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Rebrand or Die: Saving A Dying Identity

According to the old rugged quote by Heraclitus, “change is the only constant in life.”

I remember how I felt when Soundcity changed their iconic logo to something which in my opinion, was less attractive. For days I worried endlessly about the rationale behind such decision. I wondered who vetted the new logo and the criteria upon which such judgement was based.

“Who approved this damn thing?!”, I screamed the first time I saw it on TV.

But you see, they owe me no explanation. They had their reasons. They did what they thought was right for the company. Yes, it sucks but I had a remote control with me. I could as well change the channel and stop driving myself nuts. Instead, I chose to scream my lungs out. I resisted change.

At some point, we all grew tired of whatever excited us in the past. Those beautiful shoes are worn-out and less attractive. Our once cherished dresses no longer fit; we look to give them out. The same thing happens with houses, cars and every other tangible item.

You are likely to grow tired of your brand identity too. It’s nothing strange. The important decision however, is knowing the right time to recreate or refresh a dying identity. This is often the tough part.

For me, the exact time you begin to feel uncomfortable with your brand identity is interestingly the same time your brand becomes questionable to customers. A company’s success is largely based on the brand equity of its products; and the moment customers’ recognition of a brand dampens, the product stuggles.

No matter how terrible you feel about your identity now, remember it was once loved and acceptable. You built a brand and established a brand promise that goes with it. So, it’s understandable if you find it hard to let go of a logo that has represented your business over the years. Beyond the psychological trauma to be experienced by customers and employees, many customers do not always overcome the emotional let down.

A brand identity is a graphical representation of a company’s image. It’s an intrinsic part of a company, and speaks with a voice ascribe to it by its developer.

Therefore, when an identity isn’t working as expected, it means the logo is no longer functional. Hence, the need for a rebrand is imminent.

Rebrand in this context has to do with the visual change of an identity or its features. The word rebrand is very broad and extensive, and it consists both tangible and intangible aspects.

For the purpose of this article, I will focus on the former – the visual /tangible aspect of rebranding.

It’s a dangerous path

Visual re-branding does not necessarily guarantee success. As a matter of fact, many re-branding projects are total failure. It’s often a complete deviation from the attributes and ideology customers have held and come to associate with the company over the years.

If a proposed new identity isn’t an improvement on the existing one or a better option, then it dies on arrival. Of course people will react based on emotion like I did with Soundcity, especially if the existing logo is loved by many. You know, we are built to resist change and the mind is often the battleground.

Most times, the bias favours the existing brand because it’s going to be missed. You know how we feel when a person dies? We eulogize and say all sort of nice words because we know they aren’t coming back. It’s only but a short while before it becomes business as usual.

I experienced it when Fidelity Bank introduced a new look. In fact, I was one of the major critics of the new identity. Though I never liked the previous one, but seriously, this did no justice to the old identity . I was ashamed of the design agency that came up with the design . I couldn’t possibly connect the new logo to what Fidelity represent. But after a while, I fell in in love with the colours. The logo still sucks though.

Why Rebrand?

The decision to rebrand could be as a result of merger or lack of relevance in the market. Whatever the case may be, it must be cautiously done. The steps taken to recreate a new logo must be thoroughly clear and well-researched. Here are various aspects of it:

  • Sometimes, a rebrand is partially done. In this case, it might just be a little tweak of the identity or a change of brand colours. For example, FCMB recently changed their dominant brand colour whilst the logo remains the same. This subtle change reflected in all communication materials. This is basically what it means to refresh an identity. Diamond Bank did same a while back but maintained their iconic diamond symbol.
  • If the purpose of re-branding was as a result of merger, you might want to take vital elements from the identities of companies involved and create something new and exciting. It all depends on what is important to the newly formed company. A significant element borrowed from one of the defunct companies could help reinforce goodwill that the newly merged firm could leverage on. For example, before the last election in Nigeria, CPC and other political parties merged with ACN to form a new political party known as APC to contest against PDP. The new alliance brought about a new identity for APC. Since the broom symbol was a significant and functional attribute of ACN, the newly formed party, APC adopted it as part of its identity. And they were able to leverage on the goodwill ACN had in south-west Nigeria.
  • Perhaps the existing logo lacks relevance and no longer fulfill the company’s objective. This calls for total overhaul of the entire design to make room for something refreshingly new. It’s like creating a new identity from the scratch; but it’s not. The process is a bit different.

Conclusion

As a designer, always have it in mind that your new creation will be in constant conflict with the previous logo as soon as it is unveiled. However, do not be distracted. People are bound to compare and criticize because it’s hard to save a drowning brand.

Change keeps businesses afloat. Although branding is more about consistency and persistence, nevertheless it makes no sense to keep using a tool that no longer serves you.

About the Author:

Yemi Fetch post contents based on his experience as a Graphic Designer and Typographer. He hope one of these contents, someday, will inspire upcoming designers and become valuable to other readers. He share more design related writeups on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


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