Somewhere in their lifecycle, mature organizations tend to lose steam and focus. They cannot keep doing the same thing day after day, year after year, without drifting a little this way, a little that. Or maybe a whole lot this way, a whole lot that. In any case, the essence of what they once were starts to slip away with purpose and meaning quickly following suit.
At this point, it is often difficult to realize what is happening. It’s like watching kids grow up. Only when moms and dads look back at old pictures does it begin to sink in how much has changed. But there is something else that also happens. Parents become aware that the changes their kids are experiencing will soon force them to change as well.
And so it is with organizations. They grow, they mature, but along with that growth, their purpose, meaning and position in their markets changes. Now, like parents approaching the empty-nest phase of their lives, they must figure out who they are and where they want to go next. This re-definition is the first step they must take in the rebranding process.
Whether at an individual or organizational level, it all starts with re-discovery, and this is best accomplished by first looking inward. Understanding needs to come before action, and in that sense, the professional world mirrors the personal. Meaningful rebrands are about re-discovering a sense of mission, purpose and identity far more than they are about doing surface remodeling and slapping on a new coat of corporate paint.
It’s time to take a selfie, look at it closely and compare it to paper images of the past. Like a child who has grown into an adult, it’s time to see where the organization’s been, where it’s gone and the opportunities that lie ahead. It’s time to re-imagine and renew.
As a rule, once every three or four years, a brand upgrade should take place. This should focus on cleaning, repairing and polishing, perhaps including a logo variant, wordsmithing and a refresh of the color palette. Every seven to ten years, though, a full rebranding is in order. This is a much larger task which may encompass re-assessment of market positioning, restructuring of business models, company and product renaming, development of an entirely new core messaging platform, design aesthetic and brand playbook.
But before all that happens, rebranding entails asking some hard questions about what your organization is and what it wants to become. What space does it now occupy in the current market landscape? What are its characteristics and attributes in a mature state rather than when it was a younger version of itself? What kind of an environment do the people who work there inhabit and how do they feel about it? What are its future aspirations?
Brands that become iconic have one characteristic in common: they remain true to who they were when the entered the market, but with the requisite self-reflection and renewal, are able to age well and expand their presence in a way that can outpace any of the newer kids on the block.