How to Make Sure Your New Brand Doesn’t Bomb

  •    CEO and Co-Founder of Brand Genie, an online platform for women entrepreneurs.

Your logo is tired. Your color palette is begging for a refresh. Your fonts were cool – ten years ago. You’re ready for a re-brand. This can be exciting!

A re-brand can be one of the best business decisions you make. Getting it right can boost sales and re-energize your whole company.

Remember Target in the late 90s? They were just another discount retailer that wanted to get customers in and out as fast as they could. That strategy worked fairly well until WalMart showed up – and blew Target out of the water in the price wars.

So Target got smart. They researched the marketplace and discovered a new niche: bringing design to bargain shoppers. By partnering with high-end designers like Isaac Mizrahi and Michael Graves, Target added a whole new flair to their products – and to their brand. Suddenly the company became the purveyor of hipster chic with its newly refined red bullseye and fresh, modern brand.

So if you do decide to re-brand, how do you make sure it works? And more importantly, how do you make sure it doesn’t bomb? Here are some critical things to keep in mind.

Bring Together all the Decision Makers

If you don’t get all stakeholders involved with the re-branding process, the re-brand will fail – no matter how beautiful your new logo and website are. So before you re-brand, make sure you carve out special time with all of your business partners and employees. That’s the best way to make sure everyone is invested in the new brand and ready to be champions of its success.

When I ran a branding agency, we took on a large, multi-specialty medical clinic that had cycled through four CEOs in six years. The company was in serious disarray. When they asked for a re-brand, I insisted that all of the top executives be involved in the initial branding workshops. They arrived kicking and screaming. “What a waste of our time,” they said. By the end of the workshops, they realized what an important exercise the process had been: they had a chance to assess the whole organization and chart a new direction. Thanks to everyone’s participation, the re-brand was in complete alignment with the management team and twelve months later, the clinic had its most profitable year ever.

Check in with Your Customers

Gap sprung a real surprise on their customers during the holiday season in 2010. After having the same blue box logo with simple letters in place for years, the company decided they needed a new look. They reconfigured their logo and relegated the blue box to a tiny spot in the upper left hand corner – yielding a logo that looked like a chemistry symbol. Gap was proud of their re-brand – until they started hearing the backlash. “It looks like something a kid created!” one angry customer said. Gap quickly backtracked and six days later re-re-branded – with their old logo. Big lesson here? Do a gut check with your customers to see if they think you’re on track. They’ll let you know. Believe me.

Don’t Cook Your Golden Goose

Everyone should know the famous “New Coke” story. In case you don’t, here’s a quick recap. In 1985, Coke determined from market research that customers preferred a sweeter taste. So they re-mixed the famous formula and launched “New Coke.” It was an epic disaster. Customers boycotted the product. Even protests were staged. Coke promptly brought back the “Classic Coke” and has wisely left the formula untouched since then.

Lesson here? Respect your heritage. Know where you came from and why. Nike still stands by the story of Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman sweating over a waffle iron in Bill’s garage, launching a revolutionary sole. Remember why you started the business you did – and be proud of your humble beginnings. That’s where the best brands – and re-brands – are born from.

If you bear these tips in mind, you’ll be on your way to launching a re-brand that will enchant, delight, and make you money. Happy branding!