A rebrand is a journey: Take your customers with you

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Keep your existing customers engaged as you expand your audience.

So you’ve decided to rebrand. You’re probably excited—and nervous. That’s as it should be: rebranding is a big decision, and you have clear goals to meet. Your new brand will need to:

  1. clearly communicate your company’s value; and

  2. target the customer of the future, who will help expand your business and your bottom line.

These are great goals, but watch out for the common rebranding trap. Too often, organizations focus on the customer of the future at the expense of the customer of the present. In courting new customers, they leave their current customers behind. Just think of the Shea Moisture brand fail of 2017. In a miscalculated promotional video, the hair care company managed to snub its entire existing customer base (women of color) by catering to a new customer base (white women).

Sometimes, there’s no need to look outside your existing circle. After all, if your current customers are loyal, and your ideal customers, you could drastically alter your marketing spend by deepening relationships through a brand refresh, rather than establishing new relationships altogether.

“Don’t forget to dance with the one who brought you”

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Your current customers can be vital to the rebranding process. They know your brand like no one else, and their knowledge of your actual Unique Selling Proposition (USP) can provide much of the data you’ll need to reposition your brand. These customers can also act as a solid focus group during rebranding. But most importantly, they can serve as your brand ambassadors: heralding the news of your updated image.


Consider the following scenarios:

Scenario 1: Surprise, everything is different today!

You wake up early on the day of your flight. As you pick up your phone and open the app to view your boarding pass, you notice that the app’s interface is completely different. The airline seems to have changed its entire look and messaging overnight.

You check your email and see a message from the airline’s Chief Marketing Officer, singing the praises of the new identity—but also introducing a new Basic Economy class, only available if booked over 40 days in advance. He says the airline made this decision in order to compete with other brands, but he assures you that nothing will change for you.

Sure, you think. But everything about the airline has changed overnight. Will your experience really stay the same?

How do you feel at that moment? Like an outsider? A relic of the past?

Will you feel confident buying your standard airline fares at the same price as before, knowing that the planes will fill up faster in advance?

There’s a better way to herald the news of your rebrand, which we’ll look at in Scenario 2

Scenario 2: Join us on an exciting new journey

Checking your emails, you see a message from the airline you fly with once a month.

We’re embarking on our greatest route to date. Please come aboard.

The body of this short email from the airline’s Chief Executive Officer explains that the airline will soon be reintroducing itself to the world, and would like your help in telling their story. They tell you there’s more to come, and encourage you to look out for surveys with drawings for free round trips or bonus miles, behind the scenes updates, and an invite to a rebrand launch event in your city.

How would you feel at that moment? Valued? Like an insider? Excited for the future?

This is just the beginning. Scenario 2 launches a journey filled with customer checkpoints that will:

+ deepen relationships with the brand’s most loyal customers
+ carry the customer of the present into the new identity with the brand
+ empower customers of the present to recruit the customers of the future

An investment in your existing audience will pay dividends when you begin to target new customers.


Sounds easy enough, right?

But of course, there will be many roadblocks and detours on the road to rebranding. You can steer clear of these by following a few guidelines.

Choose Your Customers Wisely

Choose your customers wisely

This may come as a shock, but it’s ok to fire your customers. Sometimes the customer of the present is a poor fit for the brand of the future. If you’re now offering something that a customer won’t use or doesn’t need, then it’s best for all parties if the relationship ends. Besides, any customers who aren’t part of your new target audience will be less helpful in providing data.




Not every rebrand journey ends with a new brand. Sometimes, you’ll discover that all you need is a brand refresh. Until you’re relatively sure that this process will result in a new brand and experience, you’ll want to avoid making a hoopla about what may turn out to be only a tweaked brand (as an example, see Yahoo’s mismanaged 2013 rebrand campaign). Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Slow Down on Your Rebrand Communication

Protect the mystery of your rebrand

Don’t overshare

Everyone likes a little mystery—which is why you don’t want to share everything about your brand relaunch in the first missive that goes out. Yes, it’s important to test the new identity with existing customers, but the last thing you want is for someone to leak the new brand details, and for this information to fall into the hands of your competitors. Oversharing can cause you to lose control of the narrative around the rebrand, and keeping that control is all important for launch success.



(Please) Don’t let customers vote on the new identity

You’ve hired the right people to find the solution to your brand strategy. Don’t undermine their research and hard work with a customer contest or vote to pick the new logo or name. Sure, it can drum up publicity, but that publicity will often devolve into controversy, not to mention create “losers” in your pool of existing customers. You need as many engaged ambassadors on your side as you can get. Don’t do anything to alienate them

No voting on rebrand concepts


The rebrand journey is full of exciting twists and turns—which is why you’ll want your most loyal riders in the vehicle with you. While the thought of carrying more passengers can be daunting, just remember that a giant celebration awaits at the end of the journey, and the more people you bring with you, the merrier that party will be.