Just like individuals, companies sometimes go through periods of contemplation.

These contemplative sessions may not involve a walk in the park, mentally turning over the realities of life, or sitting on the couch – deep in a sea of reflection – No. Often company contemplation takes on a less dreamy quality. It takes place at the fiscal meetings where the dollars and cents don’t seem to add up. Or in the marketing and communications departments where discussions focus on the company’s creative stagnation. It also takes place when senior management gets together to plan how to out-do the competition. Why should the other company be the trendy, cool, cutting edge one, when we could have that image? Or maybe the company is already leading the pack but sees the next guy getting closer and doesn’t want to be overtaken.

Often the answer to this dilemma is that phrase that communications, marketing and advertising professionals are all too familiar with – “let’s rebrand.” “What a wonderful idea!” others in the company may exclaim. But wait! Is it really so wonderful? Companies could easily make the mistake of treating rebranding as a panacea – a cure-all – that will end their financial woes, bring relief to their negative image aches and instantly heal the bad publicity plague.

However, just like it’s better to take care of the root-cause than simply deal with the symptoms, companies need to turn their contemplation into introspection and look at the deeper issues involved. There are various questions that need to be asked.

1. What exactly is the company’s problem? O.K. maybe the company fell short of your year-end profit goals, but you need to ask yourself “what is the root-cause.” Don’t just assume the competition has a better image. Seek out experts across company divisions and have one or more meetings where they can speak freely about their observations and opinions. This will give leadership a multifaceted perspective and enable it to properly assess the cause and not just react to symptoms.

2. Match the right solution to the problem. As mentioned earlier, often rebranding could be seen as a cure-all for a host of identified problems, but that is completely untrue. Make sure you leverage internal, and if necessary, external expertise to determine specific solutions to your specifically identified problems. Maybe customers like your company’s image, enjoy the products, but the front-line customer service leaves something to be desired. Or maybe you need to adjust the cost or improve special features. Whatever it is – make sure you know exactly what it is!

3. Analyze your brand’s strength. Ensure that you do adequate market research as well as encouraging your staff to speak freely about the brands strengths and weaknesses. By doing a thorough, unbiased internal and external assessment of your organization’s image, you will be able to determine if there is any real reason to change. Also, through market research you could learn what aspects of your image appeal to your target and which things turn them off. Many times the best place to stay is where you already are. While technologies are constantly improving and changing that doesn’t mean your very identity needs to.

4. Do your research. There’s an old saying, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Therefore, look at the history of your organization’s branding efforts as well as research other comparable (make sure they really are comparable) organizations and see what wisdom could be gleaned from these case studies. Maybe your own organization or another one made mistakes you could learn from or did something brilliant that you could also learn from. Branding is not something to jump into, but should be a thoughtful, intelligent process.

5. What’s the alternative? Doing a compare and contrast will speak volumes. If after the last four considerations you still believe rebranding is the way to go, make a shortlist of the best possible alternative brand images. Get a wide cross-section of internal staff to review it, for different perspectives. Then use focus groups to do market research. Organizations could have a narrow biased view towards their rebranding ideas without realizing it. Getting members of your target demographic and psychographic to review the possible new images will give you valuable insight into how the public would perceive the changes. Just make sure that your focus groups are truly representative. Also, with social media it is possible to throw out ideas to the “real” public and get feedback, so don’t be afraid to use your blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or other social media outlets to get free feedback before investing time, money and other resources behind a new brand that the public hates.

Whatever you do, make sure that you are careful about your rebranding efforts, don’t dive head-first into the rebranding pool without checking the depth of your ideas. See if it is necessary to begin with, and if so, then be careful and deliberate about the execution of your rebranding campaign.

If you have any rebranding tips of your own, tweet them to @NR_PR.

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