How to rebrand without alienating your customers

Ed Garrett   |   December 8th 2021   |   @16:24

As the new year approaches, many businesses and charities will be forward planning for 2022, seeking out new ways to level up and develop their offering.

We know rebranding isn’t something that organisations take lightly, whether you’re planning wholesale changes or just subtle updates to your colour scheme and typography. And more often than not, it comes with the feeling that any alterations might upset stakeholders and potentially turn your customers away.

But a rebrand doesn’t have to be scary. What if you could use it to actually build customer loyalty and engagement? From making sure there’s a clear purpose to involving your audience in the process, there’s a lot you can do to help your customers love and celebrate the changes as much as you do.

Rebranding is a sliding scale

The first thing to think about is what kind of rebrand you’re looking to do, because it’s not a one-size-fits-all process. A rebrand can mean anything from a complete transformation to a tiny tweak, and the degree of change you’re going for will help determine how to bring your customers with you on the journey.

A lot of the time when people hear “rebrand” they think of the total overhaul variety. Not just a new brand mark and visual identity, but a new name as well. It’s the most aggressive side of the spectrum – to the outside world, the result might as well be a whole new company.

On the opposite end of things, a rebrand can be so subtle that your customers might not even notice the difference. For example, when Google adjusted the kerning of its word mark by moving two of the letters a pixel each to the right. The design world went crazy over it, but most of Google’s users weren’t aware anything had changed.

However, most rebrands will fall somewhere between those two extremes. It might still be a pretty big design shakeup, like when Gumtree switched their colourful orange and blue branding to a more minimalist grey and green. Or it might be a case of modernising things while still keeping the essence of your brand and logo in place.

Gumtree rebrand

It’s more than just a logo

Rebranding and brand development isn’t all about updating your name or logo either. Introducing illustration, iconography and pattern work can be extremely powerful for brands and helps to create a stand out visual identity.

We worked with the student services start-up The Bunch on their brand development process to help enhance connections with their target audience. Their logo has stayed the same for a few years now, but we’ve created a series of collage style illustrations and a set of icons to effectively elevate the brand without touching the element that their customers have got to know.

This can be a fantastic path to take if you’re concerned about changing it up too much, or if your current logo is working well already. In these cases, a softer rebrand and brand development approach may be the best tactic; you can still reach new markets and achieve just as much by reworking the supporting brand kit, rather than feeling like you need a completely new image.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

As well as what kind of rebrand you want to pursue, you also need to be clear about why you’re doing it. Even a subtle rebrand can be a big deal to your customers, and it’s easy to get caught up in the moment.

There are plenty of major rebrands that didn’t feel coherent to customers. Like Royal Mail’s flutter with the name Consignia, or Mastercard’s icon switch that made customers wonder if they were looking at a knock-off version of a once-recognisable brand. Then there was Facebook’s all caps logo that lasted barely two years before they decided they needed to become Meta.

On the flipside, you can find brands that shifted in purposeful ways. Starbucks simply took their name off their logo and remained recognisable. Old Spice didn’t change the logo but reversed their personality by making a young man ride a horse backwards. And then there’s Airbnb, who switched their image from a scrumpy blue to a premium bespoke colour that suited their evolution as a company.

Ultimately it’s about making sure there’s a coherent purpose behind it all. If you know the reason for the rebrand, you can work out whether you need to make a big change or a small evolution. For instance, when we worked with Materials In Mind on their rebrand, we created a modernised version of their existing logo and employed our tried and tested adaptive branding theory so that MIM could use their visual marks across many kinds of media and in a variety of situations.

That reason might also be tied to what stage your business is at. A lot of startups will make quite big changes to their branding while they’re still in their infancy, especially if they have to pivot or they discover their target market is different from what they’d originally planned for.

If you’re more established then rebranding is probably more about wanting to modernise things to be relevant to future customers, without sweeping away the visual identity your current customers are familiar with.

Make your people part of the process

This is crucial when it comes to getting stakeholders on board. The last thing you want after spending so much time and effort on the rebrand is for them to shoot down the final concept because they weren’t involved along the way. Bringing your designers in to pitch with you is a great way to help stakeholders fall in love with your vision.

You could even bring your customers along the journey too. Sudden change is jolting, but if they know what’s coming they might be much more enthusiastic.

Start by doing your research into what they like or want. When Gumtree rebranded they showed their customers concepts both with and without their tree icon, and they found that people expected to see a tree as part of the brand’s image.

With the right amount of careful planning, there’s no reason for you or your customers to be put off by a rebrand. And if you’re looking to update your visual identity, we’d love to know how we can help. Get in contact using the form below or by emailing: [email protected]

Ready to get started?

All design journeys begin with a dream – Call us now on 0117 330 5297, email us, or fill in your details below.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience possible.