Rebranding in Good Times and Bad

Charlie Breit, CMO, SurePayroll
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Charlie Breit, CMO, SurePayroll

Charlie Breit, CMO, SurePayroll

Recently we saw two hugely popular brands go through an overhaul.

Neither was in the middle of a crisis or facing slumping sales or fundamentally changing their product. In fact, both seem to be on a rising growth trajectory.

I’m talking, of course, about Instagram and Uber. Despite the millions of users that were accustomed to and happy with their old branding, they felt they had to evolve as they see their companies expanding.

Now we’re not all going to make this big a splash with a mere logo change. In fact, for most companies a rebranding effort is likely going to feel much slower and subtle.

But it’s a good example of a very difficult task for marketers—rebranding during relatively good times. When things are going south and sales are declining, it’s easier to try something new. You almost have no choice.

The tougher question is how do you move forward from success without breaking what you’ve already built?

Differentiation

SurePayroll was one of the first companies to introduce an entirely online payroll service. We had a great head start in our space.

And we’ve been lucky enough to experience steady growth for many years.

However, like in any growing industry, the competition has heated up considerably. In the last couple years, it’s become fierce, with players big and small aggressively vying for market share.

  Rebranding is more than a look and feel change. It’s about how your customers and potential customers perceive your company 

We were still doing well. But past performance doesn’t guarantee future gains, and we had to stay focused on the future of the business.

The problem from a branding perspective? Everyone in our industry was essentially saying the same thing about their service—it’s easy.

Think of it like if Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and every soda maker in between were using a slogan like, “Tastes great.”

• You have to consider rebranding when you have a number of players in an industry with similar offerings.
• You have to give the consumer a clearer choice, and it can’t be based simply on features. Because anyone can come up with new features.
• You have to offer more context around what you’re offering. Putting your customers at the center of your brand.

Starting with Why

To paraphrase branding expert Simon Sinek, you have to start with the why.

Sure, everyone wants a product that’s easy to use, but why do they want it? What fundamental purpose is it serving?

In our case, it was control. Yes, we’re still giving small business owners a payroll service that’s easy to use. But why are we doing it? To give them more control over their lives. Our brand needed to convey the fundamental belief that our customers wanted more control and we were there to help them achieve that.

This is another time to consider a rebrand, whether or not your sales numbers are up.

• You can’t guarantee that you will always have the best technology, or the lowest price, or the most options.
• Your branding and messaging, though, can convey the true purpose of your business. It can bring out what’s at the heart of what you do.

Changing with Consumer Behavior

It used to be changing your branding meant brochures and signage. It was expensive, but fairly straight forward. Now rebranding is more than a look and feel change. It’s about how your customers and potential customers perceive your company. It’s really about the experience they receive at every interaction and touch point.

Of course, now it’s much more tied in with your web presence. You’re not only changing your company website, but campaign landing pages, the Facebook and LinkedIn pages, Twitter avatar, Pinterest and Instagram profiles, and Snapchat icon.

There any number of image sizes, font types, design elements and backend coding issues to navigate.

And what works on one property may not work on another. What works on desktop will not necessarily work on mobile.

Your look and messaging can’t just be new, it has to be pliable.

• You need to find images that work across multiple platforms.
• You need to test everything on phones and tablets.
• You have to update content without lowering your rankings in Google.

Not only are customers finding you online, they also want a lot more information before they talk to you. A rebrand is more than a snappy headline or some fluf fy taglines.

• You need in depth content that addresses more than your product. It has to talk about the overall experience of the customer—what else do they need besides your specific offering and how do you fit in with that.

• You have to answer potential customer questions in a variety of ways—blog posts, infographics, white papers, case studies, ads, reviews, testimonials, online help libraries, downloadable PDFs, tweets, Facebook updates, and more.

The Courage to Overcome Setbacks

Make no mistake—any rebrand is a big effort with lots of moving parts. That means more opportunities for things to go wrong.

The challenge, especially when you’re already hitting current goals, will be to keep moving forward despite the inevitable setbacks, rather than using them as an excuse to go back to the old way.

Remember you’re paying for the future.

It’s sort of like remodeling a house. Yes, you’ve enjoyed living there up to this point. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to enjoy it in years to come if there are holes in the roof, chipped paint and leaky gutters.

Sure, it’s costly and sometimes painful to fix those things now, but it pays off down the line and increases the value of the property.

• You need to have a well thought out plan.
• You should have a clear and bold vision.
• You’ll have to stick with it through completion.

This won’t always be comfortable and may even seem counterintuitive at times. However, when you weigh the risk/ reward of thinking forward compared to looking backward, you realize it’s often worth it to take that leap.

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