the change makes senses to those that buy your product or service.

3. Have a plan to introduce your change. Just as change is scary for the those making the change – it can be scary for the loyal customers. The last thing brands want to do is alienate their current customers in hopes of gaining new customers. Be prepared – address the change – and address concerns that may go with it. You’ve surely seen campaigns that say “Same great taste, new name”. This is an attempt to let consumers know “Hey, this is still the product you love!”

4. Be thorough and consistent. Make sure the change happens across all touchpoints. Leaving some items with the old look, feel or name and updating others will just create confusion. Is this the same product? Is my brand being phased out? Be ready to launch your change. Making a change can be challenging so you may want to consider a teaser campaign along the lines of ‘coming soon’ to get customers ready and even excited about the change.

Change can be just what a brand needs to advance, stay relevant and thrive. When handled appropriately, change can extend the life and success of a brand. If you are considering a change make sure to work with a smart partner and know the risks as well as the desired results.