Laura Morris, Director and Head of Brand & Advertising at Trinity McQueen, discusses how any change to a brand identity should be considerable enough to notice, but not to the extent that you become unrecognisable from your origins.

Rebranding – it’s all the rage nowadays. Designers, creatives, marketing strategists are all seemingly obsessed with a good old brand repositioning or visual brand identity upgrade. Let’s sleeken the logo, let’s modernise our image, let’s drag ourselves into the digital age/mobile first world, let’s introduce more vibrant colourways, let’s ditch the boring typeface.  

READ: Rebranding - Common mistakes and how to avoid them

Clearly I’m being a bit facetious here. I don’t think any marketer worth their salt messes around with their distinctive brand codes lightly. Let’s face it – it would be a hellishly brave (a.k.a. foolish) marketer who would drop, for example, the iconic Meerkats from the ads.  No, for the most part, re-brands take place for very good reason. They usually coincide with a change in business strategy, a need to revitalise and modernise a brand and a need to drive brand reappraisal and widen brand appeal. All good reasons.  

Rebranding exercises cost a significant amount of money and time so if they don’t ultimately help a brand achieve commercial goals such as attracting more customers then what’s the point.    

But playing around with a brand’s visual codes and visual brand identity must be done incredibly carefully because there is so much at stake – less perhaps for relatively new brands (but nevertheless still a risk) but absolutely everything for established brands.  

And why is this the case…because as Jenni Romaniuk (girl crush from the esteemed Ehrenberg Bass Institute) so neatly sums it up in her book ‘Distinctive Brand Assets’ – every time you change a brand’s visual brand identity (or indeed anything people have come to know and find familiar with your brand) you are essentially making them mentally re-learn you – and that takes cognitive, System 2 brain power. Humans don’t like this - we are cognitive misers!

Remember when Instagram changed its logo way back when…it was a major risk which garnered much publicity. Thankfully, it paid off in the long-term. Instagram’s new design was brighter, which gave the app a fresher and younger look. I do remember initially struggling, however, to find the app on my phone – much to my frustration. But I persevered because I am an avid instagrammer and so frequent usage allowed me to quickly re-learn how to find the brand. Phew!

Not all brand redesigns are as successful, however. Tropicana famously spent $35 million on a pack change to then lose $20m in sales. Less than 30 days after launch, they pulled the new design off the shelves and went back to the old one. People don’t buy orange juice as frequently as they use Instagram – so when they returned to store to find their familiar brand, they simply didn’t notice it on the shelves…and furthermore didn’t bother to try and find it either. Disaster.  

As marketers, we must all remember that in the real world, people do not pay much attention to a brands’ visual identity.

You don’t want to have to make consumers work hard to notice you/find you.  Any change to a brand identity of course must be considerable enough to be noticeable (or else what’s the point) but not to the extent that you become unrecognisable from your origins.  

DOWNLOAD: The (Re)Brand Workbook

Trinity McQueen help brands navigate these choppy waters when it comes to rebranding by conducting research grounded in real world instinctive consumer behaviour, helping you avoid becoming the next Tropicana like casualty! If you want to kick-start a brand project, book a call with our team here.

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