For some reason, I’ve noticed a lot of recent talk in the professional photography arena about rebranding—literally throwing out an existing business identity and starting over.
This is a radical step for anyone to take, so I thought it might be worth some thought.
Business rebranding can be extremely difficult and potentially damaging if done incorrectly, or in haste.
Therefore, it’s worth considering some of the implications before going ahead with sweeping changes, some of which may turn out to be unnecessary or even unwise.
What Is Rebranding?
In the context of this article, I use the term “rebranding” to mean the act of significantly changing or reinventing one’s personal brand or business identity.
We’re all familiar with the idea of reinventing ourselves from time to time.
Rebranding applies a similar principle, but to a business identity instead of just to an individual.
Motivation For Rebranding
One of the first questions should be, “Why?”
This is, after all, a major change.
At the very least, it can involve many of the following attributes…
- Business name and its legal status…
- Brand colors…
- Marketing materials (business cards, stationery etc.)…
- Social media presence…
- Market positioning…
- Client perception…
- Quality of service and products…
- Sales procedures…
- Bank accounts…
- Merchant accounts…
- Internal accounting systems…
In short, the act of rebranding affects just about everything you can imagine about your business and the way others perceive it.
There must be a strong reason to feel the need to resort to such extraordinary measures.
But why would someone feel as if they have to go to all the trouble and hassle of replacing the brand they’ve already created with an entirely new identity?
Essentially, they’re starting from scratch.
Do they realize they made a fundamental mistake when creating their original brand, which can’t be rectified by any method other than a complete revamp?
Or, is it born from a sense of insecurity about the overall performance, or lack thereof, from the business as it currently stands?
Whatever the reason, the process is not simple, nor is it something to be approached lightly or without proper planning and forethought if you’re to avoid damaging your brand in any way.
Correcting Branding Errors Or Problems
Eventually, you may reach a point in your business where you realize that you might have done things a little differently at the beginning if you’d known then what you know now.
Hindsight is wonderful, so this is a totally natural feeling, especially since you’re in a continual state of learning and growth.
It’s inevitable that you’ll come across things that you wish you had done differently, in the light of new knowledge and the illumination of previously unknown blind spots (things you were unaware of being ignorant of).
Depending on the severity of your initial errors, you might consider a rebranding exercise to correct the problem.
One of the most common “mistakes” people make at the beginning is the choice of company name.
I made the same error myself, realizing after 2 years that my business name (“Magic Photo-Video”) was totally inappropriate for what I was doing and the high standard of quality I wanted to portray to my clients.
I originally intended to offer both photography and video services, but soon gave up on the video side to focus on photography.
Fortunately, my brand was still an infant in marketing terms, so it wasn’t difficult to change the name of the business to my use my own name instead.
However, even this seemingly minor change created a lot of work.
I needed a new website domain, new business cards, changes to bank accounts and merchant accounts, never mind the ongoing education to my existing clients.
This was before social media became so popular, so I didn’t have to worry about Facebook etc. but even months later, I occasionally discovered something that had previously been overlooked.
Rebranding As A Fix For Poor Performance
In my opinion, I feel this is the most dangerous position from which to launch a rebranding exercise.
However, I suspect it’s actually more common than cases where rebranding is needed to fix actual branding problems.
How does this situation usually arise?
Usually, someone starts a photography business and goes through the process of creating a brand around the business (intentionally or otherwise).
Eventually, they become alarmed at poor sales, insufficient leads, or lack of client engagement with their brand.
No amount of marketing seems to fix their problems, therefore it can be easy to attribute the symptoms to poor branding.
It’s natural to assume the need to start over again from scratch, with the rationale that a totally new identity will fix all the problems.
If only it were that simple!
Without knowing the true underlying cause of the problems being experienced in the business, deciding to launch a new brand may not be the best solution.
In fact, it may do more harm than good.
Unfortunately, I see more people deciding to rebrand themselves based on fear.
For example, the fear of a failed photo business, fear of declining sales, fear of poor lead-conversion, or the fear of losing existing clients.
Instead of identifying the real reasons for their problems, the knee-jerk reaction is to simply assume that something is fundamentally wrong with the business itself, and that they somehow need to tart things up to make it more appealing, which in itself is highly subjective.
Such reactive rebranding usually starts with simple things, such as tinkering with the website colors, or adding more photographs.
Then it might progress on to the logo (which should rarely, if ever, change).
Business cards and other marketing materials start to go through radical changes, none of which have any time to be properly tested in the marketplace.
In extreme cases, I’ve seen some brands go through periods of rapid and constant change that leave their target market in complete confusion about who and what the brand represents—not a good scenario at all.
If the business owner isn’t careful, this route can lead only to brand confusion, rapid fluctuations in website SEO, poor social media engagement and a further decline in leads, conversion and sales.
As things start to get even worse, the business owner might then throw their hands in the air and declare all out war on their own brand in the hopes that a complete makeover from top to bottom is the only solution.
Unfortunately, the damage they’ve inflicted on the core of their brand can be so significant that nothing short of a completely new identity will fix the problems.
All of this effort is therefore wasted, because no one took the time to determine the true cause of the problems.
On closer inspection, it could have been something as simple as improving the local search performance in Google, or taking a closer look at their sales or client consultation procedures to identify potential leaks.
Things To Consider Before Rebranding
If you find yourself considering rebranding your business, it’s worth taking a time-out to take stock of where you really are, and what the real problems are in your business.
Poor sales is not an actual problem, it’s a symptom of something else.
You need to examine the current state of your business in the smallest details, and step back to consider the big picture.
Analyze yourself and your own motivations…
- Why are you in business?
- What do you do?
- How do you do it?
- Who is your target market?
- How do you sell?
- How do you convert leads?
- How do you get leads?
- What is your attitude like, and that of your staff?
- What are people saying about you and your business in the marketplace and in social media?
All of these things, and more, can give you a wealth of data from which to develop a strategy to correct the problems you see.
It may be that you do need to rebrand, but at least you’ll do so from a position of knowledge and deliberation, rather than fear and a survival response.
It’s probably a good idea to start with the smallest possible changes and work your way up from there to the larger ones.
At each phase, examine what you’ve done, gauge the response and track the results.
If you find that you’re off course, or that you made a mistake, you must be able and willing to take immediate action to correct it.
If you want to see what happens when brands get this wrong, search Google for “Gap rebranding gone wrong” and see how they had to make a radical u-turn on the rebranding exercise, all because they failed to identify the real problems in the first place.