Innovation vs. rebranding: How to choose the best change for your business
While they both indicate change, innovation and rebranding are remarkably dissimilar. Here's how to decide on a path for your brand.
Change in a business is inevitable. A lack of it indicates stagnation and decline. Only dead things don’t change. However, while a living organization must evolve, not all types of change are ideal.
Two common types of business evolution today are innovation and rebranding. Although they both indicate change, they are remarkably dissimilar. Understanding what each term implies is critical before deciding on a path for your brand.
Innovation: A definition
Let’s start with the definition of innovation. According to Merriam-Webster, innovation is “a new idea, method or device or the introduction of something new.”
It’s the idea of creating value by bringing new ideas to life. The introduction of the smartphone and the tablet computer are good examples of innovation at work. Others include:
- The automobile.
- The assembly line.
- The airplane.
- Electric vehicles.
- Biodegradable oil-based plastics.
However, it’s not just about inventing something new. It’s also the process behind what makes it happen. For instance, without the ongoing miniaturization of microchips, neither smartphones nor tablet computers would have been possible. The same applies to touchscreen technology and many other processes and products that came together to allow something new to exist.
How to innovate
Most organizations like to claim that they are innovative. Many even add it to their mission statement or tagline. However, there’s a world of difference between claiming to be innovative and actually innovating. Is your organization innovative? Let’s cover some important questions to ask.
- Do you see innovation-fueled growth as imperative to success? Do you have a list of cascaded targets that reflect your growth plan and provide guidance moving forward?
- Do you have a portfolio of initiatives that are risk and time-balanced? Are they coherently described? Do you have the right resources allocated for each?
- Can you outcompete others in your industry by developing and launching innovative products or services before they do and with other competitive advantages?
- Are your innovations launched on the correct scale? Are they placed within the correct markets?
- Do you empower, encourage and reward your people for focusing on experimentation, creativity and other attributes of innovation?
If you answered anything but “yes” to those questions, you are not innovating. Chances are good that you’re lagging behind the competition.
That still leaves a lot to understand here. For instance, when do you innovate and when do you hedge your bets?
As an agency owner, I focus more on innovation to evolve, scale or accelerate if there’s a race to dominate market share and less on conservative reasons, like risk-balanced initiatives.
You must also consider the idea, along with your available resources and capabilities. You’ll find that some potential products are geared more toward niche markets (i.e., luxury goods, many smartphone apps and the like). Other potential products have a much broader market. For instance, social networks can scale globally, although many factors (i.e., network focus), will affect this.
Innovators must determine the reach and magnitude of any given product or service idea before pursuing it, as this is when you’ll allocate resources and identify the risks involved. Of course, you can always choose to scale up over time, but in today’s ultra-competitive world, that can be a huge mistake.
To remain at the leading edge, you’ll also need to ensure the required resources and capabilities can be brought to bear quickly. Be prepared for a full rollout and have manufacturing facilities, distributors, suppliers and other partners in place well before your go-live date.
Rebranding: A definition
In contrast, “rebrand” is defined as “to change or update the brand or branding of (a product, service, etc.).”
Rebranding is a commitment to change that is either significant or surface-level. For instance, when Kia changed its logo in 2021, many assumed that was the extent of the rebranding efforts. However, that visual evolution was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It was meant to “signify the automaker’s bold transformation and all-new brand purpose,” according to Kia’s press release at the time.
What to consider before rebranding:
Building a brand identity, new or updated, often requires the right budget and timeline. In most cases, you can expect a rebranding effort to take 6-12 months, depending on what is involved. Attempting to rush the process usually backfires, as well. I always recommend performing a brand audit first. This will lay everything on the table and help you understand what is possible, where the gaps are etc.
Like innovation, a good amount of research is necessary when considering any rebranding effort. You’ll need to create a sense of:
- Who your customer base is.
- How they currently perceive your brand.
- And how that perception needs to shift.
Research will also help you identify future growth opportunities and the resources and capabilities necessary to capitalize on them.
In addition to research, you’ll need to identify (or create) a competitive advantage. Without one, your rebranding efforts will be for nothing. Take Kia’s 2021 rebrand as an example again. If the automaker had simply changed its logo and tagline, its audience would have seen through the gimmick quickly.
Instead, Kia has doubled down on reinventing its lineup of vehicles, focusing on performance, environmental impact, affordability and other vital issues. It is this unique combination that makes Kia such a force to contend with on the market.
Remember that rebranding aims to showcase your brand’s strengths in the market and sell more products or services.
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Does your brand need a rebrand or a relaunch?
Rebranding requires a commitment of time, money and effort. As such, it’s always at your discretion. However, you may not see the ROI you want from those efforts. Changing market conditions could wreak havoc.
You’ll find many reasons to consider rebranding, and the creative decisions will affect the brand positioning, brand creative and brand visual identity. Here are some of the most common reasons.
- You need to align your internal and external brand perceptions.
- You want to define your target market better.
- You want to reach a new audience for a product launch.
- You need to revitalize your brand and enhance your relevance.
- Your mix of products/services has changed significantly.
- Your market position isn’t unique.
- Your visual brand is outdated and in need of revitalization/revamping.
- Your brand image is wrong, and you need a strong brand identity.
- Your brand personality is non-existent or off.
- You want a more positive brand image.
- You want a purpose-driven brand.
- Your organization has merged/been acquired.
- You have a new mission.
The challenges associated with rebranding efforts will vary depending on which of the reasons listed above is true.
Products, services and processes that address customer needs
Brand innovation or rebranding is more than just changing your organization’s visual identifiers. You must go far beyond replacing your logo and changing your corporate colors. It includes developing new products and services that address your customers’ true needs.
A brand is a market-driven outcome, while innovation is internally driven. Innovation can be considered the process of change that comes from new ideas, such as a new product or service. You must recognize the difference between brand innovation and a new brand campaign.
Businesses need innovation to advance customer experiences. A new product, service or process that addresses customer needs is a key part of the growth cycle. But to drive success, the new addition must add value.
It’s also important to remember that a company’s innovation efforts aim to spread innovation principles internally as widely as possible. The chief marketing officer should not be responsible for driving meaningful brand perception and equity. Instead, they should focus on communicating those intentions clearly and concisely.
Corporate financial services companies don’t win by providing the best service. They achieve victory through word-of-mouth advertising. The benefit of having people talk about your brand and its quality is significant in an industry like this.
When it comes to modern marketing and idea generation, focus on new products, services and process efficiencies. Create succinct messages that can be conveyed very quickly. Once you’ve uncovered a brand innovation, it needs to be communicated in a way that your customers understand.
Focus on communicating what innovations will mean for customers in their lives rather than on broad, aspirational messages. Your customers have more choices today than ever, and the need for clear value propositions has never been greater. Marketing must lead and not just impress internal stakeholders. It’s vital that marketing ensures that customers understand everything about the new product or service.
If your offer does not have crystal-clear value propositions, you’ll have a tough time trying to win consumers. A company that is not enhancing its branding is not likely committed to making improvements. Even updating your brand identity design can make you look more legit, rather than scaring prospects away with a dated or unappealing look.
The boardroom must be convinced that a campaign focusing on aspirational messages is doomed to fail because it does not communicate the brand’s value proposition or reflect what is happening with new products or services.
Everyone must be involved in the brand innovation process. The people inside the boardroom are responsible for creating and implementing new types of functional deliverables that will help achieve meaningful brand innovation.
Ensuring a successful rebranding rollout
To create a strong brand image, you need an action plan. The rebranding process must be prepared with milestones and a timeline, including the branded asset conversion plan. The transition phase is crucial in a successful rebranding effort, as not all channels or touch points may need to change simultaneously.
Planning is essential for a successful rebranding rollout, including advertising, website and packaging updates. The goal here is to ensure that the transition goes smoothly for customers who will likely have seen many changes in the short time between a branding announcement and the new brand launch.
It’s also essential to provide training for employees. Empowering them to advocate for the new brand leads to buy-in from everyone involved.
How do you go about innovating your business?
Innovating can be immensely challenging. To begin, pay attention to your product performance across your entire portfolio. Where do you see the most energy? Where do you notice drop-offs?
You must also be prepared for your launch and have a clear, well-defined marketing plan long before your go-live date. Understand the metrics that indicate success and course-correct as necessary.
Finally, make sure you have the right tools for the job. My article on brand strategy provides step-by-step guidance for innovating your business. Check out the toolkit for more information on each step in a rebranding or innovation project.
How a brand can unlock new product innovation
Rebranding is labor-intensive. It requires a lot of time, effort and money. Just some of the most critical steps you’ll need to follow include:
- Determining your target market and new positioning.
- Creating a value proposition that resonates with those people.
- Reviewing web analytics for insights that could inform your new direction.
- Designing a consistent experience across all touchpoints.
- Developing an integrated brand strategy, including messaging, design and marketing materials.
- Producing assets to support the launch (from website to social media).
- Including targeted content in paid acquisition campaigns through platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads.
Rebranding can win you new markets and real estate in consumers’ minds. Regardless of why you’re rebranding, your company’s mission needs to be at the forefront. It’s also imperative that you conduct a brand audit to:
- Understand the current perception of your existing brand.
- Quantify the work required for rebranding.
- Find out how successful other brands have been with similar efforts.
Test your rebrand with campaigns
As a final note, you must test your rebrand. Marketing campaigns offer the means to do this by segmenting your audience to gain improved clarity and more accurate data. It’s possible to split your audiences between different campaigns based on specific needs and outcomes and then make informed decisions regarding your rebranding efforts.
Deciding on a path for your brand
Innovation is vital for organizations of all shapes and sizes across every industry. Rebranding can also be critically important. Both require in-depth research, time, planning and resources.
Everyone in the organization should be involved in the discussion so that each team can bring their best to the table.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.