What is Rebranding and why is it Done?

Explore the art of rebranding and how it involves strategic changes in elements like colors, logos, messaging, and more to revitalize a brand's image, whether for products, corporate entities, or personalities.
Created by
May 1, 2018

Rebranding is an exercise in image makeover. It is about changing certain elements of the brand to reposition it in the market. But before understanding rebranding in more detail, let us first understand the role of branding itself.

The Need for Branding


Brands and branding exercises are important determinants of a particular product's commercial success and failure. Most markets of the real world follow the principles of imperfect competition where there are many sellers and many buyers for a single commodity and each seller's product is differentiated from that of the others by parameters such as brand, quality, added features, etc.

The modern consumer is a stickler for quality. The urban consumer, especially, hardly shies away from dishing out a few extra bucks for a better quality product. All major players in a given category of commodities, therefore, are particular about following the lofty quality standards set by industry experts. Also, manufacturers and marketers cannot have features unnecessarily added to differentiate them from their competitors' products. Ergo, the brand and all related exercises become a very significant product differentiator in a market where imperfect competition prevails.

From Branding to Rebranding

Now, you must be wondering that after putting in all sorts of butt-kicking efforts into creating and establishing a specific identity and a persona of their product, why would a marketer want to undo all this and go about the entire grind all over again? Is it because they didn't do it right the first time? Is it to adapt the brand image and brand communication to the changing markets and changing times? Is it to eat into the competitors' market share? Well, let's begin with understanding the concept of rebranding. The answers to these questions will reveal themselves once we understand the rationale behind this concept.

What is Rebranding?

Rebranding occurs when manufacturers or marketers change a significant element of their brand's composite identity. Such elements could be the colors, logo, brand name, brand message, brand slogan or punch line, etc. Besides these elements, most rebranding exercises also include a change in the marketing strategy and advertising theme of the product. The intention is to reposition the brand and the company in the market and recreate their image in the eyes of the consumers, investors, competitors, and all other major stakeholders. Rebranding is almost as expensive and time consuming a process as branding, if not more. Therefore, the decision to rebrand a product or a company is taken after considering a lot of significant factors and after concretely establishing and rationalizing the necessity of recreating or reinventing the brand.

Rebranding Products, Corporate Entities, and Personalities

The reasons for rebranding a product or service and a business slightly differ. A product or service may be rebranded when there is a merger, to accommodate and blend in the identity of the acquirer or the acquired brand. Another product rebranding scenario is when the manufacturer and the marketer of a product are two different entities and the product is question is sold under the marketer's brand. This mostly occurs when such a product is manufactured at a unit which is geographically located at such that the production and operating costs are low. These are, then, sold by the marketer (a larger, usually globally known brand) under the aegis of their own brand. A corporate entity may undergo rebranding to differentiate itself from competitors, regain lost market share, revive its image, accommodate or communicate a change in its structure or business model, etc.

Personality brands are the images and perceptions associated with celebrities. For instance, Angelina Jolie is better known for her contribution to humanitarian causes than her movies and histrionic skills. She is a strong advocate of adoption and has walked her talk many times, as is evident from her efforts in that area. As a result of this personality branding, she has been made the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Personalities are harder to rebrand as a personality brand comprises the name, public image, activities, celebrity status, and achievements of a person. Personality or celebrity brands are difficult to revive once their public image becomes negative. This is because personality brands are created around public figures and celebrities -- people who the masses look up to and aspire to relate to on a personal level. There is an element of reverence here. Once that goes caput due to some unsavory revelation or negative act of the celebrity, people find it very difficult to put them back on a pedestal.

Things to Avoid When Rebranding

When re-charting the path from 'how a product or entity is seen now' to 'how it wants to be seen', a branding team/organization must avoid the following two danger zones:-

Focusing merely on the graphics, colors, and other visual aspects

A brand is so much more than its visual identifiers. While rebranding, sticking to just changing the colors, logo, packaging, etc. of the brand may not be sufficient. The brand message, theme, communication, etc. should also be paid equal attention and remodeled to accentuate the image reinvention efforts. A superficial facelift merely serves to convey artificiality and a lack of effort on the brand's part to reinvent itself and reconnect with its consumers and stakeholders.

Unnecessarily distancing the new image from the original brand persona

Rebranding can be evolutionary (keeping most of the original brand aspects intact) and revolutionary (drastically altering the brand persona by changing a lot of major brand aspects, such as the name). Good examples of evolutionary rebranding are Starbucks and PepsiCo's consistent brand persona evolution over the decades. While a lot has changed about their images over the decades, the overall tone of the visual and communication themes still have connections with the original branding theme. Revolutionary rebranding is exemplified by Comcast being rebranded as Xfinity and Andersen Consulting turning into Accenture. Revolutionary rebranding is drastic in all senses of the term and is justified only if the reasons for rebranding are just as drastically compelling (changed core product/service, drastic change in the company's business direct, etc.). If not, revolutionary rebranding only serves to alienate the consumers and stakeholders from the brand.

Pepsi rebranding
Starbucks rebranding

Rebranding can work wonders for a sinking brand if done artfully and intelligently. Sparing sufficient time, efforts, and resources to conduct proper research, image consultation, and an appropriate degree of brand overhaul may sound like a lot in the beginning but is immensely rewarding in the long run. Also, old and established brands should always leverage their existing or past brand equity as part of their rebranding strategy.

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