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Trends + Insights

Why, how and when to rebrand (2024 edition)

Marie-Josée Legault
Feb, 2024
7 mins

Most of you understand the concept of branding and the difference between branding and marketing. For a refresh on that, see this post. Still, we have had more requests for rebranding recently than ever before. This makes sense, given that many outdoor brands post-pandemic have a new set of struggles, new competitors, new outdoor participants, challenges with their retail channels, and perhaps a new set of values.

What's at play when rebranding? What are the pitfalls to avoid? What is the best process to get there? What should you ask yourself to help determine if your brand is due for a rebrand? We'll attempt to answer these questions.

What does re-branding even mean?

Rebranding is the process of changing the corporate image of an organisation. It is a market strategy of giving a new name, positioning or change in overall direction for an already-established brand. 

Why rebrand?

There are several possible “why” reasons. The ones we’ve been seeing this year include:

  • Changes in demographics and target audiences. As participants to the outdoors are evolving (yay!), they are pushing brands toward a new positioning strategy and a revisiting of how they show up in the marketplace 
  • Cultural inappropriateness. We’ve all seen big consumer brands like Aunt Jemima and the Seahawks rebrand because their very name or image was deeply offensive to certain communities. This is happening across a number of outdoor and tourism related brands as well.
  • Competitive issues. We’re seeing rebranding (and renaming) from some brands who are looking to differentiate themselves from competitors with similar names, brand positioning or other attributes. This is more common with younger, smaller brands, and it remains a key motivation for rebranding.
  • Revisiting of brand values.
  • Change in vision or mission.
  • Expansion or change in product (or service) offering.
  • Merger or acquisition. Several of our rebranding efforts at Origin this year are around M+A activities. This includes non-profit organizations who are merging to increase impact

How do you know when it's time to rebrand?

If any of the above reasons are causing friction, it’s likely time to consider a rebrand. And if there is internal misalignment around brand marketing efforts, it’s a good idea to look back at the foundation of your brand.

What's the best process to get there?

The rebranding process is very much a traditional branding exercise. The process really follows the same steps as you would in an initial branding exercise, and it's key not to skip steps. Beyond that, here are some key considerations

Key considerations

  1. Naming - If your rebrand includes a new name, ensure you’re setting up a realistic schedule. Naming is emotional, subjective and oftentimes very difficult to get stakeholder alignment on. One of the common issues we see with rebranding projects is a timeframe that’s too short to properly go through the naming exploration and approval phase. See this post by our Associate Creative Director Ben Hewitt for a guide to naming.
  2. Don’t jump into creative - Our advice is to never jump into the creative articulation (or naming) before being very clear on your brand foundation. That includes your vision and mission but also your brand character, promise, tone and essence. These are what makes approving creative easy while providing a simple answer to the important question “Is this on brand?”
  3. Don’t rely on old target audience research - Reexamine your target audience and its prioritization. If your organization has undergone customer segmentation or research in the past, ensure this data is still relevant and up to date. Often clients come with data that is 3 or 4 years old and doesn’t take into account the recent changes in outdoor sport participation. 
  4. Consider social listening as a brand perception data point - For many small and medium sized brands, a full scale brand perception analysis is not possible financially. For those brands, consider a social listening engagement which is cheaper, faster and provides great (albeit limited) insight into social sentiment and perception of your brand. 
  5. Plan (and budget) the launch and rollout - how will this be shared and institutionalized with the internal team? How will consumers be made aware of the rebrand? What’s the PR strategy? How does the rollout plan ensure the rebrand drives consumer engagement and understanding?

If there’s one thing we’d like you to take away from this article, it’s that a rebrand should be given the same consideration and care as an initial brand launch. While there may be many elements of the existing brand that should be carried forward into the rebrand, that should only happen after careful review, and not because it’s simply easier (or less expensive) to hang onto them. The good news is that when a rebranding project is approached with sufficient attention, it’s likely to be something you can hang your brand’s hat on for a very long time.