There's a wide range of reasons why you might decide to rebrand your business, whether its products and services have evolved beyond their original image, its current branding is outdated or you want to target a new audience.
But once you've decided to go forward with rebranding, it can be hard to know where to start. That's why we've consulted with four experts whose insights can help you create a winning rebranding strategy.
The only person who knows more about rebranding than someone who's done so for their own business is someone who's done so for other businesses. That's exactly the kind of experience Hilary Young has — she's "worked on rebrands with businesses of all sizes over the past decade," so she certainly has some valuable insights.
Young recommends a three-step process for small business owners looking to rebrand:
Start with your 'why.' Why are you doing what you're doing? What are you most passionate about as a brand? What drives you forward every day? Parts of these answers will eventually become part of your mission statement."
Examine the 'who.' Who are you marketing to? Who is your ideal customer? Is it very narrow, or are there several different target audiences that you're going after? This is your target audience(s). Once you know who your brand is talking to, everything becomes a lot easier.
Focus on how to leverage your 'why' with your 'who.' This means figure out how you are going to position your brand in the marketplace in a way that is both unique and enticing to your target audience(s). Essentially, this is your value proposition or reasons to believe.
In other words, establish a fully realized brand identity, identify your target audience(s) and use both to form your new value proposition.
North Street Creative CEO Tom Conlon says that whether you're executing your rebrand in-house or hiring an outside agency, the following five steps will help you put the process in motion.
Competitive analysis: First catalog what your competitors are up to. What language do they use to describe themselves, what content and functionality do they have on their website, what color and typography styles are they using? Now do the same thing, not with your competitors, but with organizations that you aspire to be more like.
Visual research: Create a mood board to visualize what you want your organization to look and feel like. A mood board is basically a collage of materials you find online, such as type samples, color swatches, patterns, photography, icons, illustrations, etc. It’s a fun exercise that begins to bring the vision to life. We recommend a tool called Milanote to put this together.
Qualitative research: You can’t rebrand in a vacuum — you need to survey a variety of voices to help you understand who you are, how you’re perceived, and where you can take your new brand.
Messaging: Messaging is perhaps the most important building block of your rebrand. In one sentence, you need to be able to succinctly tell the world what you are, who you service, how you alleviate their pain points and what service or product you actually provide. Extra credit if you can squeeze in what makes you different and special.
Budget: Determining your budget will help inform whether you’re going to handle the rebrand in-house, hire a freelancer or engage an agency. How much of your marketing budget are you willing to invest? If you aren’t sure what your marketing budget is, the SBA recommends 7-8 percent of total revenues for businesses under $5 million.
Conlon's advice can be summed up as "do your research, clarify your messaging and nail down your budget." Doing so will help you gain a better understanding of both your business and your resources, and putting in the effort to conduct research in advance will save you a great deal of time later on in your rebranding process.
According to Tim Clarke of SEOblog, there are two main components of the rebranding process: "Understanding your business and creating visual assets." To streamline each one, Clarke recommends asking yourself a few sets of key questions:
Look to the past: What is your business known for? What has it done well? What has it accomplished? How long has it been in business?
Realize your values: What does your business stand for? What does your business not stand for? Why do you do what you do? Why does your business exist? Why should others care?
Picture the ideal future: Where do you want the business to be ten, five, three and one year(s) from now? What do you want people to say about you once you’ve retired? How will you make that a reality?
Audit your competitors: What are they doing? What are they not doing? What do they stand for? What do they do well, aside from the obvious? Is there a gap in the market?
After answering those questions, Clarke says you'll have "a better idea of the bigger picture." Then, "you can use the answers to create a brief for a designer. The best designers would then aim to instill some of your values and/or depth into your brand identity."
Digital marketing expert Kevin Miller was named "Entrepreneur of the Year" in the 2021 American Business Awards, so his rebranding advice for small businesses is sure to be top-notch.
He recommends including three items on your rebranding checklist:
Conduct research: Understand your goals and survey customers to see how they view the brand.
Audit the changes to be made: Lay out what is wrong and how you want to fix it. Make a list of things that need to be changed, such as logos, websites, brand assets, and the like.
Communicate your changes to employees and customers.
Miller has also observed that brands often encounter challenges when "they forget to make a list of things to be changed. This leaves them sending out old letterheads or not updating social profiles."
Brand consistency is crucial, so "if you are rebranding to better align yourself with goals," then it's "important to make sure that you take the time to cover all bases."
Doing so is likely to improve your bottom line as well as your image — in the Lucidpress 2021 Brand Consistency Report, 68 percent of respondents said that brand consistency contributed to 10-20 percent of their brands' revenue growth:
Putting It All Together: Small Business Rebrand Checklist
The advice of those four experts is most effective when combined. Ahead, we've compiled a comprehensive rebrand checklist that includes all of their most helpful insights:
Evaluate your brand in terms of what it once was, what it is now and what you want it to be going forward. Think about what makes your business unique, articulate its values and purpose and establish a clear brand identity.
Identify your audience and all their key demographics. You can expand on this by creating buyer personas to guide your marketing and branding efforts.
Conduct in-depth market research on both your competitors and your customers. Determine what your competitors are doing well and not-so-well, and ask your customers to do the same for you via a survey or reviews.
Create visuals that convey your message from the colors in your logo to the font on your site. If you want your brand to seem modern and sophisticated, for example, you could choose muted colors and a clean, simple font.
Make a list of changes that need to be made in order for your rebrand to be complete. This can include things such as changing your social media handles, editing your email signature and updating your site's graphics.
Define your budget and decide how to allocate it. For instance, if you have $5,000 to put toward rebranding, then you need to determine how much of that amount will go toward graphic design and how much will go toward research.
Follow up with staff and customers to notify them of the changes that have been made, communicate your mission for the future and explain how they will (or won't) be affected.
Ultimately, rebranding is about much more than your logo (although a fantastic logo certainly doesn't hurt). What's most important is that you know your brand from the inside out and develop a clear idea of where you want it to go.
If you craft your new brand image based on your goals as well as your audience's wants and needs, you're sure to see results.
Carrie Buchholz-Powers is a Colorado-based writer who’s been creating content since 2013. From digital marketing to ecommerce to land conservation, she has experience in a wide range of fields and loves learning about them all. Carrie is fond of history, animals and beauty in equal measure. In her free time, she enjoys knitting, playing video games and exploring Colorado's prairies and mountains with her husband.