Neilroy Gunn
Head of Creative & Brand

In 2035 there will be a ban on selling new petroldiesel or hybrid cars in the UK. So with ever-changing markets and audience’s needs, car companies of all sizes are going to be forced to look harder at their brand and to evaluate their market position.

There are many reasons why a company or organisation would want to look at change, so the first question they need to ask themselves is why are they looking at the rebranding? Do they no longer communicate on the right level with their audience? Have they merged with another larger company and need to realign the brands or even to reposition a brand in a busy marketplace? Are they looking to stand out instead of fading away? Do they need to look at the changing world, and change with it?

Rebranding due to drop in sales and an attempt to change a downward turn due to poor marketing strategy can be a big mistake. Those issues should be addressed by the marketing, not by throwing the baby out of the bathwater and rebranding the entire business. This could be counterproductive as efforts will be directed away from addressing the issues with the marketing. Rebranding your company to maintain a presence, to reposition or to remain contemporary and answer to the audience needs should always be the primary reason for rebranding. Simply put, if your brand no longer speaks to or resonates with your target audience, then it is time to change. 

For example, in the 80s and 90s the car firm Skoda was known as a Czech, low-budget car company that had a strong UK brand awareness for all the wrong reasons. Despite its poor image in the UK, Skoda still commanded respect in Eastern Europe and held its own in other Western European countries. When it was purchased by Volkswagen group, the brand changed in every area. VW transformed the product and every part of the brand was developed, but more importantly it’s brand values and how it spoke to the customer changed in such a way, that Skoda is now one of the leading global car brands. A very intelligent marketing and advertising campaign was put together which poked fun almost at the public’s perception of the old brand, presenting Skoda owners as smarter individuals. What has stuck in my mind the most is a TV ad of a security guard apologising to a Skoda owner for someone sticking a Skoda badge on the nice new car.

This raises the question of to what level should a company will go with a rebrand. Is it a refresh to maintain a contemporary, on trend look and feel of the company? For example, if your audience is young and influential you may look at updating various small parts of the brand to reflect a new focal point or a more contemporary look. Or are you looking for an entirely new reimagined brand, such as what Skoda did. They kept the name, they developed the logo but absolutely everything else about the brand and about the product changed.

Although rebranding can take place across any aspect of a company, there are a few areas in which change can have the greatest impact. The first of these is with a brand’s visual identity. Making adjustments to this part of a brand is a highly visible way of conveying the alterations that have been made and the fact that these alterations have occurred. It’s the first point in presenting the fact that a brand has changed to an audience.

A companies tone of voice is another way to heighten the relevance of a brand, but with a more subtle approach. Having a tone of voice that compliments the newly refined aspects of a brand is a central part of building consistency in the eyes of prospective individuals and groups. Brand voice’s are an essential connection with audiences and this is a very effective method of reinstating a brand’s positioning and values.

Online interaction and presence are also essential to the success of brands now as the use of digital marketing continues to grow at an overwhelming pace. Without examining the relevance of a brand to how it engages with its online audience, that brand is likely to fall behind its competition in a very short period of time. This is why it is so important for brands to ensure that their digital communications reflect the current realities of their audiences and are totally consistent with the brand’s goals and actions. The incredible reach of online communications is a tremendous asset to a brand when it conveys itself as highly relevant, but it can also have completely the opposite effect by presenting itself as lacking innovation and progression if the rebranding of its digital communications is ignored for too long.  

The last major area in which rebranding can make a difference is in relation to a brand’s website. This is the point at which brands want prospective individuals to be excited to start taking advantage of all they can offer, but if this part of the brand looks dated or inconsistent with other aspects of its presentation this can damage the brand by reducing the level of its reputation or by lacking the engagement needed to entice the individual. 

In conclusion the most important part of rebrand is at the beginning when you ask yourself the first question “Why?”. By setting this out from day one you are focusing on the problem and therefore can answering this problem like any other brief following the correct process in order to reach the final goal successfully. [See article: Building a sustainable brand]

Once you have successfully refreshed all rebranded your company organisation, it is far easier to try and maintain a sustainable, long-term marketing plan with the ability to be responsive and on trend than it is to refresh or rebrand again. Investing in marketing and making sure your brand is maintained on a day by day basis should be a company’s number one priority, eliminating the need to once again in 5, 10 or 15 years down the line to look at rebranding or reposition the company once more. Taking the time to review a brand is now a central part of connecting with target audiences and developing brand loyalty. The speed at which markets are changing only forces companies to stay up to date with both their target market by constantly finding new ways to satisfy their audiences. It is impossible to remain current by presenting a brand in the same way for the last ten years. Listening to audiences now and predicting what they will think and say next has become a basic means of survival for any brand.