A good reason for a rebrand? If you’re a company that has grown from acquisitions and you need to consolidate multiple companies into a unified whole Pexels / Pixabay

There are all sorts of reasons businesses rebrand, some good, others not so good.

In the category of ‘not so good’ are the vanity project rebrands, often with new-broom marketers trying to make a name for themselves, as well as those fuelled by boredom.

You’d be surprised how many rebrands are a result of businesses thinking their brands are tired.

It’s very unlikely your customers think the same. Despite the cliché, in branding, familiarity does not breed contempt (quite the opposite).

However, it’s not the case that you should never rebrand. There are sometimes very good reasons why you might choose to do so:

  1. If a significant material change has happened in the market that means your current brand in its current form places you at an inherent disadvantage.
  2. If you need to consolidate multiple companies into a unified whole, e.g. a business that has grown from acquisitions.
  3. If you need to signal a clear change of direction to your market that aligns with a new or refreshed vision.
  4. If your current brand has picked up some toxic associations (though a rebrand alone will not fix this, and it may not save you).

A case in point: I worked with a company that had bought up dozens of smaller firms, all with their own unique brands of varying strength in the market. The business was faced with trying to support a disparate array of subsidiaries which stretched marketing resources very thin and made up-sell and cross-sell opportunities more challenging than they should have been.

There was a very good reason for this company to invest in a rebrand: to bring everything together under one strong brand identity, making it easier for them to make incremental sales across the business, raising them above a fragmented competition, and also to make the company more valuable in the market.

But the golden rule is this: you should only rebrand when you have no other choice. Rebranding is expensive, complex and time-consuming. It should be approached with caution.

There are often multiple ways of achieving the kinds of objectives a rebrand promises that are simpler, faster and far more cost-effective.

If a brand isn’t resonating with a core market, or if that market has changed, you may not need to alter the look and feel of your brand at all. Instead, you may be able to adjust your positioning and messaging.

To work out how to refresh your story, start with your audience. What matters to them? What are their pain points? What problems can you solve for them?

‘Look and feel’ rebrands can be long and drawn out. They are process-heavy and costs can be colossal for agency time, new signage and a whole lot more. You must also factor in disruption to the business, cultural issues, the possible impact on SEO, and kickback from disgruntled shareholders (you spent how much on that logo?).

Rebranding is also high risk. There are hundreds of examples of rebranding disasters. Like that time Mastercard fiddled with its overlapping circles logo, one of the most recognisable in the world, before swiftly back peddling.

You might also remember oil giant BP which spent $200M re-branding in 2001 from “British Petroleum” to “Beyond Petroleum” to position itself as more environmentally friendly. It was a branding disaster that positively reeked of greenwashing, and was completely out of step with what the fossil fuels giant was up to at the time.

While Mastercard and BP’s brands are under far more scrutiny than the average company, don’t underestimate the real-world costs of a rebrand, particularly when there are many other ways to increase engagement that start with truly knowing and understanding your customer. Explore all your options and don’t assume a bright shiny new logo is the only answer.

Read more: 10 Beautiful Rebrands That Turned Our Heads