I had a recent discussion with a client with whom we are helping them through a rebranding process. One of the questions they had was, “Is it better to roll out a new brand bit by bit or should you just flip a switch and everything changes at once?” It’s a common question and worth addressing because rebranding a company is a tricky adventure and, if done wrong, could damage the brand you currently have.
Here is my viewpoint. It is best to launch your new brand all at once. The main reason why I believe this is to reduce confusion in the marketplace. From the customer/user view, it should be brand as usual until everything is ready to launch. Then, flip the switch and the new brand is in place. By slowly rolling out a rebranding program, you risk confusing the market. In some categories, like food, your customers will see the “old brand” as stale and, well, old. In terms of a company, you run the risk of dragging out the process longer than it needs to be. Service companies are very vulnerable to this condition with their multiple locations and industry verticals they serve. Then some clients are getting old stuff while others are getting the new stuff with more benefits and features.
What’s the harm? It probably won’t kill your company, but it’s more about what you could have gain, that you lose. It’s like leaving money on the table. First of all, you miss out on the PR benefit of something significant to communicate. Often, many companies cry wolf too often in their press releases and PR efforts over subjects that are not really that interesting. Then, when they actually have something of value to say, no one pays attention. It’s like when a retailer seems to always have a sale. It’s not special anymore. Another loss is being able to market and communicate why the new brand and where the new brand fits with your customers’ lifestyle even better. It’s kind of like getting your birthday present one part at a time. It’s more fun to get the whole gift at once. One other reason why launching your rebranding effort all at once is preferred is that it’s more exciting both internally as well as in the marketplace. A slow rollout just doesn’t capture the feeling of a new beginning or the excitement of a fresh future.
Now, of course, this doesn’t mean you should’t communicate with your customers and other key stakeholders before the physical launch of the rebrand. In today’s world of social media, it’s a good idea to let your customers/users in on the process. Get their opinions. Get their insights. This will eventually help you get their buy in. This helps build excitement and anticipation. Most people like to see something new come out that they’ve been a part of.
For example, as of today, Starbucks rolled out their new rebranding campaign. They were smart in doing several things at once to capture the feeling that Starbucks is entering their next phase of their evolution. New logo, new coffee (40th anniversary blend), new store displays, new cups, new sleeves, and even new rack brochures. They didn’t just rollout one of these at a time. It was all orchestrated to hit at the same time. Before this conversion of the new brand, they communicated on their web site, on My Starbucks, and in business articles, about the rebrand and why they felt it was time. They took the opportunity for the chance to tell their story, why this rebrand will benefit their loyal customers, and got consumer input on the My Starbucks web site. Thus far, their rebrand launch has gone much smoother than GAP’s earlier attempt. Unfortunately, the GAP didn’t get their story right and consumers pounded them for it.
Rebranding is a tricky process. If done wrong, it can leave a brand a bit damaged (like the GAP) or it can be set up as a new and exciting chapter for both the customer/user and the company. Together, they can set off on a great adventure. A rebranding helps keep a company relevant to the ever changing environment we all live in. And being relevant keeps you in business.