HOW TO REBRAND A COMPANY: THE COMPLETE STEP BY STEP GUIDE

BRANDING

the words steps highlighted in a dictionary

CONTENTS

23 min read

How to rebrand a company is a topic that we’re yet to cover on the Canny blog.

We’ve covered a lot of topics from brand strategy, brand identity, and even rebranding itself, through to web design, ecommerce, and marketing.

But never “how to rebrand a company” from start to finish.

We’ve talked about the fundamentals of rebranding, and even provided a free rebranding brief template.

But for some reason, the “step by step guide” has always been missing.

Until today.

In today’s post, we’re going to take you through rebranding a company from start to finish.

Whether you’re a Marketing Manager or Marketing Director at a new company looking to make a direct impact on their brand, or a startup looking to change your strategy or identity – then this post is for you!

Woman pointing at sticky notes on whiteboard in an office

What is Rebranding?

Let’s just clear this up from the start. Rebranding isn’t just changing your company logo. Just like with branding, there’s a lot more to it than that. Rebranding is the act of trying to change a company’s position in the hearts and minds of its customers.

There are two main ways people attempt to achieve this:

  1. By overhauling their brand strategy, then progressing through into the visual brand identity and website.
  2. Alternatively, people decide their strategy is sound, and work on purely the visual side of their brand.

Both have merit, and the approach you take will completely depend on your goals and objectives.

So:

Rebranding is an exercise in trying to change customer perception of your company, and you can work on the full brand strategy and visuals, or just the visuals.

Good? Let’s move on.

pen on paper marking out rebrand budgeting

What Does Rebranding Mean for Your Company?

Rebranding is an exercise that will take time, effort, and dedication from your company.

Sure, you can (and should) bring in a branding agency to help out, but you’ll still have a lot of things to do on your side.

You’ll need to be available for meetings, ready and willing to provide feedback, and able to commit to making decisions.

On top of that, you’ll need to get buy in from the key stakeholders within your organisation too.

Make no mistake, rebranding a large organisation is a huge undertaking. And even if you own or operate within a smaller setup, it’s a mammoth task to embark upon!

Rebranding services on a screen

When and Why Should You Rebrand Your Company?

Given the journey you’re about to embark upon, how do you know you’re setting off at the right time?

Companies decide to rebrand themselves for a variety of different reasons. Among them are:

  • You’re heading into a large period of change (mergers and acquisitions etc.)
  • You’re about to make a play into a new market or location
  • You’re trying to shift opinions after a PR disaster (or something similar)
  • You’re looking to target a new type of customer

Or simply, when you realise your brand isn’t connecting with people in the way you need it to be.

Remember:

You shouldn’t just change for the sake of change! You should take deliberate action to solve a problem, and shift customer perception of your company.

One thing we recommend staying away from is the temptation to give your brand a “light refresh” or “spring clean.”

Sure, that might work for your website, but you need to be more deliberate in your approach to rebranding.

Why half do something just to have to do it again later down the line?

If companies like Dunkin’, Starbucks, and Airbnb can manage a complete overhaul (and avoid ending up on our rebranding failures list) – then you can too!
rebranded Small, medium and large dunkin donuts cups

Who Should You Bring in to Help on Your Rebrand?

We’ve mentioned bringing in agency help already, but just to clarify who you should bring in for help with your rebrand, here are our thoughts:

Freelancers

If you run a small business, then a freelancer might be your best choice. They’ll be more affordable, and you’ll be able to work directly with them to get what you need.

However, for any sort of larger or more ambitious organisation, it’ll be worth looking at working with an agency.

Small and Mid-Size Agencies

Small and mid-sized branding agencies are a great choice for Startups and SMEs. Typically having a few points of contact is useful. Startups and SMEs come with pressing requirements and deadlines.

Choosing an agency like Canny with a dedicated Account Manager and multiple designers and developers can help ensure deadlines are met, and nothing is missed along the way.

If you’re given any sort of marketing budget to work with, then a small or mid-size agency is probably the best choice for you.

Large Agencies

Now, if you’re a larger company, you’re going to want to work with an agency that can accommodate you.

Agencies such as Pentagram, Landor, Wolff Ollins, Design Studio, and Moving Brands all boast client rosters of the largest companies in the world.

Naturally, this comes with budget implications – but these agencies are designed specifically to work in the upper echelons of the business branding world.

One thing we always advise against is:

In-House Teams

In-house teams come and go. They’re “in vogue” for a period, then everyone switches back to the agency model, rinse, repeat.

The main reason you should avoid using in-house teams is that you want to get external eyes on your brand.

There are plenty of opportunities to collaborate and share knowledge. But do it with your agency partner, not with an in-house team!

On top of that, in-house teams can get bogged down in the “day to day” of the business, and often the major rebranding project will get put on the backburner.

So, now we’re decided on bringing in agency help, why not download our free Rebranding Brief Template to give you a head start?

a signpost showing directions of change

3 Key Things to Consider When Rebranding Your Company

There are a lot of things to consider when approaching your rebranding project.

But here are 3 key things to consider from the outset:

Rebranding Might Not Be The Answer

That’s right, you might not actually need to rebrand.

Sometimes, people rush into a rebranding project, but actually, there are problems elsewhere in the business.

For example:

If you don’t have enough leads;

  1. Have you tried changing things on your website first?
  2. Have you tried making more outbound calls?
  3. Is your inbound content marketing strategy setup correctly?
  4. Is your social media working for or against you?
  5. Do you have a visibility problem?

All of these things could be wrong with your business brand. And in that case, jumping straight into a rebranding project probably isn’t the right thing to do.

Rebranding isn’t always the answer, sometimes, you have to look closer at other things within your business!

A Lot of People Dive Right In and Go Straight for the Pretty Things

And even if you do dive into rebranding your company, start with a logical point of view.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the problem we’re trying to solve here?
  • What is wrong with the current brand?
  • What do we want our new brand to achieve?
  • Is our brand strategy right?
  • How does that affect our brand identity?

You’ll see there that visual side of things comes last. Start with the fundamentals and move forward from there.

Remember, rebranding is about repositioning your business in the hearts and minds of your customers.

So if you’re not doing it for that, you best make sure you have a compelling enough reason!

Are You About to Polish a Turd?

Sorry to be crude.

But branding can’t fix everything.

If your business has flaws at the ground level, going through rebranding will cost you time, money, and energy – and realistically, it won’t solve the problem.

You can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter.

The problem with glitter is it wears off. And after a while, you’re left with a bit of a mess.

Before embarking on a rebranding project, make sure the fundamentals of your business are right!

neon dollar signs overexposed for blur effect

How Much Does it Cost to Rebrand a Company?

Okay, you’ve made it this far, you must be pretty set on rebranding your company.

That’s great! We love working on rebranding projects at Canny. They’re our favourite.

But now, your thoughts are turning to the more practical things:

  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?

You guessed it:

“How long is a piece of string?”

Depending on the size of your company, your rebranding project could come in at less than £10,000 or more than £100,000. You could be in for a short period of 12 weeks, or up to 12 months.

It all depends on what you’re looking to achieve and at what scale you’re operating.

I think it’s fair to say for most SMEs, you’re going to be comfortably into 5 figures, and the longer you have the better.
“Right, not rushed” is what you’re looking for when rebranding your company.

If you want to deep dive into the costs of rebranding, we’ve got a post on the full services and deliverables of a rebrand project, and how to budget for them.

rebranding time scale

How to Rebrand a Company (The Step by Step Guide)

So, you know you need a rebrand, you’ve got your marketing budget set aside, and you’ve accepted you need a branding agency to help.

Well, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty.

Here’s the step by step guide on how to rebrand a company!

Form Your Project Team

The first step in any successful rebranding project is making sure you bring the right people to the table.

At this stage, I’m talking about your internal team only.

You need;

  • People who have enough time
  • People who have enough experience to share and insight to give
  • People who are in alignment with the goals and objectives (more on that later)

The temptation from the marketing department is often to draft in every single Director or Shareholder.

Stop what you’re doing.

Only bring people into the project team that match the criteria above. On top of that, if you can engage a key decision maker in the process too, you’re likely going to get better buy in later!

Get Everything on the Table

Once you’ve assembled your Avengers, it’s time to get everything out on the table.

You need to have a brutally honest conversation with everybody on the project team about what’s working and what’s not.

Assumedly at this point, you’ve had a lot of internal discussion about your rebranding project. Revisit those discussions, and dump it all down on a whiteboard or good old pen and paper!

Ask yourself;

  • What problems are we facing as an organisation?
  • What are we wanting to achieve by rebranding?
  • What is a realistic timeframe to work towards?

At Canny, we often advise our clients to look into the future and see if there’s a big launch or event in their calendar that we can use to accompany the launch of the rebrand.

Once the gloves are off, you’ll likely uncover a world of issues.

Keep good notes, and once you’re done, try and make sense of it all.

brand audit sheets on a desk with people around the desk

Conduct a Thorough Brand Audit (and Yes, That Includes Your Website)

As part of your “gloves off” session, you should look to conduct a thorough brand audit.

To do this, you’ll need to identify every piece of collateral that’s being used across your business.

What is the marketing team using? Does it support what the sales team are using?

There’ll be internal comms and external comms. Things going to clients, and things going to stakeholders.

At this stage, you need to ask the project team:

“Does this collateral / item / thing support our vision for the brand moving forward?”

If not, it’s time to bin it, if it does, then hold onto it.

For example:

You might decide some of the language in your company brochures works, so you hold onto it. Meanwhile, the business cards have always been rubbish. So they go the journey.

Whizz up a quick Excel document or Google Sheet to keep notes of the things you review, and the agreed next steps.

Revisit Your Brand Strategy

Once you’ve assembled the team, fought to hell and back, and reviewed your old collateral, it’s time to look at your brand strategy.

Brand strategy is too large a topic to cover in a few hundred words here, so check out The Ultimate Brand Strategy Development Guide to help you get started.

As I mentioned earlier, you’ve got two directions to choose from at this juncture;

  • Your brand strategy needs reworked, and you take the project from the top
  • Your brand strategy is sound, and you work purely on your brand identity and visuals.

Either way, you need to revisit your existing brand strategy and decide whether it’s still working for your business.

Revisit Your Audience and Customer Personas

Your customer personas form part of your brand strategy.

But:

They’re such a key piece of the puzzle that they deserve to be pulled out and highlighted on their own.

So dig out those old personas and ask:

  • Are these personas still right or relevant to our business?
  • Do they represent where we were, where we are, or where we’re going?
  • What changes or tweaks do we need to make?

At Canny, we advise our clients to take their top 3 current clients, and shape their personas based off that.

Your customer personas should be laser focused on where you’re going, and your top 3 clients are often a good summary of that.

Don’t focus on where you’ve been or where you are.

With your rebranding project, you want to look back on the past for learning opportunities, but be massively focused on where you’re taking your brand in the future.

brand identity questions

Decide Whether Your Brand Identity is Connecting

The next step is often where people have formed quite a strong opinion one way or the other.

You need to decide if your brand identity is connecting with your intended audience. Chances are, if you’ve had to change or update your personas, then your identity will need to change too.

Defining the impact of branding is often referred to as “measuring ghosts.” Because it’s one of those intrinsic things, you just know whether it’s working or not.

One tell tale sign from an internal perspective is if you hear team members saying they’re having problems using the identity.

In a recent project Kick-off Session, we heard some members of the board saying “We keep trying to use our logo, and it’s hard to line up with things.”

And:

“Sure it looks great on screens, but it just looks rubbish on anything we print.”

When it comes to customers, the feedback is likely to be less obvious.

Seeing bounce rates skyrocket, or seeing your paid ads getting passed over time and time again could help you form an opinion one way or the other.

But like I say, it’s called “measuring ghosts” for a reason. You just know whether it’s working or not!

If Your Strategy and Identity Are Connecting, You Probably Don’t Need to Rebrand

Yeah I said it.

If your strategy is sound, and your identity still reflects what you’re doing, then you probably don’t need to rebrand your company.

Perhaps you’re facing a PR or marketing challenge instead. Check out our marketing brief if you suspect that might be the case.

For example:

If your brand strategy and brand identity both appear to be connecting, but you’re not getting the leads you’d expect through your website, then it’s likely the website itself that needs work, not your brand.

The problem with a lot of creative services is that people go barrelling in thinking it’s one thing, when it’s something else entirely.

Not getting enough website traffic? It’s not a problem that rebranding will help you solve. That’s a content marketing opportunity.

Feeling a disconnect from your audience? Not getting the buy in or excited buzz around your brand that you’re expecting, then…

It’s Time to Open Up Your Rebranding Brief (and Start Filling It Out)

If you haven’t already, go and download our rebranding brief template. We’ll wait.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Now that you have your rebranding brief open in front of you, you have to make a few key decisions.

  • What level are you engaging with a branding agency at? The strategy? The identity? Or the whole lot?
  • Does your budget cover the entire project (if it does, we recommend getting external help on the whole thing.)
  • Do you have internal resources to consider?

Once you’ve answered these, you should make your way through the rebranding brief as best you can.

Do it with your project team to get the best result. But treat it like a work in progress. The first draft of your brief will never be perfect. But a good branding agency can help you build it out.

Our template is self-explanatory and will leave you with a rebranding brief that gets your discussions out of your meeting room and into the hands of branding agencies!

canny logo

Choose a Branding Agency to Work With

Brief in hand, it’s time to choose the agency to help you rebrand!

And choosing a branding agency to partner with on your rebranding project is no easy task, which is why we’ve created this handy guide.

We say it in all of our initial meetings with prospective new clients, and I stick by it:

“You should always pick the agency that you feel like (in your gut) you can work with!”

You just know it.

If there are red flags before you’ve even got out of the gate, just politely walk away. Not everybody is a great fit for everybody else.

If you have to pay more to work with the agency that you have the best feeling about, then do it!

Better to pay the extra few thousand out of your budget now, than have to do it all over again in 6 to 12 months time. Nobody likes to pay twice.

Use the post above to get your agencies narrowed down, engage with them, go with your gut, do it once, and do it properly.

Brief the Following Branding Deliverables (as a Minimum!)

We work on a lot of branding projects at Canny Creative. And I mean, a lot. They’re a daily occurrence for us.

And let me tell you, this is how they all start:

“We just want to get our identity nailed and guidelines sorted.”
“Do you want us to create templates for printed items, merchandise, and other bits and pieces?”
“No no, we don’t need them.”

One month into the project…

“So, those things we said no to at the start, we’re going to need you to cost them out for us.”

It’s honestly a shed load easier to brief everything in at the start.

At a minimum, here’s what I’d consider briefing in for your rebranding project:

  • Brand strategy review and amends as required
  • Brand identity design including;
  • Logo design
  • Business card design
  • A4 header paper design
  • Roller banner design
  • Flyer or datasheet design
  • Brochure design
  • Pitch deck or Powerpoint design
  • A robust set of icons
  • Brand guidelines to document all decisions made above
  • Uniform or merchandise design
  • Website design and development

And that’s just a starting point.

Many brands have a lot of moving parts and require more than this as even a baseline.

Stretch your imagination, and try and cast forward to what you’ll need as early as possible.
A lot of this should be evident from your brand audit. Just don’t forget to brief it in!

Get Your Brand Guidelines Nailed Down

We’ve mentioned your brand guidelines quite a few times already in this post, even directly above in the deliverables section.

However, we’ve pulled them out separately because they need special attention.

Your brand guidelines, brand manual, brand book, brand handbook, or whatever you want to call them are “The Ultimate Guide to Your Brand.”

Every decision you make throughout your rebranding project should be collated, ready to be documented within your brand guideline document.

We’ll not go into the ins-and-outs of building your brand guidelines in this post, we’ve got that covered in our brand guidelines creation post.

But don’t enter into any sort of rebranding project without these pulled out as a separate line item.

They need and deserve their own time and attention. You’re going to use them a lot going forward. Make them as robust as possible!

Roll Your Rebrand Through All of Your Collateral

As we’ve already explained, you’ll know which collateral is and isn’t important from your brand audit, and that’ll be briefed in already.

There are a few approaches we’ve seen work when it comes to creating your rebranded collateral:

  • If you’ve got marketing budget to play with, hand it all over to your agency and get them to do every single thing your business needs moving forward
  • get them to create base templates in InDesign or as a PDF, then get your in-house team to replicate them as closely as possible.

Both work.

From a time saving and hassle perspective, it’s easier to get your rebranding agency to do it. From a cost savings perspective, it’s better to get your in-house team to take care of it.

Either way, you need to go into it with a plan!
colourful website frameworks roughly sketched out

Don’t Forget Your Website!

Now that you’ve got your identity and collateral taken care of, you need to switch your focus to the online world.

What’s the point in a rebranding project, if you neglect what is probably your most used brand touchpoint?

Your website is your 24/7 shop window and marketing tool. You can’t serve up a disconnect between your rebrand in the real world, and your digital presence.

When rebranding, you need to put significant stock in how important your website is. And even if you’re not about to rebrand, your website is still one of the most important tools in your marketing arsenal!

Here a few things to consider when aligning your website with your rebrand:

  • Does your website get you enough visitors, leads, and customers?
  • How does it perform from a technical standpoint?
  • Do you hear any common complaints about your site?
  • Are you tracking the right sort of data?
  • Is it easy to update and maintain?

These are all questions that you should be asking yourself, because now is the perfect time to put things right!

Sure, your site needs to align visually with the rebrand, but why not tidy up all of those other nagging bits while you’re on with it anyway?

If you’re thinking about going full hog into a website redesign, make sure you grab our Web Design Brief template too.

And Don’t Forget About Your Marketing Efforts Either!

And finally, don’t forget about your marketing efforts!

You’ve rebranded, your company looks great, your website is looking great and performing well. But, tumbleweed!

Who knows? Who cares? How are you going to get the word out there?

Marketing, marketing, marketing.

There are a million different ways to market or advertise your business, just don’t forget to do it!

The famous Field of Dreams quote “build it and they will come” just doesn’t ring true anymore. Nobody is going to find out what you’re all about without you doubling down on your marketing efforts.

You could:

  • Work with an agency to plan, create, and execute a content marketing strategy
  • Spend money on paid advertising such as Google and Facebook Ads
  • Invest in a larger campaign such as TV advertising or podcast sponsorship

Finally, organic traffic is also a great way to build traffic, and a dedicated, strategised approach to SEO content is normally one of the best approaches from an ROI perspective.

Cross Reference Our Branding Checklist and List of Branding Deliverables

I know we said “finally” at the start of the last paragraph, but really this time.

Before wrapping up your rebranding brief or project, cross reference our branding checklist to make sure there’s nothing you’ve missed out.

If there is, and you’re still in the brief writing phase, add it in.

If you’re one step beyond writing your rebranding brief and are working with an agency, then revert to the conversation in “Brief the Following Deliverables as a Minimum.”

You’re about to become that client.

But don’t worry about it. The thing that’s important is to get your rebranding project right.

Do it once, do it properly, and you’ll have a brand that’ll stand the test of time, winning you customers, business, and loyalty along the way.

neon light sign saying change to represent rebranding

How to Rebrand a Company (The Step by Step Guide)

Rebranding a company is no easy task. It takes a lot of time, effort, and dedication from everybody involved.

Budgets can mount up, timescales and deadlines get pushed, and honestly sometimes you’ll ask yourself “why have I inflicted this torture on myself?”

And that’s why we always recommend bringing in the support of a professional branding agency. We do this day in and day out, and can help course correct when things go a little awry.

Rebranding your company can help you solve monumental problems and business challenges but wanting to “look better” often isn’t the best rationale for embarking on such a mammoth project.

Think about the return on investment and the real problems your brand is facing. What do you stand to gain from going through the rebranding process?

Will your rebrand give you access to new markets? Strengthen your stance in the competitive landscape? Or perhaps, you’re looking to attract a new customer base?

Whatever the benefit is, make sure you go into your rebranding project with your eyes wide open! That way, you stand a better chance of maintaining enthusiasm throughout, and come out with the best possible result for your business and brand.

Have you rebranded in the past? What did it look like for your company? Let us know in the comments below!