How to Rebrand a Company While Honoring Its Legacy

Learn how to rebrand a company while still honoring its heritage. Discover the key steps and strategies legacy companies can use to build a new identity.

POST UPDATED:

March 2, 2024

How to rebrand a company

Rebranding a company while honoring its legacy is a delicate process. It's important to maintain the essence of the company's history and values while adapting to the changing market.

Many company executives and business owners are tempted to think that a bold rebrand will solve all their market perception problems. But without careful consideration, they risk shedding the very essence that made their brand successful.

This rebranding guide offers a strategic approach to rebranding, walking the line between modernization and respecting your company's unique legacy.

Table of Contents

    Understanding the importance of a company rebrand

    A brand is the essence of a company's unique promise to customers. It tells consumers what they can expect and differentiates a business from competitors. A brand emerges from the company's values and mission and how the market perceives it.

    Sometimes the brand image and market align. But when they don't, it may be time for a complete rebrand. These changes may include a new name and color palette and a logo redesign. Often, a partial rebrand is effective. A company can retain its brand name and original design that makes it recognizable while rejuvenating the brand story and mission.

    There are several reasons to consider a rebrand, such as:

    Market repositioning: If a company wants to increase brand awareness, attract a new target audience or change its market perception, a rebrand may be in order.

    Outdated image: As a result of brand evolution, a business's image can become outdated, failing to reflect current trends or values. A rebrand can modernize an old brand image.

    Mergers and acquisitions: The company structure often changes when organizations merge or acquire another. A rebrand that includes a name change and corporate identity may be necessary.

    Changing direction: If a company's mission, values, or products have evolved, a rebrand can realign the brand identity with the new direction.

    Recover from negative publicity: In the wake of negative publicity, a company rebrand can help it shed negative associations and start fresh.

    However, the rebranding process is a strategic move that requires careful consideration. It involves much more than changing a logo or company colors. A rebrand requires businesses to rethink how they want to be perceived by the target market. It's a time for companies to clarify their values, mission, and message.

    The decision to rebrand a company is ultimately determined by its strategic objectives. A rebrand affects every aspect of an organization, inside and out, from marketing materials and online presence to employee roles. So, businesses should plan a rebrand carefully before moving forward. A brand audit can help brand executives and business owners develop a successful rebranding strategy.

    Brand Audit

    Develop a strategy with a brand audit

    A brand audit is like the blueprint for a rebranding project. It's a deep dive into your current brand, inside and outside the organization. Think of it as gathering the intelligence needed to set goals for a rebranding project.

    Here's how it sets the stage:

    Gauges brand sentiment and perception: An audit reveals how the current target market perceives your brand. Understanding brand perception enables you to create a new identity that resonates with your audience.

    Clarifies brand positioning: By assessing your existing brand strategy, you discover where you fit into the competitive landscape. As a result, you can identify opportunities to create stronger differentiation during the rebrand.

    Ensures brand consistency: The audit uncovers inconsistencies in your internal and external brand. Companies must maintain consistency in rebranding to unify messaging across all customer journey touchpoints.

    Aligns goals: Insights from an audit ensure that rebranding efforts align and support overarching business objectives.

    Boosts engagement: One goal of a rebrand is to generate more engagement with potential customers. Audit insights help businesses develop a communication strategy to connect with target customers across all marketing channels.

    What is a brand audit?

    Do you want to cut expenses and improve brand performance? Find out how to analyze your brand's position in the marketplace with a comprehensive brand audit.

    Developing the new brand identity

    Once the brand audit is complete, the next step is to develop the new brand identity. To do this, companies can use what they learned during a brand audit to create an identity that aligns with the market and target audience.

    Sometimes, a brand's identity no longer aligns with customer expectations. This is especially true when a company expands into a new market. In these cases, the brand should reevaluate its positioning and identity to make sure it's still relevant to the new target market. The brand may also need to adapt its products, marketing strategies, and communication style to connect with the new customer base.

    For example, Airbnb rebranded in 2014. The company focused on the theme of "belonging" and aimed to establish its brand as a global community-driven hospitality platform. The introduction of a new logo, the "Bélo," symbolized belonging and love. Airbnb transitioned its visual identity from literal imagery to a universal symbol. The rebranding effort included revamped messaging, shared experiences, and community engagement initiatives. Airbnb targeted the experiential travel market, emphasizing unique, authentic experiences over traditional accommodations.

    Despite mixed initial reactions, the rebranding initiative solidified Airbnb's brand identity as a leader in the sharing economy and attracted younger travelers. This successful rebranding story demonstrates the importance of aligning a brand identity with audience values.

    Brand Identity Flow Chart (Click to expand)

    Stakeholder engagement during the rebranding process

    Rebranding is a holistic transformation that impacts the entire organization. Therefore, it's crucial to engage internal and external stakeholders during the rebranding process.

    Internal stakeholders:

    • Leadership team
    • Marketing department
    • Employees
    • Product development, sales, and service teams

    External stakeholders:

    • Customers
    • Partners and Suppliers
    • Investors and Shareholders
    • Regulatory Bodies
    • Media and Influencers
    • Community and General Public

    Engaging stakeholders gives them an opportunity to share their perspectives and concerns. This can lead to a smoother transition. It also helps build buy-in and support for the rebranding project because they feel part of the decision-making process.

    Engaging stakeholders can also help identify potential risks and challenges early in the process. This empowers the organization to address and mitigate any potential issues.

    Implementing the rebranding strategy

    With a clear brand identity and stakeholder engagement underway, the next step is implementation. This requires a comprehensive plan designed to roll out the new brand across all touchpoints. It includes marketing materials, digital platforms, and physical locations. Implementation must be as smooth as possible to maintain trust among stakeholders.

    The programs can help employees communicate with new and existing customers. Track implementation and gather feedback. Feedback helps companies make adjustments as needed.

    Establish a detailed timeline and budget to track progress and allocate resources efficiently. A well-designed implementation plan makes all the difference in a successful launch.

    Communicating a rebrand (Click to expand)

    The rebranding announcement

    Crafting a rebranding announcement should generate excitement around the new brand. This announcement should explain the reasons behind the decision, such as a shift in company values, a new era after a merger, or an updated product line. It should also highlight how customers, employees, and other stakeholders will benefit.

    Here's a structured approach to achieving this:

    Develop a communication plan

    • Objectives: Clearly define what you want to achieve with your communication. This could include maintaining customer loyalty or explaining the rebrand's rationale.
    • Audience segmentation: Identify all stakeholder groups (customers, employees, investors, partners, etc.). Then create a message to address their specific concerns and interests.
    • Channels: Choose the right mix of channels to reach your audience. Email, social media, press releases, your website, and internal communication platforms are examples.
    • Timing: Plan the timing of your announcements carefully. Consider a phased approach to ensure that critical stakeholders hear the news from you directly before it goes public.

    Craft clear and consistent brand messaging

    • Rationale: Explain the reason behind the rebrand. Whether it's to reflect a new strategic direction, market positioning, or evolution of your offerings, make the "why" clear.
    • Vision: Share your vision for the future and how the rebrand supports this direction. This helps stakeholders understand the benefits and get excited about the change.
    • Consistency: Ensure that your messaging is consistent across all channels and materials. This helps reinforce the rebrand and reduce confusion.

    Engage employees as brand ambassadors

    • Internal communication: Before going public, make sure all employees understand the rebrand, the reasons behind it, and how it affects their work. Equip them with FAQs to handle external queries confidently.
    • Involvement: Encourage employees to share the news within their networks. Their genuine enthusiasm can be a powerful tool in gaining acceptance and excitement around the rebrand.

    Use digital and traditional media

    • Social media: Announce the rebrand on all your social media platforms. Use visuals, videos, and stories to showcase the new brand identity and tagline.
    • Website: Update your website with the new brand elements and an announcement or blog post that explains the rebrand in detail.
    • Press release: Send out a press release to industry publications, local media, and other relevant outlets to reach a broader audience.
    • Marketing materials: Ensure all marketing materials, from business cards to product packaging, reflect the new brand identity.

    Monitor feedback and respond appropriately

    • Feedback channels: Open channels for feedback and closely monitor the responses from your audience across social media, email, and other platforms.
    • Engagement: Actively engage with your audience's reactions, addressing concerns and highlighting positive responses to build momentum.
    Establishing KPI Benchmarks (Click to expand)

    How to rebrand a company and measure success

    To find out whether a rebrand is a success, look at various key areas, such as your audience's response and actual business outcomes.

    Has brand awareness increased? Find out through online mentions, search trends, and direct surveys. Next, find out how your customers feel about the new brand. You can use social media analysis, customer feedback, and targeted surveys. Also, track engagement by looking at website visits, social media interactions, and email engagement.

    Don't forget to look at sales figures, revenue, and market share to gauge the financial impact of the rebrand. It's also beneficial to gather feedback from your team to see how the rebrand has affected internal morale and commitment. Combining these insights will give you a well-rounded view of your rebrand's success and help you adjust moving forward.

    Modernizing a traditional brand

    Preserving a company's legacy during a rebranding project is both an art and a strategy. It's about weaving the rich tapestry of your past into the vibrant vision of your future. Here is how to rebrand your company while honoring brand history:

    Start with your story: The foundation of legacy branding is your company's history. Explore it to find those nuggets of tradition and achievement that resonate today.

    Evolve, don't erase: Consider the timeless elements of your brand that people recognize. Take Apple's evolution as an example. Their logo changed from the detailed apple to a sleek, minimalist design, yet it always remained an apple.

    Communicate the change: How you talk about your rebrand matters. Be transparent about why you are changing and how you are honoring your heritage. When Dunkin’ dropped "Donuts" from its name, it became clear that they were changing while staying true to the brand's roots.

    Engage and listen: Your long-time customers and employees hold your heritage dear. Involve them in the rebranding process through surveys or focus groups. Their insights can ensure your new brand resonates while staying true to its roots.

    Leverage your legacy in marketing: Use your heritage as a storytelling tool in your marketing. Guinness celebrates its long history of brewing excellence. The brand connects with new and loyal customers in the process.

    Watch and adapt: Post-rebrand, keep a pulse on how your audience is reacting. Be prepared to tweak your approach based on feedback. This agile mindset ensures your rebrand remains respectful of your heritage while moving forward.

    In essence, brand modernization requires companies to preserve their heritage while innovating for the future. It’s a powerful approach that can turn your long-standing values and achievements into a compelling narrative for today’s market.

    Successful rebranding case studies

    Burberry

    In 2023, the British luxury legacy brand Burberry underwent a significant rebranding. Daniel Lee, former mastermind at Bottega Veneta, led the charge. The rebrand aimed to preserve Burberry's British essence despite becoming more modern.

    A key aspect of the rebrand was the change in Burberry's logo. The brand returned to a more regal aesthetic by modernizing its 1901 horse-riding knight logo and switching to royal blue. Another significant change was the brand's approach to photography. Burberry broke away from traditional, formal imagery. Instead, they embraced a casual, spontaneous style that resonates with Gen-Z consumers. This included using non-traditional compositions, poses, and backdrops and capturing unscripted moments—the shift aimed to shatter Burberry's previous formality and project a relatable aesthetic.

    The response to Burberry's rebrand has been overwhelmingly positive. The new look resonated with audiences and brought the brand back into the spotlight.

    (Source: Don't Die Wondering)

    LEGO

    The iconic Danish toy company was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2004. In response, LEGO launched a seven-year rebranding journey. The decision led to its resurgence as a leading global brand.

    The company's troubles began in the late 90s when it attempted to diversify its product range. LEGO introduced new products, such as clothing. Financial instability became an issue after their core audience refused to buy in.

    In 2004, LEGO's CEO, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, famously declared: “We are on a burning platform. We’re running out of cash…"

    The company returned to its roots and the products that made LEGO popular in the first place. They focused on their core product, the LEGO brick, and started producing new sets. LEGO also changed management techniques, implementing new organizational ideas and behaviors. They embraced innovation but did so in a way that aligned with their core brand identity.

    The result of this rebranding effort was nothing short of astonishing. Between 2004 and 2017, LEGO saw its revenue increase by over 800 percent.

    (Source: The Guardian)

    LEGO Revenue Growth 2003-2022 (Click to expand)

    Old Spice

    In the early 2000s, Old Spice was struggling to appeal to a younger target audience. The company underwent a successful brand refresh that included a new marketing campaign featuring humorous and irreverent ads. They also revamped their product offerings with new packaging designs and scents.

    Old Spice experienced a remarkable example of how to rebrand a company while remaining true to its brand heritage. Sales surged by over 100 percent within a year. The transformation attracted a new audience of consumers and solidified the brand's status as a highly successful turnaround story. The Old Spice rebrand is a prime example of modernizing a traditional brand while remaining true to the qualities that made it great.

    (Source: Brandsonify)

    How long does it take to rebrand a company?

    A rebrand can take a few months to over a year, depending on the scope of the project and the company size. Small businesses with simpler rebranding needs may be able to complete the process in a few months. Larger corporations with more complex requirements may take a year or more.

    Are you ready to stop losing customers because of an outdated brand?

    The Brand Auditors can help. We don't just offer trendy makeovers–we audit your brand to uncover its authentic core and hidden potential. This process enables companies to design a rebranding roadmap that assures success.

    We can:

    • Diagnose your brand's current challenges and limitations.
    • Uncover your unique brand essence and competitive edge.
    • Craft a roadmap for a rebrand that resonates with your audience.
    • Answer all your questions and address your concerns.

    Have questions? Click on the button below to schedule a free consultation.

    Brand Strategist | Managing Director

    Chris has over 15 years of experience in brand development and marketing. He has designed strategies across various industries, such as technology, B2B services, and healthcare. His areas of expertise include brand positioning, competitive analysis, content marketing, and web development.

    Are you ready to find out how a brand audit can transform your business?

    Our brand audit process is a comprehensive analysis designed to help companies optimize performance.

    • Increase ROI on lead generation and sales conversions.
    • Reduce marketing expenses.
    • Strengthen brand positioning to become more competitive.

    We guarantee satisfaction or get your money back! Schedule a discovery call with a brand auditor to find out more.

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