After over 20 years of global PR experience, Jim Heininger founded Rebranding Experts to help business owners revive their brands. Rebranding requires a lot of elements that traditional branding agencies can’t offer and Rebranding Experts brings those specific capabilities in one team. In this interview we talk about the process of rebranding, when is it needed, common mistakes made and some inspiring examples of rebranding done right.
I found the way Jim talks about rebranding really exciting and inspirational – different from what most entrepreneurs associate with the term and the process. In his words, a good rebrand can “have people fall in love with their company again“.
The name Rebranding Experts was chosen as it is self-explanatory. Since rebranding as a process is often behind the scenes, when companies look for help, Jim felt his company needed to be in a position where people can find them and engage them easily and privately.
How can a business owner know when it is time to rebrand?
In Jim’s experience, there usually is a trigger that would move an organization towards looking for a solution. They may not realize it is a rebrand that is needed as a solution to their problems, but there are signs. Here are the most common scenarios:
When the current brand is not serving the purpose of the company
When there is a change in the organization (M&A, new owner, investments)
When there is a crisis
We have recently seen a lot of rebrands globally as companies try to adapt to an audience that is a lot more demanding and better informed. The question of the heritage of a company is an important consideration that goes into developing a new brand. In some organizations, heritage has more weight than in others. Jim’s advice on how to decide what to keep is very relevant. He says people invest in the future, so it is better to lean into the future and become what the brand is going to do in the future. A good rebrand has to be aspirational and support the brand forward.
The golden rule of branding is it needs to be aspirational, it needs to be something that supports you forward. Determining what role heritage plays is unique to each organization.
Jim Heininger, Rebranding Experts
What are some common mistakes when it comes to branding and rebranding?
According to research Rebranding Experts conducted a few years back, big obstacle brands face when rebranding is internal engagement and alignment behind the new brand. From leadership to mid-level, to employees – all the people in the company have to be united in delivering a new customer experience based on the new brand, know what it is, why it is, showing excitement for it. Rebranding Experts bring in all the engagement capabilities to be ready to use the new brand once it’s launched.
In most rebrandings disproportionate amount of effort is focused externally. What’s the customer going to say, what is the industry going to say about our new brand name, are they going to accept it? Are they going to like it? None of that really matters, or can even happen, until everyone within the organization itself is behind it.
Jim Heininger, Rebranding Experts
Jim’s team works with leadership, so they can communicate the reason to rebrand, why it works, why do they believe it, and can excite others about it. They conduct training from the top down before it gets to employees, so when the team internally hears about the rebrand, everyone gets it, believes it, and can enthusiastically explain it to others.
How long does a typical rebrand take?
In terms of time from the moment a decision is made to launching the new brand, it takes usually 12 to 18 months. That is a long time to keep the enthusiasm behind a rebrand and is not an easy task. Another challenge is that things change a lot in 12-18 months. Rebranding Experts follow-through that process and also after – what needs to happen after so the new brand is a success.
How has the pandemic affected Rebranding Experts?
The pandemic initially slowed down rebranding projects globally due to other priorities in the organizations. Soon after though people came back to it, realizing that to emerge from the pandemic brands needed news, better differentiation, excitement about their brand as the world goes back to normal. Another notable trend that is ongoing is mergers and acquisitions due to organizations shrinking in size – this has also led to a lot of rebrands.
Who can work with Rebranding Experts?
Rebranding Experts tend to work mostly with smaller to mid-size organizations who have internal marketing capabilities but not a robust, dedicated team that can handle such a task. Something that many underestimate when it comes to rebranding is that business doesn’t stop and needs to continue as normal, as the rebrand is happening. Larger corporations usually have the capacity to do the planning and execute a rebrand without it affecting the day-to-day processes in the company but smaller companies need help.
What is your favorite rebrand?
The Chicago Rehabilitation Institute rebranded to a new name – The Ability Lab. This is a very positive, forward-looking name and branding and it reflects a change in the way they do business. It changed the image to something so much more positive, for their customers but also – for their team.
That is a good rebranding, that’s what it can do – really spark a fire and new enthusiasm within a company. Because the way they’re going to tell their story now is so much more relevant, so much more positive, and they see people responding to it when they tell them their new name.
Jim Heininger, Rebranding Experts
Where do domain names come into the rebranding process?
Selecting a domain name from a branding and naming perspective comes after the preliminary name selection and trademark audit. It is often hard to find the right domain name, they are usually taken and/or expensive, so sometimes it requires modifying the brand or the domain name. It is challenging since the domain name is the first way that any consumer is going to find a new brand.
What trends do you see in rebranding?
One is brands that employed racial stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination – those need to change to adapt to the time, since they are out of place and irrelevant today.
Shorting and simplification of names is another trend. Many brands are dropping descriptive words or names where the brand outgrows the name. We as consumers use one name descriptors for companies – we want one easy name. Shedding extra language and going with the one word that is most powerful and has the most equity in it is a good way to create a strong brand.
Thoughts on crowdsourcing a rebrand
Involving your audience in a rebrand is a two-way sword – it looks exciting as an idea but can go wrong. The minute you tell people there is change coming – the potential to confuse them is up, and that is the last thing you want – to confuse your customers. Such an approach can work for smaller organizations with a very personal touch with their audience. It is important to know it also gives a heads-up to competitors, so it is best to avoid it. To create a strong brand it is better to own your story and make your audience feel as part of it, once you’ve flipped the switch with the rebrand.
Check out the full interview with more details on all the above topics below.
We hope the above information will help you in making informed decisions about your brand. If you want to say hi or have any questions about naming, branding, and domain names get in touch, we’re always happy to hear from you.