What Are the Top Obstacles of Rebranding a Business?

The following post is a guest contribution by Lisa Roberts with WP Full Care, the author’s views may not be the same as our own.

Rebranding is sometimes an unavoidable necessity. Over time, a company or business may need to try to reinvent itself; its core values may have changed since its foundation, or its initial name choice may have become inappropriate or counterproductive. Its target audience response rates may have decreased – a clear sign of a potentially outdated brand, which may be tackled by rebranding.

Doing so is not always a clean process, however. Obstacles of rebranding include numerous pitfalls, small and large, along the path to reshaping one’s image in the eyes of consumers. Several missteps, most quite avoidable, may present needless obstacles to the intended transformation. It is thus imperative to be aware of the most common barriers of rebranding a business, as well as common misconceptions, well before one begins the endeavour.

Rebranding visual elements – and not much else

The process of rebranding is often perceived as a superficial endeavour, one that is far more rooted in cosmetic concerns than practical ones. Such cynicism may be grounded in reality, simply because that is, indeed, how it often manifests itself.

A spherical logo with swirling, multicolored surfaces
A logo tells much of the story, but not all of it

From a marketing perspective, it is true that visual (and at times audible) elements of a business or company are important communication tools. Logos, trademarks, and symbols have multiple aspects to their identity, all of which contribute to how they are received by the customer;

  • Shape
  • Size
  • Font
  • Style
  • Presentation
  • Colour

However, irrespective of how important those elements are, rebranding cannot be limited to revamping visual presentation alone.

It is true that consumers may often be driven to short-term, impulsive purchases based on visual appeal and associations, but long-term loyalty cares little for such factors.

Brand loyalty is, rather, built through satisfaction over time; constant interaction with a product and subsequent attachment to its material value is vital in that regard. Therefore, unless a product or service improves materially, tangibly, in a way that is apparent to the customer – the rebranding process alone can only amount to so much.

The process should, in its core, be intended to attract customers and reinvigorate a business on the whole, which should account for both initial impressions and long-term brand loyalty – not simply the former. Such notions as that rebranding should, or could, be limited to superficial visual elements, then, are noteworthy obstacles of rebranding that should be overcome.

Insufficient commitment to rebranding

It should be indisputable that rebranding is a process that requires commitment; no such undertaking could possibly be successful without it. A choice as impactful as rerouting both internal modus operandi and the external presentation should not be expected to be easy – yet that often seems to be the case.

A black calculator and an open pen on top of a financial sheet
Short-term financial effects are one indication of the rebranding process, but not the only noteworthy one.

The short-term effects of such endeavours are by all means one indication of their overall course. Quarterly goal-oriented boardrooms will often keep a close eye on a product’s or share’s value’s trajectory, which in itself is by no means objectionable either.

However, only analyzing a rebranding process under this scope may cultivate a short-term mindset as well, which can be deceptive. Initial underachievement may discourage all involved parties, to the point where early results may dictate whether the course is stayed or abandoned.

Rebranding mandates that visionary leaders and executives maintain their intended direction beyond the first few quarters; such transformations take time by nature. Consumers will require time to accumulate enough new experiences with the product, a process whose results may not flourish and become observable immediately.

Such factors will need analytical tools to gauge properly, such as internal adoption metrics and external consumer brand equity surveys throughout the process – all while finding the best approach to SEO so that the new direction is promoted properly.

Such potentially counterproductive mindsets of immediate, short-term results are thus more obstacles of rebranding to be overcome.  Investment performance and short-to-medium term revenues may be an indication, but they should not be the sole determining factor when rebranding.

Rebranding superficially

Rebranding likely does not seek to merely reinvigorate one’s image in an isolated environment; if anything, that seems to be less and less possible with the advent of content marketing. Rather, it may often seek to distance one from one’s past shortcomings, as well as differentiate one from one’s competitors.

Ideally, one’s expected outcome, given the sizeable investment of effort, money, and time, should be an equally valuable new identity. However, it often seems to be that rebranding efforts may remain superficial enough that they do not achieve such goals.

A digital screen with social media and other app icons
The smartphone market presents notable examples of obstacles of rebranding

The smartphone market provides ample examples; both ones of practical distinctions in product identity, and ones that remained superficial enough to be ineffective. Such smartphone brands as Motorola have refrained from excessive visual rebrands, often limiting such efforts to minute changes to their logo’s presentation – but they have made product-level commitments that did yield results.

Motorola specifically has marketed itself as a provider of a clean, bloat-free Android experience, dedicating to its course by participating in Google’s Android One initiative early. Consistency in this course has allowed the brand to escape from relative obscurity, ascending from a recognizable brand of old to one that has carved its own place in the budget-to-midrange smartphone market.

In stark contrast, Blackberry’s rebranding efforts can exhibit vastly different results. Blackberry descended from a market leader to a manufacturer whose products only account for 2% of all smartphone shipments; rebranding in name, from Research in Motion to Blackberry, did not change their products or their perceived value.

Marketing alone did not distinguish their product or how it functionally differed from its competitors, and thus it did not help it stay competitive in measurable metrics. It did not communicate what the brand did differently, or what the brand did well – therefore reducing the rebranding process to a superficial, ineffective one.

Internal adoption, external consistency

The aforementioned internal resistance to change will extend beyond commitment; familiarity with one’s brand may often find employees in need of an adjustment period.

Likewise, rollouts of the visual components of a rebranding process may not be properly coordinated, especially across larger businesses, requiring utmost attention and consistency. Both of those factors remain practical obstacles of rebranding that should be given due to consideration.

A smartphone screen with social media app icons
Renaming across one’s social media presence is a vital aspect of rebranding

On an internal level, rebranding will often present unforeseen workloads on its own – a simple change of name may require that a company or business change all mentions of the old name.

This will extend beyond external spaces, such as social media presence and profiles, and into internal account names and addresses. Neglecting this aspect of the process may only exacerbate the existing risk of employees using old names in their communications, which is an obvious misstep.

Working with hired professionals and allowing employees to have an adjustment period – ideally by announcing such efforts and plans well in advance – should considerably alleviate such risks.

Maintaining consistency on an external level is also of paramount importance. Rebranding intends to invigorate a brand and increase its value, and such efforts can only be undermined by inconsistent messaging and perceptions.

Updating all official mentions of a brand’s name, such as official sites and social media, should be done concurrently – or as soon after the first change as possible.

The same should apply to physical spaces; using both old and new promotion material, without proper organization and consistency across physical branches, can be damaging to a brand’s image. Given that rebranding intends to produce the opposite results, such obstacles of rebranding should be taken into account – and accounted for in the early stages.

About the author: Lisa Roberts is a freelance journalist. She writes on various topics and has a keen interest in SEO and its intricacies. An avid movie-goer, she enjoys a good night out as much as a quiet afternoon of writing.