Fear and loathing of rebranding: why people perceive company image changes negatively and how to implement them painlessly


Audience often does not accept the new corporate identity, actively criticizes it in social networks, creates memes. This is confirmed by the research data: according to Linköping University, people perceive the new brand worse in comparison with its old version.

Why audiences react negatively to rebranding and how to do it properly to avoid the hype.

Three reasons why audiences reject rebranding

Perception patterns

It’s important to understand that rebranding (whether successful or not) is always stressful for the consumer. The brain reacts negatively to any change: it seeks to maintain stability and balance, to navigate what is happening and quickly make decisions based on established patterns. During the change of the company’s image, the attachment to familiar things is destroyed, so at first the audience usually does not accept and depreciates such a transformation: people have thoughts “Hasn’t the content of the product changed?”, “They took and ruined it!”, “They could have made it better!”, etc.

Public consciousness

Most people tend to become part of some group because it’s fashionable or safe. Since online people are usually more likely to criticize than share positive comments, those users who haven’t formed their own opinions about the rebranding tend to join the majority. Therefore, a group of a few dissatisfied with the company’s image change can turn into a crowd of haters.

Rebranding is really badly done

A major mistake companies make when rebranding is when the team works through the meanings and visuals, but forgets about the consumers. This is what happened, for example, with the Tropicana brand. The creators replaced the orange on the package with a glass of juice, but they did not take into account that the product was associated with the fruit, not with the result of its processing. As a result, the firm lost about $30 million in a month and a half and returned the previous product design.

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Tropicana juice packaging was refreshed, then reverted back to the old design

How negative feedback about rebranding can affect a company’s bottom line

Most often, negative feedback on changes in corporate identity – a story of the series “make a noise and stop”: after some time, people get used to the updates and continue to use the service or product, as before. But there are long-term consequences of such a reaction:

Reputational risks

Business is constantly working on the strength of the brand and its competitiveness. After rebranding, which, in fact, is a radical change in the appearance of the company in many of its aspects, there is a risk of losing image, and therefore, in the customer base and market position. Especially inadmissible to make poor-quality change in corporate identity for large companies, because the negative about it instantly pick up the media, Telegram-channels and other media platforms, which will increase the coverage of the topic and increase the risk of damage to the reputation.

Audiences can go to competitors

Branding is not only about design and meaning, but also about impression creation: for example, people buy an iPhone not only because it is functional, but also because they like the aesthetic design and the interface of the gadget. When people stop seeing the product in its familiar form, they may break the emotional connection to it, and then the user will start looking for an alternative.

If within a few weeks after rebranding, some customers stop buying the brand’s product, there is a risk that the trend will continue, and sales will continue to decline. That is why businesses should definitely monitor the short-term results of rebranding and, if necessary, take measures to restore trust in the company.

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Instructions: How to rebrand to get the least amount of heat

Determine the purpose of the rebranding

There are several factors when it’s appropriate to change a company’s corporate identity. The first is when the brand is obsolete and begins to lose market position, so it is necessary to add relevance. The second is when the business has hit the ceiling and for further growth the company needs to rebrand to add value to the product and increase the average bill.

Find out if the company has the resources to change the image

It is important to immediately identify all the aspects that need to be updated in the rebranding process, calculate the cost of such changes and assess whether the company can afford such expenses. For example, if you need to develop a new logo, you should take into account that you will not only have to create its design, but also make new signs and leaflets with its participation, change the website layout, etc. If the different media will be for a long time to remain different from each other corporate identity, this will lead to misunderstanding among the audience.

In the process of rebranding, collect feedback from the audience

To do this, you can use different research methods and tools such as online surveys, focus groups, interviews, social media analysis. It is important to make sure that the selected methods will get the opinion of the target audience. In addition, it is necessary to consider and check the functionality and accessibility of the branding for categories of users, including people with color blindness or poor eyesight.

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Determine Announcement Dates

When a company should start talking about rebranding depends on its scale and level of recognition and the degree of change. If rebranding involves a complex change of image or positioning, it’s worth talking about it a couple of months before the official launch so that users slowly get used to the fact that the company will look or communicate differently.

First of all, tell about updates on the site where the largest number of audience interacts with the company.

To reduce the stress of users from changing the look of the brand they are used to, first announce the rebranding where you can quickly and easily notify the maximum number of customers, such as on the site or in social networks, and then you should change signage at the point of sale and deliver the product with the new design to stores.

Prepare for feedback, including negative feedback

No matter how carefully the company prepares for a change of image, there will always be people who will be dissatisfied with the changes. But don’t get emotional and rely solely on criticism to assess the effect of rebranding: it’s important to monitor the metrics that the business hoped to affect through it, and pay attention to the detailed feedback, especially that shared by a loyal audience.

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