5 Interesting Lessons from "A Practical Guide to Successful Rebranding"

August 01, 2018 - 4 minute read

Some rebrands will go down in history. Some for all the right reasons (well done McDonald’s, Apple and Lego). Some for the wrong reasons (sorry Netflix, Pizza Hut and Gap.

But what are those reasons, how can you be sure to follow in the footsteps of the hits, and avoid the missteps that would bucket you with the misses?

We recently wrote A Practical Guide to Successful Rebranding, which offers up the key lessons gleaned from five of the best rebrands of recent years, five of the worst, and consumers’ opinions on the brands most in need of a refresh.

We’ve collected a handful of interesting insights here, but for the complete results and analysis see the full report.

View the report


Lesson 1 - There are three podium places for rebrands

We surveyed 1000 UK consumers for our Practical Guide to Successful Rebranding. When we asked respondents to suggest the reasons they think a brand might need to rebrand, the answers they gave fell into three broad buckets:

1. Breathing life into a stagnated brand or product. The biggest brands around the world invest millions of pounds on advertising year in, year out. This translates into hours and hours of consumer attention, catching them between TV shows, when they’re waiting for the bus and popping-up in their Instagram feed.

Without a dynamic approach to creative and compelling storytelling, even the most-loved brands can become stale over time. Two years of the same advert will do that to even the most loyal customers.

2. To change direction with the company. More and more companies are confronting challenging decisions over whether they should focus attention online or offline; even giants like Marks & Spencer are considering the benefits of closing long-established physical stores in favour of more ecommerce.

3. Lack of consumer trust. There’s no denying it, some brands are crying out for a rebrand! The reason? They’ve fallen from their pedestal. We could probably all name three brands we think need a rebrand ASAP, and most of us would name brands the press has covered in recent months. A thorough rebrand can help because, done right, the rebrand should go to the heart of the issue, touch all areas of the business, and ensure the overhaul uproots the problem. 

Lesson 2 - Timing matters

Yes, bad publicity and reputation can be polished up with an overhaul of the brand. A bad idea, though, is to divert ‘crisis mode’ PR efforts towards rebranding. There’s no easy fix for a reputational disaster, you’ve got to ride that wave as best you can until the water settles, at which point you can actually dive deep into fixing the fundamental problem.

The public, won’t be satisfied with a half-hearted attempt at a resolution, and a half-hearted attempt at rebranding is all you’ll be able to manage while your teams are in crisis management mode.

Lesson 3 - Rebranding is more than aesthetics

McDonald’s carried out one of the most successful rebrands of our time. Back in 2004, the Supersize Me documentary publicised damning evidence about the results of eating (excessive amounts of) McDonald’s food (after all, a Big Mac can be a saving grace on the occasional night out). Suddenly, parents didn’t want to feed their children Happy Meals, they’d rather put up with the kicking and screaming.

Yet, eight years later, McDonald’s sponsored the world’s biggest sporting event, the Olympics, and introduced salads to their menus. Their rebrand also focussed on reassuring the public that, yes, there’s a negative perception around the produce that goes into McDonald’s food, but that this isn’t based in reality.

The McDonald’s rebrand touched every single department of an astoundingly large company, from restaurant design to supply chain, employee communications to WiFi provision. Only because of the sheer size of the overhaul did the brand manage to peel itself away from perceptions of mistrust and disgust, becoming a family favourite once again.

Lesson 4 - Brand = customer experience

In an alternate universe we could all be using the phrase ‘Quikster and chill.’

Thank goodness we’re not.

Netflix came extremely close to dividing their DVD postal and online streaming services into two brands for good—Netflix, and the questionably named Quickster. But thankfully (for us, not them) the rebrand failed. They’d not considered that the move would effectively double the consumer journey, by asking even existing customers to create a second account as the services were housed separately. The split lasted less than a month before both services were rehoused under the Netflix brand.

Lesson 5 - Marks & Sparks Needs More Spark

Don’t shoot the messenger!

The decades-old provider of (amongst other things) granny knickers and cardigans was voted by 1000 UK consumers as the company most in need of a rebrand. A huge 47.5% of consumers who voted for Marks & Spencer did so because they believe the brand is old-fashioned, and a further 15% noted that the brand needs to reposition to target a younger clientele.

It’s worth noting that Marks & Spencer are embarking on a shift in direction, closing a number of physical stores and moving more of their provisions online. This, however, was only cited by 5% of consumers as the reason M&S would need to rebrand.

For full results and analytics, including the five best and 5 worst rebrands of recent years and key consumer insights, read the Practical Guide to Successful Rebranding.

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