Revamp, Refresh or Replace? Four Key Considerations for Rebranding
The blog post you can read below was originally published nearly three years ago. Since then, its content about branding has become more relevant than ever. A growing number of Transcend’s clients and prospects continue to ask for help in evaluating their brands for today – and tomorrow. One factor that keeps exerting more and more influence is the growth of mergers and acquisitions … not only among healthcare providers, but also among payers, technology companies and other healthcare resources. When two or more different cultures combine, whether through a true merger or an acquisition that doesn’t want to feel like a hostile takeover, leadership often finds it more effective to rebrand the new entity rather than show favor for one brand or culture over another. A rebrand helps create a new slate of sorts and level-set the entire organization to get all stakeholders on the same page and moving forward together. Other situations may not call for a total rebrand yet demand a fresh look at branding as a crucial element for growth.
Let’s face it. Changing an established brand is a big deal. For starters, there are bound to be key people who are attached to an existing brand – customers, employees, board members, investors and other stakeholders. Secondly, it’s a huge investment. Brand names and logos are on practically everything, right? From signage to stationery, wearables to marketing materials, the cost to update a brand identity alone can be enormous.
Yet, businesses are tweaking or completely overhauling brands all the time. Because somehow their existing brand doesn’t quite fit the scope, vision or other needs to make the most of their market opportunities.
For instance, a company can find that the brand their business was founded under becomes limiting to the process of diversifying and growing. Pepsi-Cola Company evolved into a mega corporation with branded products that go far beyond cola – including Gatorade, Aquafina water, Lipton tea, Lay’s potato chips and Cheetos. Thus, the corporate brand became PepsiCo (“Co” as in “company,” not “cola”). Likewise, Boston Chicken changed their brand to Boston Market when their offerings expanded beyond rotisserie chicken to turkey, ham and meatloaf.
Does your current brand lack something that’s hindering your opportunities, starting with effectively communicating what your business encompasses? Will it be worth the investment required to refresh, revamp or replace your brand? Where do you start to make an informed decision? Begin with these four crucial considerations:
1. What’s your brand strategy?
Sound business decisions start with a cohesive, consistent brand strategy.
Are you shifting your scope to a wider marketplace and need to unify your efforts in all markets? That’s what Nissan did when they changed their automotive brand from Datsun in one of the most drastic brand overhauls ever. Actually, the radical name change occurred only for the Japanese car manufacturer’s exports, including what we saw here in America. The corporate and vehicle names already were Nissan in Japan where their core business was established. By making the brand name consistent across the globe, including new markets they rolled into, the company realized eventual cost-saving efficiencies worldwide.
Are you broadening your product or service offerings and your current brand limits or creates other obstacles to growth? At Transcend Strategy Group, we see this scenario a lot when working with hospice organizations across the country. A significant number of hospices were founded in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s with brand names such as “Hospice of (fill in the blank with a geographic reference),” e.g., Hospice of Wake County (North Carolina) and Hospice of the Bluegrass (Kentucky). These brands became limiting when the organizations expanded their continuum of care to include services such as home health, private-duty nursing and palliative care, and/or broadened their service area beyond the geographic reference that was part of their brand.
What’s more, these healthcare providers found that “hospice” could be a turnoff to potential patients for their other services because of connotations with “imminent death.” By expanding their brand beyond hospice care, the organizations now build relationships further upstream in the continuum, generate revenue before a patient’s final months or days on hospice care, and often can transition appropriate patients to hospice services earlier than when a relationship with the brand didn’t exist. More details of what these organizations changed their brands to – and why – are explained in the next section regarding brand equity.
Does your brand need a clean slate to overcome negative perceptions? In some rare cases, a brand becomes tainted to a point beyond saving. When international accounting firm Arthur Andersen was associated with the Enron financial scandal in the early 2000s, they couldn’t overcome the severe blow to the credibility of their brand. The accounting and auditing business dissolved. Yet, the company elevated the brand of their business and technology consulting division, Accenture, to change their core focus along with their identity. Accenture continues to thrive to this day.
2. What’s your brand equity?
This is the bazillion dollar question. What exactly does your brand mean to customers, shareholders and other key audiences? What is the value of the perceptions and reputation? Many brand stewards are so close to their own brands, they can’t be objective about such vital matters.
The way to gauge your brand equity with critical audiences is to ask them. Well-designed, statistically significant research will reveal what audiences think of your brand. If you’re struggling with a decision on whether to change your brand – or how much to revise your brand – research can be an invaluable guide.
Some examples to illustrate these principles: One of Transcend’s clients, Hospice of Wake County, felt it mandatory to overhaul their brand because they offered multiple services in addition to hospice care, and they served four other counties in addition to Wake. Still, the organization had been established for 35 years, and influential board members, donors and executives felt they couldn’t abandon the name under which the organization was founded. However, research among family healthcare decision makers showed that barely 12 percent could name the organization with unaided recall. And only about 40 percent recognized the name with aided recall. This relatively low brand awareness and corresponding equity made the decision to change the brand easier to swallow, even for the skeptics. The organization rebranded itself as Transitions LifeCare and ultimately increased their business and revenue within a year.
In a similar vein, Hospice of the Bluegrass felt the need to change their brand structure to represent their broader continuum of care beyond hospice services. Yet, research showed a much higher recall for their brand among family healthcare decisions makers and an affinity for “Bluegrass” as part of the name. Thus, the organization transformed to Bluegrass Care Navigators, maintaining a key word in their name and establishing an umbrella brand portfolio that includes Bluegrass Hospice Care, Bluegrass Palliative Care and Bluegrass Transitional Care.
Likewise, if you’re considering a change to your brand, research can help you decide if there are elements you should keep, or if it’s ripe for a total rebranding.
3. What’s the investment and potential for ROI?
You will have to give a lot of thought to how a brand change can positively impact your business. In the case of Transcend’s hospice clients, they had goals for increased admissions along their entire continuum of care, resulting in higher patient volume and length of service for their core hospice business. Of course, they determined and budgeted fixed costs for making the brand change across all their materials and in marketing the “why” of the revised brand to their communities. Those who effectively executed on their brand strategies saw ROI at four to 10 times their investment during a three- to five-year period.
What’s the potential for your revamped brand? Will it open up new product or service lines? Can it help expand your marketplace? Will it better position you against your competition going forward – and help sustain attributes to differentiate your brand? Gather a team to help you examine the opportunities from a 360-degree perspective.
4. What’s your game plan and timeline for rolling out a revised brand?
When brands change, they don’t throw a switch and become their new entities overnight – especially if there’s a significant change to the brand name itself. There’s usually a gradual transition that changes by degree over time.
Datsun began their brand change on exports by putting “Datsun by Nissan” right on the vehicles. Gradually, the Nissan name became more prominent then totally replaced the Datsun name, coordinated with a global “The name is Nissan” campaign. The transition took two years to complete.
Transitions LifeCare made sure to include a line that said “Founded as Hospice of Wake County in 1979” on all communications for more than two years. It was a tasteful way to convey their former name and show that even though they had a new name, they had nearly 40 years of experience in the hospice category. In addition, Transitions had a carefully crafted timeline that presented the new name and reasons for the change respectively to their internal staff and volunteers, referral sources and vendors, then the community at large – in that order. Employees, volunteers and business partners were all aware of the brand change before it was widely publicized. Transcend highly recommends this type of segue with communications that acknowledge the former brand for at least a 12- to 18-month period.
Do you need help in thinking through the pros and cons of a brand name change? Can you benefit from the insights of marketing experts who have helped clients maneuver through both evolutions and revolutions of their brand? Feel free to contact me at [email protected] to start the conversation.