Thursday, December 13, 2007

Re-branding: an oxymoron?

I recently saw a to-do list on the wall at a company's marketing department. At the top of the list was "re-branding." And I've been thinking about that for some days. What is re-branding?

At companies I'm familiar with, it means redoing the logo, new taglines, new color schemes for the website, new ad campaigns, etc. But the more I've thought about that to-do list, the more I've come to think that re-branding is a misnomer for this type of activity.

The outward characteristics of a brand don't mean much if they don't reflect the intrinsic characteristics of the company and its offerings. An old, staid company with a sleek modern logo hasn't added anything to its brand except perhaps confusion. It's hard to put into a formula, but I'd say something like

Brand = Company History + Customer Perceptions + Noncustomer Perceptions + Impact of (Advertising & Publicity)

The re-branding exercise most directly affects the latter, and, over time, noncustomer perceptions as well. It can't contradict company history or customer perceptions, so a complete reinvention of the brand is not possible.

Assuming equal weight to each, "re-branding" as it's understood by marketing people can alter your brand image up to 25%. It, of course, has the advantage that it can be executed by the marketing department--without the challenge of rewriting history and changing customers' perceptions.

So don't call it "re-branding." Call it "new logo," perhaps, or "new look." And be careful that your re-branding exercise doesn't distract you from the long, hard work of truly strengthening your brand. That takes more than the marketing department to do.

It takes everybody.

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