Rebranding vs. Repositioning

The Upfront Analytics TeamBranding, Education, Strategy5 Comments

Rebranding vs. Repositioning: Which is Right for Your Business?

When your business path starts to veer off course, you’re probably anxious to find ways to get back on track. In some cases, it means an overhaul of the way customers see your business and its products. Time and time again, worldwide companies use rebranding and repositioning as a way to rejuvenate their sales and manicure their reputations. But how do you know which path for reputation rehab is right for you? Knowing the difference between rebranding and repositioning could be the start of a new direction.

Rebranding (The Looks)

Rebranding is typically associated with an aesthetic overhaul of a brand. It usually includes a change in name, logo, and tagline, essentially creating a new brand on the foundation of the old one. Rebranding can be a result of a confusing or misleading name, as well as outdated graphics or a slogan that no longer represents the company.

Kentucky Fried Chicken successfully rebranded as KFC in 1991 in a bid to reduce consumer brand association with fried foods. The brand, however, rebranded again in 2015 with the old Kentucky Fried Chicken moniker, complete with a resurrection of the Colonel Sanders character in commercials, print ads, and packaging. Why? Because KFC wants to align its logo, spokesperson, staff uniforms, and even restaurant designs with more wholesome, humanized food as a way to compete with homestyle chains like Chick-Fil-A and Bojangles.

Unfortunately, not all rebrands are successful. JC Penney’s brief foray as JCP in 2012 was disastrous, resulting in record low sales and widespread customer dissatisfaction. As part of the rebrand, JCP updated its stores and changed its pricing models to reflect simpler pricing, a cool logo, and Apple-style shopping environment. JCP miscalculated: Though prices were still low, customers missed the word “sale” and the familiar shopping center they knew and loved. After 20 percent lower sales and a first-quarter loss of $163 million, JCP rebranded back to JC Penney. It seems that Ron Johnson, the person responsible for the overhaul, did not conduct any traditional market research, which may have averted disaster in retrospect.

Rebranding is best when a company name no longer aligns with a brand, or than name is confusing to customers. Because it addresses the outward face of the company, it’s important to tread lightly and utilize market research to learn how consumers will react to a change.

Repositioning (The Personality)

If rebranding deals with outward facing factors, repositioning knows that it’s what’s inside that counts. Repositioning is necessary when a company’s offerings, mission statement, and overall goals have changed. This can come with a change in products, but often repositioning works as a way to better highlight a current product line in a new way.

Apple could be one of the best examples of brand repositioning in the last century. While strictly a computer company in the 80s and 90s, Apple Computers utilized the iPod as a way to catapult itself from a computer brand to a lifestyle brand. Not only did the brand drop “Computers” from its name, but it also utilized advertisements depicting people from all walks of life using Apple products. Apple made the switch to lifestyle brand because it repositioned its reputation among consumers.

When a company’s image causes confusion or no longer represents that brand’s values, it’s time for a rebranding. Rebranding helps change consumer attitude based on the superficial experience: look; feel; sound. But repositioning means a brand is ready to make a deeper change based on values and reputation. Its then up to the brand to advertise that change in values to send the right message to consumers that things are changing for the better.

Both repositioning and rebranding give you a chance to put your brand front and center in customers’ minds. Making a change can be difficult, but if you choose the right path for your company, a little change can make a big difference in how customers see you–and how you see yourself.


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