Branding defines who a company is and conveys a particular image and message to customers and consumers. “Your brand can influence your business reputation, your target audience’s decisions, and even the internal path your business takes,” says ThriveHive.
Be that as it may, brands aren’t always permanent. Businesses may make changes to aspects of their brand over time. In some cases, they may rebrand entirely. Even successful companies may occasionally rehab their brand regardless of the fact that it’s already doing well.
Walmart, for example, changed their brand in 2008, shifting the company’s focus from just low prices to Save money. Live Better.
This rebranding campaign proved to be a tremendous success for Walmart, helping the brand drive more business. Other well known companies haven’t fared as well with their rebranding efforts.
According to Glossy, CoverGirl has been undergoing a change of their brand’s message since October 2017, ditching it’s signature tagline, Easy, breezy, beautiful, for a new one: I am what I make up.
Image Source: Droga5
But the cosmetic company’s rebranding efforts didn’t deliver the desired result, and parent company, Coty Inc., continued to experience a decline in its consumer beauty division.
So, what made Walmart’s rebranding so successful while CoverGirl’s rebranding efforts floundered?
1. Messaging should be clear and specific
There is no mistaking Walmart’s new slogan in their 2008 rebrand: Save money. Live better. The message is straightforward while simultaneously highlighting the emotional benefits of shopping at Walmart—that spending less allows people to live better lives.
CoverGirl’s new tagline—I Am What I Make Up—on the other hand, is ambiguous. Despite the company’s claim that it allows them to celebrate makeup as a powerful tool of self-creation that includes women often let out of mainstream beauty narratives, that message is not clearly conveyed to consumers, as evidenced in the following headline:
“CoverGirl replaced its ‘easy, breezy, beautiful’ slogan with something completely different — and people don’t know how to feel about it.”
Interestingly, CoverGirl has brought back the original tagline, replacing in-store signage and adding voiceovers with the iconic Easy, Breezy, Beautiful slogan to new ads that debuted in October.
2. Core values must be retained
There’s no denying that today’s consumers are getting more and more savvy and sophisticated. According to IMC, “In order to survive in today’s marketplace, companies have to update and revitalize their identity while retaining brand equity.”
“Brands are struggling to maintain relevance in the eyes of evolving consumers and even the most established companies have to undergo brand re-inventions. ” ~ IMC
Walmart has always been about offering low prices to consumers, and they stuck with that core value while still managing to update their image, store interior, and messaging.
Though CoverGirl’s product packaging got a new look, that’s not what threw people off. Rather, the company’s abrubt switch to a completely new concept proved too jarring for longtime customers.
“Rebranding doesn’t mean abandoning the pillars that built the business. In reality, rebranding should provide a stronger platform for expressing the core values that have existed all along,” says Shutterstock.
Glossy echoes that sentiment with this statement:
“Although brands need to be relevant to consumers through culture trends, it can be very risky for a brand to move too far from their heritage. Rather than pivoting 180 degrees, brands can evolve in authentic ways.”
3. Rebranding Should Go Beyond a “Fresh Coat of Paint”
While rebranding can range from small messaging tweaks to complete brand overhauls, the more noticeable the public-facing brand changes, the higher the expectations will be for tangible in-store changes.
“Some companies have learned the hard way that rebranding can’t just be a surface-level endeavor,” points out Shutterstock.
Case in point, RadioShack’s 2009 rebrand attempt. In an effort to stay relevant in the ever evolving technology space, the company changed it’s name to “The Shack” and launced a full media blitz promoting the brand’s new moniker.
Unfortunately, the changes didn’t go beyond the new name.
The brand failed to update the product offerings and lackluster customer service in it’s stores, prompting a swift and fierce backlash from longtime brand devotees. The company experienced a 30% drop in sales the following quarter, returned to its old brand name, and got a new CEO. Ultimately, however, it filed for bankruptcy in 2015.
Not only did Walmart create a new tagline, but it also implemented a new logo, as well as an innovative store design. The new store design included a higher ceiling, lower shelves, and wider aisles—along with a color palette of vibrant orange, yellow, and green—to create a more enjoyable and friendly shopping environment.
CoverGirl lost shelf-space in mass retailers like CVS, which has been bringing in more emerging brands. While the company decided to open it’s own store featuring 4 new technologies and it’s entire range of 1000 products, the flagship store was originally opened with the purpose of promoting their new messaging—like placing a fancy bandaid on a messy blemish—resulting in time lost regrouping and reverting to their original slogan and updating the in-store signage.
Whether a company’s mission has changed, it’s audience is maturing, or it’s products have shifted, there may come a time when rebranding is necessary.
Of course, rebranding is not without its risks, especially for brands with established customers. But embracing the risks can pay huge dividends when done right, like it did for Walmart. Follow the 3 best practices above to get started in the right direction.