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At one time or another, you’ve probably clocked news of a company going through a ‘rebrand’ – a process (much like cosmetic surgery or home DIY) that can involve change for the better (or worse). Truth is, we’re all too familiar with dodgy makeovers, like Gap’s bemusing 2010 logo change or Mastercard’s major brand fail in 2006. Getting a rebrand right can be frustratingly tricky. But why is that? And how can brands make sure they don’t fall at the first hurdle?

Part of the problem is that rebranding means different things to different people. On a basic level, it might be a tweak to your logo, typography or website. But with ‘brand’ now accounting for everything from purpose and values to internal culture and communications, a new visual identity is only a fraction of the challenge.

Re-visit your brand proposition and values: these will be at the heart of your rebrand

There are plenty of reasons why a company might want to rebrand – like updating your website look and feel, repositioning in order to appeal to a new audience, or going through a merger. With the latter, a name change might be what gets people talking, but it’s also important to know what you currently stand for, and discuss if (or how) that might change.

When John Lewis and Waitrose recently announced plans to rebrand by adding ‘& Partners’ to their respective names, it was more than just a fancy addendum. Through changing their name, they wanted to make it clear that partnership would be at the core of everything they do as a business, representing their brand proposition and new values in the process.

We’ll have to wait with bated breath until September for the official JL& P / W&P relaunch to see how this plays out in their branding. But once you’ve revisited your brand proposition, this should inform everything you do going forward.

Do your research (particularly on the competition)

To ensure your rebrand’s going in the right direction, it’s crucial to conduct competitor and consumer research. Insurance provider AXA gathered and analyzed the opinions of customers, employees and executives to figure out how to differentiate itself from its rivals back in 2005. With the relevant data, it worked out its best attributes, as it attempted to rebrand as ‘the preferred choice’ instead of ‘Be Life Confident’. It was a lengthy research exercise for AXA, but the rebrand was a roaring success: their in-house customer satisfaction index has improved year-on-year.

As far as research goes, you’ll want to know how your current brand is perceived, but also get a sense of what’s happening in the market so your new brand proposition is as unique as possible. It’s also important to gather insights from your employees and customers, who’ll be well-placed to tweak your ideas and establish the best approach for your rebrand.

Have a plan (and a fairly thorough one at that)

The best rebrands do not, and should not, happen overnight. That would leave much room for error ­– and in the best circumstances, a whole host of confused customers. Remember, it’s a project ­– and will require project management objectives, an evaluation of logistics and risk factors, and a timeline.

Don’t kill your SEO in the rebrand process

If you’re moving to a new website, you might be worried about losing your hard-earned SEO juice. Setting up 301 redirects will send your audience (and search engines) to your new home – and the good news is, you’ll still be able to maintain a respectable amount of traffic. It’s likely you’ll want to use new keywords to reflect the rebrand and your new values, so the sooner you can create relevant content that can be migrated to the new domain, the better.

Bang the drum loudly (both internally and externally)

It’s a good idea to let audiences and employees know where you’re going, especially if you’re merging with a new company. This is often why some brands, like John Lewis and Irish broadcaster TV3, tend to announce their rebrands in advance to signal that change is on the horizon.

Naturally, people will have questions ­­– and some customers may lament your shift in identity ­– but by giving everyone a heads up, you’ll give your rebrand every possible chance of success.