How to Set Rebranding Expectations

To creative folk, the choice of writing utensil is often something labored over. I have long used a Paper Mate Flair as my pen of choice. It feels substantial without being pretentious plus you can’t beat the felt tip. There’s also tradition there for me. I grew up with a dad in advertising using Flairs so, from my very subjective viewpoint, the Flair pen is the industry standard.

So imagine my surprise when purchasing my most recent batch of Flairs from the office supply store and discovering that they redesigned the pen! Splitting hairs, you say? What’s the big deal? The Flair pen hasn’t changed since it was introudced in 1966! Then all of a sudden … this. To take off my obsessive hat and put back on my branding hat, the real crime is in the packaging of this new product design and the preceding iterations. I have no artistic qualm but rather there’s absolutely no messaging on the current packaging about the new pen design and nothing in the months leading up to it. These are missed opportunities to set rebranding expectations.

Why My Pen Issue Matters
Whether it’s your logo, product design, or packaging — rebranding is a task that requires careful planning and execution. When you’re marketing a commodity, like a fairly ubiquitous office pen, solid branding is especially critical. It’s how you position yourself in contrast to the other pens out there. If successful, your customers form a very strong bond with your brand based on the consistency and security you’ve created through years of managing your brand touchpoints. This is where good branding pays dividends in the long run.

So what should you do when it’s time to rebrand?

Manage Rebranding Touchpoints Early
Old Spice has been telling me for the past few months that a ‘new look’ is coming — they even show you images of what it will look like (below). It sounds screwy but everytime I shop now I carefully analyze and am ready for this new look when it arrives. That’s how you roll-out a rebrand — by setting audience expectations early.

Say It With Video
Another rebranding touchpoint you see more and more nowadays is a viral video accompanying a new brand roll-out like this one from Starbucks’ Howard Schultz on their new logo.

I like this trend. In in the digital age, something as subjective as a logo or packaging rebrand can quickly become the victim of a viral pile-on. I think assertively pushing your own vision — especially in the form of a video from the CEO — is a good practice.

The Brand-Driven Insight? When you’ve created a consistent, strong brand, your most loyal customers have created a set of expectations that are part of their emotional bond to your brand’s DNA. When undertaking a rebrand you need to plan out your messaging to take these loyal customers into account. Sure, a majority may not even notice or care but the ones you risk putting off are the ones that make up your inner circle. Your brand-zealots that fulfill the 80/20 rule. Tread lightly and plan accordingly.