What's In a Name? Tips For Rebranding in 2017

  •    Freelance journalist covering women, business, policy and social good.

It's a new year and a great time for a new look. For some sites or businesses this could be as simple as creating a new logo, store feature or page design. For others, it could be time for a whole new brand identity. A rebrand involves much more than just a simple name change. It's an opportunity to reposition your business -- including your brand philosophy, messaging, and product offerings -- to adapt to changing markets or competition.

If you're considering a rebrand of your website or online store in 2017, know that many successful businesses have made a similar leap. Google was once called “Backrub," Pepsi started out as “Brad's Soda," and Nike used to be known as “Blue Ribbon Sports."

So how do you know if a rebrand is right for your small business or site? Below are some expert tips to help you develop a rebranding strategy, and if appropriate, to make a successful transition.

The Right Fix

If your business, your customers or the marketplace has changed, and your brand name no longer provides a good description of your product or service, a rebrand may be a good solution.

But it's important to identify what problem you're trying to solve first, writes Adam Gilbert, founder of My Body Tutor and a member of the nonprofit Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC). “Are sales slipping? Are customers not connecting with your brand anymore? What makes you think rebranding is going to solve all of those problems?" he asks. Make sure that you're finding the right fix for the right problem before committing to the switch.

Ask Your Customers

If a rebrand is the right move for your store or site, be sure to talk to your customers before making any changes. What do they value most about your products or services? What differentiates you from your competition? It's important to understand your core audience so that you don't leave them behind in the search for new customers – or hurt the bottom line.

Crowdsource ideas by rallying your current customers via social media, suggests Erica Nicole, Founder and CEO of YFS Magazine: Young, Fabulous & Self Employed and a YEC member. “Share your ideas of innovation with people who have prior engagement with your company and ask for feedback," she advises.

Ask An Expert

Get some objective advice from a third-party consultant who can offer unbiased feedback on your current brand as well as your new ideas, experts say. Site and store owners are often too close to the business to see the broader picture of how their brand — and any potential rebranding strategy – may be perceived by customers.

When Sharp Electronics went through a major rebranding to focus on its home appliance division, Peter Weedfald, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the company, did a “Checkup from the Neck Up," according to Small Business Trends.

For a big company like Sharp, this meant doing extensive market research before rebranding. For a small site or business, reaching out to customers could be enough. In either scenario, the point is to “know who you are and who you are trying to be," says Weedfald. “What makes your products and services different from that of your competitors?" he asks. “What is your unique value proposition?"

Get Everyone On Board

​Before you launch your new brand, it's vital to make sure that all your stakeholders are on board. Educate your employees on what the new brand stands for and why you're making the change. A rebrand, after all, is more than just a new look. It can also represent a new way of doing business. Bring your employees up to speed on the changes you're planning so they can serve as ambassadors of the new brand.

To create a recognizable transition to the new brand name, also be sure to notify current customers in advance so they aren't caught off guard. Let them know about the rebranding through messaging on your site, via emails, and in any newsletters you publish so they know they're visiting the right site when you make the switch. It's important that customers know your core product offering will remain available. Talking to your customers in advance is also likely to create more engagement and loyalty by treating them like an integral part of your team.

There are many reasons to consider a rebrand — and many successful companies have profited by making the change. Ask advice when considering a rebrand and be sure to share your decision with your core stakeholders. The beginning of 2017 may be the perfect time for a fresh start. For your business, that could mean a fresh brand identity as well.