05.17.2019

PR Lessons for Successful Rebranding Campaigns

by Rich Gallagher

One of our core principles at Resound calls for our team to always serve as Brand Champions. In short, it means that we operate in the best interests of our clients’ brands, in their entirety. In the last few years, our Brand Champions have really gotten to flex their muscles on PR for rebranding projects – a very necessary but often overlooked part of the strategy.

A rebrand always carries an element of calculated risk. After all, poorly executed rebrands don’t just waste time and money. They can damage the company and diminish the goodwill that the brand already has banked with loyal fans. Just look at Netflix’s Qwikster debacle, followed by a reversal the same month.

Often a poorly received (or just plain ignored) rebrand is a communications problem. Stakeholders’ vision for the future of the company, the need for the change, the promise it delivers for employees and customers — these can all be really interesting perspectives that make a great narrative in the hands of an experienced PR team that’s done their homework.

So why rebrand at all? Sometimes, corporate events like M&A, or a change in senior leadership, make the brand values feel dated. Changes in culture can make a brand feel woefully behind the times. We’ve worked with brands that are entering a new category, or even creating a new category, and that kind of corporate pivot calls for an update in marketing strategy, logos, messaging, publicity, and possibly even core principles as well.

A missed opportunity for Major League Baseball

At the beginning of the year, Major League Baseball changed the colors of its 25-year-old bedrock of a logo… and didn’t tell anyone. It felt like a miss, strategically.

MLB had a good story to tell: the new logo retains the iconic “Harmon Killebrew at bat” silhouette, but updates the colors to the exact Pantone matches of the American flag. It also features a new font that really pops, especially on mobile.

It’s a rare misstep from usually savvy marketers. Baseball missed a chance, in the midst of a competitive spring football league flaming out, and furious debate over the role of patriotism in pro sports, to reaffirm its position as the National Pastime. They could’ve had a conversation about the importance of the 2019 season, putting a spotlight on fresh talent and compelling storylines for the casual (or lapsed) fan.

At the end of the day, MLB didn’t make a big splash with their rebrand, because they felt that it was a minor league change, “so minor you don’t even see it unless you put (the logos) up side-by-side.” But it didn’t have to be.

Dunkin Donuts gets a facelift

On the other hand, Dunkin’ Donuts’ recent rebrand, to Dunkin’, is a shining example of an established brand making the most of an opportunity.

The shortening of the wordmark is not a huge deal on its own. Valuable daily customers might not even notice the change in signage at their local store. But the subtle changes in the store, and the terrific corporate storytelling that accompanied them, cast the brand in a different light, to attract health-conscious consumers who might never be caught with a donut in their hand.

As Americans became generally more health-aware, watching our waistlines, listening to our bodies, and going to a LOT of yoga, the country’s go-to purveyor of fried treats decided that an identity based on selling these things by the dozen was no longer a good look. On the wrong end of a trend, they chose to focus the brand on the *other* part of the business that consumers love – their coffee.

Dunkin’ rebuilt their menu based almost entirely around the morning rush, deepening flavors and varieties of coffee offerings and accompanying with breakfast options that balanced speed and variety with on-trend, healthy fare. They also upped their app game, to facilitate on-the-go-ordering and kickstart their loyalty program. The bet on healthier mornings paid off, big time.

Dunkin’ spent the last year, since they announced the change, softening the ground through media relations – both consumer and franchisee facing. They rolled the cost of the facelift into an already-approved franchise remodeling package.

Don’t Go it Alone

Bottom line – when a bunch of stakeholders get together, it’s easy to assume your rebrand is big news. But all too often, it’s just news to you. Get together with outside council early in the process, and construct a narrative that pays off on your vision for the future. After that, a successful rebrand is mostly a matter of getting the word out…

We often work closely with branding agencies to align strategies for a winning reveal. To discuss how our team can collaborate with yours, please reach out here: makesomenoise@resoundmarketing.com