The Creative Liberation Lab Notes

An official publication of Limeadestand Works

When rebranding is a bad idea

July 31, 2018 | Branding and brand communications

When we start out on an entrepreneurial path, regardless of industry and customer niche, our initial idea of what our business might look like tends to be quite detached from the realities of running a business.

Often, we end up scaling down and focusing more on a narrower range of products and customer base because of our capacity. Sometimes, we might find ourselves doing better on something that once we saw as a side project or serendipitous product that just came into existence. The reality is, in spite of our tendency to think too much and plan too much, the world of business is often shrouded in unknowns and success can come from the unpredictable and in a direction we might not have originally conceived.

This sometimes makes business owners feel like they made a mistake in initial, pre-launch branding, that their business has "evolved" into a new direction, that they feel compelled to rebrand their business.

I have seen a new business taking a step of often drastic rebranding only a year (or even less!) after its launch.

I recommend against rebranding unless your business is at least five years old.

The high costs of rebranding and switching over aside (remember: it is not cheap to redo all your printed materials, signages, collaterals, and digital assets -- and let your contacts know about your new brand), frequent rebranding and premature rebranding undermines your credibility and shows your lack of persistence.

From an SEO perspective, the age of a domain name is an important factor in a better search engine ranking. If you keep changing the name of your business (or just the domain name), the domain age gets reset to zero every time you do it, disadvantaging your SEO.

Too-frequent or too-premature rebranding efforts also lead to confusion and adversely affect your business's name recognition and name value. Imagine if your neighborhood eatery keeps changing its name every other year. Potential customers may think the cuisine that is served has changed, or the restaurant keeps getting taken over by new owners -- giving them an impression that your business lacks financial stability and trustworthiness. It is also very difficult for members of the public to keep up with such changes -- causing them to not remember your business at all.

Frequent change of visual elements -- such as emblems, wordmarks, and logotypes -- also should be avoided. These visual elements readily identify your brand to the public and to the consumers, and therefore, any major redesign can cause them to think there had been a change in ownership (taken over by another business) or it has become something unfamiliar to them all of sudden.

In general, your brand should be designed to last for a minimum of 15 to 20 years. There are advantages and strength in projecting stability and timelessness, even as your business stays on top of the latest trends and state-of-the-art technology. Target has been Target since 1962 (although legally it was called Dayton-Hudson Corporation until the end of 1999). Sephora has been using the same wordmark since 1969 and it still looks sophisticated and modern.

Minor redesigns of visual elements, such as tweaking of typefaces and layouts, as well as slight modifications of wordmarks or emblems, may occur more frequently (once every three to five years) but only to an extent most casual observers would not notice.

Slogans and sub-brand elements (such as brands of specific products) can change even more frequently without negative consequences.

So what should you do if you feel like your original brand is not working very well?

First: stick with it. Your business is still young and you're just getting started. There are a lot of other things you should be focusing on aside from being obsessed with how you don't like a small detail of your "logo." Your brand is more than just a silly "logo," and you will be better off building your brand by treating customers right, getting the right messages out, and wowing newcomers.

Second: evaluate whether your brand was closely defined. Too often, small business owners neglect the importance of a comprehensive brand document. They either DIY "logo design" or hire someone on a cheap (like, on Fiverr or Craigslist) without considering the big picture of the brand. Usually, creating a solid brand document and brand strategy -- and thereby tightening up the execution of branding -- solves your problem without resorting to an expensive, impulsive, and reckless rebranding effort.

It helps to have a brand strategist take a look over what you have by way of branding and have them create an improved brand plan.


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