Considering a Rebrand? Don’t.

You see it almost daily. Some post on social media announcing that another company is “rebranding.”

Except that they aren’t.

Your brand is the unique position you occupy in the minds of everyone. It’s not your logo, your tagline or even your company name. Those represent your brand — that unique position — but they’re not your brand.

When companies talk about a “rebrand,” they’re rarely trying to change their position in the market. They’ve just had their logo redesigned, or changed their name, or refreshed their website or adopted a new slogan.

Actual rebranding would mean refocusing all your energy on changing the place you hold in people’s minds. And that almost never happens, for two reasons.

First, it’s nearly impossible to pull off.  

For decades, Volvo built its brand on safety. When people thought of safe cars, Volvo came to mind. Then two things happened. Other automakers caught up on safety. And Volvo got tired of only being known for “safe.”

But when they tried to rebrand — to actually change their position in people’s minds — all of their messages suddenly looked like every other automaker’s.

The result? Volvo, now owned by a Chinese company, still ranks a lowly 15th in U.S. sales and not even that high globally.

The second reason not to rebrand? It’s impractical.

Right away, you lose all the brand equity built up over the years. It’s like starting a new business from scratch. It makes marketing a lot more expensive.

It also invites disbelief. When people know you for one thing, it’s hard to persuade them you’re something else.

Finally — and this is painful — most companies simply don’t have a strong enough brand to begin with. So rather than thinking of rebranding, they’d do better to focus on branding.

Here are three ways to see if you have a brand at all.

  1. Ask employees to describe your unique position in the market. Chances are they can’t, or it isn’t unique to you.
  2. Ask job candidates to describe what’s different about you. The answers will be all over the map, and few if any of the things they mention will be truly special or specific to you alone.
  3. Ask customers why they chose you. If it’s a great price, or they like the salesperson, or you’re close to home, that isn’t a brand. It’s the path of least resistance.

What’s the takeaway? Don’t “rebrand.” Just brand. Commit to a unique position and market it clearly, consistently and memorably. That’s where you’ll find marketing ROI.