What Constitutes a Rebrand and Will It Hurt?

Dear Top Hat: what exactly constitutes a rebrand? And if so, how bad will it hurt?

The fact that you’re asking what constitutes a rebrand tells me that it might be time for one.

There’s no doubt about it—rebranding is a time- and resource-consuming process. It’s also a process that you want to go through the least amount of times possible. That’s why (shameless plug) it’s so important to work with a branding agency that knows what they’re doing.

Sometimes the perceived investment causes businesses and organizations to avoid the rebrand like the plague. But again, the fact that the, “Should we rebrand?” is floating around says something to me.

It means that on a deeper level there is a disconnection between the way the brand and the people behind it. A brand should align both of those two critical components, which brings us to the first sign.

Sign #1: The Brand Doesn’t Represent the Organization, People in It or What It Does

This can be more common than one may think. The organization begins, carries on, but inevitably grows and changes over times. In many cases, the identity is so closely aligned with the values and people that it stays the test of time.

In other cases, sometimes those values and people change. Or, maybe the “what” of the business—services for example—change.

When this happens there is a disconnect between the identity being seen by the world and the people composing that identity. Like I mentioned above, that disconnect can be felt.

On a very real level, anytime the who and what change, the brand has to be analyzed for consistency. This applies to any industry. If that brand doesn’t represent the organization, people or what, then it’s time for a rebrand.

Sign #2: The Brand Confuses Its Target Audience

The key to any communications success—understand your ideal customers. If you want to be successful then the inverse must exist too—they must understand you.

Many people try to play the “world must understand you as well” card too. There’s a bit of an argument there. Some brands, however, delve in an industry so niched that the only people that will understand are the target audience.

Business Ending

Some brands have flawed identities. If you see your business physically hurting from confusion, it’s time for an immediate rebrand.


On the flip-side, this flaw might not be enough to end the organization’s life. Maybe it’s just causing some discomfort or annoyance.

We’re a key example of this. Confession time. Yay!

For four years we went by the name Top Hat IMC. That IMC at the end of the name had a cool story behind it, the initials of our base discipline: integrated marketing communications. That IMC, however, caused more confusion and annoyance than any other part of our brand. It didn’t ruin our business, but it certainly wasn’t streamlining our identity. So we axed it as part of a major rebrand and we couldn’t be happier.

Sign 3: The Brand Doesn’t Appeal to Your Target Audience

Trying to appeal to luxury, but can’t seem to attract them for the life of you? You have an appeal problem.

If there’s a real disconnect between what you’re going for and the end audience, there’s an issue.

Sign #4: The Brand Hasn’t Evolved Well Over Time

You could be in business for several years or decades. If it doesn’t evolve well with the flow of time then it’s time to consider the rebrand.

You’ve seen these brands: they look old! They look like they’re just outside prime status.

Innovative business moves with the flow of time. Cell phone carriers aren’t still selling those brick-sized cell phones from the 80’s. They also aren’t carrying flip phones.

Our brands have to be able to flex with time as well. If there’s any element old enough to hold you back—that doesn’t act as a forever-lasting icon—consider the rebrand. This could be a symbol or the name of a former partner strung at the end of the company name

Will It Hurt?

I’ll be honest—rebrands take effort, time and resources. That can hurt at times, but you know what hurts worse? A brand that’s failing you.

If it’s time for a rebrand, do it. You’ll find fulfillment and business success.

Just be sure to bring on the right team to do it correctly. You want to make sure you rebrand as few times as possible.

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