Although many of today’s marketers weren’t even born when it happened, the New Coke rollout in 1985 remains the cautionary tale for would-be rebranders. New Coke — a reformulation of Coca-Cola’s classic soda — was such a spectacular flop that the company reversed course and brought the original Coke formula back within just a few months. File the effort under “how not to rebrand.”
Coca-Cola demonstrated the perils of messing with an iconic brand, but sometimes companies genuinely need to refresh their image and improve their products and services. It may be helpful to think of a brand update as a “refresh” rather than a “rebrand” — the concept of a “refresh” acknowledges that the brand needs to stay current while finding the ideal balance between the old and the new.
If you’re ready to refresh your brand, you’ll need to guard against going too far and not going far enough. If you’re too timid and just nibble around the edges, the brand refresh may not resonate with new customers as you’d hoped. On the other hand, if you change too much, you risk alienating existing customers. These three tips can help you achieve the ideal balance —
Prepare Current Customers for the Change
If you’re changing your look and feel to generate more traffic and attract new customers, let your existing customers in on the secret in advance. Maybe you’re adding new items to appeal to a younger demographic or changing your strategy to improve per-customer revenue. In either case, make sure your existing customers feel like they’re part of the change.
Engage them via social media, email and other channels, and find ways to let them know you still value their business even as your brand evolves to stay fresh and appeal to new customers. If they’re in on the change, your old customers won’t feel abandoned.
Demonstrate Value to New Customers
A brand refresh is a big event within a company and highly visible to regular customers, so sometimes marketers are lulled into thinking it’s a big deal to everyone. But new customers need a reason to give you a shot at earning their business. Prove to your target audience that you are relevant and worthy of a visit by giving them something of value, such as a special offer, a discount or an event that is specifically relevant to their interests.
Provide a sample of your brand experience that is compelling and will invite future visits. Make sure your offer appeals directly to the desired customer segment.
Use Data to Stay Current on Industry Trends
Unlike Coca-Cola, most companies can’t afford to spend millions of dollars to reverse an unsuccessful rebranding effort. That means they have to get it right the first time. Luckily, you have an ally in your corner: data.
Get to know your current customers inside and out through the numbers, and make sure you understand what motivates your target demographic too. With the volume of data now available through social media, credit card transactions, point-of-sale information, etc., and the plethora of platforms capable of analyzing it, you can stay current on industry trends and changes in customer demand.
Keep in mind that some people will bristle at any change in a brand they love — that could include customers, franchisees, and employees. Finding the right balance is the key. Any changes to a brand can be a challenge. But being armed with a plan to navigate the key areas of brand refresh will help ensure success. So, make sure you reach out to your existing customers, deliver value to new customers and use the copious data that is now available to understand industry and marketplace trends.