The difficult art of rebranding

Rebranding a business can offer an opportunity to refresh the identity of a brand or move away from negative perceptions, but requires thorough planning and audience understanding to succeed


In today’s world of rapidly evolving consumer preferences, businesses typically rebrand every seven to 10 years, although this isn’t always necessary if your branding is strong. At the beginning of October, we saw British financial institution Nationwide undergo its biggest identity overhaul since 1987.

Not all rebrands will be successful, which is why thorough research, planning and understanding of the brand’s audience is essential. In the past year, one of the most noteworthy business rebrands was Elon Musk’s decision to transform Twitter into X, which was met with a wave of criticism. With the backlash Musk and Twitter faced, it begs the question, what is the best way of going about a rebrand? Why does branding matter?

Good branding helps you stand out from the competition, builds an emotional connection with the target audience and creates a consistent brand experience. The success of a business ultimately depends on the quality of its products or services and the effectiveness of its marketing. However, choosing a great business name helps brands gain the recognition needed to succeed.

Six appeal
Rebranding can be a great way to refresh your brand, reposition yourself in the market, or address negative perceptions. However, it’s important to do it right. If you rebrand at the wrong moment or make changes that don’t align with your audience, you can alienate your customers and damage your brand reputation. Here are six things that businesses looking to rebrand should consider.

Thorough research, planning and understanding of the brand’s audience is essential

Background research: In the initial phase of crafting, or re-crafting, a brand identity, research and understanding are vital. This phase includes all of the research you conduct before generating ideas and includes defining and researching your target audience, your competitors and the market. Lean on resources like Google Search, Product Hunt and the Fortune 500 list for name inspiration, and tools like Google Trends and Trend Hunter for more advanced research into brand names and current trends.

Generating ideas: Finding inspiration can be challenging but there are plenty of useful tools available. Businesses may utilise a business name generator or online tools like dictionaries or thesauruses to generate new name ideas. Explore all possibilities and avoid narrow thinking. It’s okay to have a few name ideas in mind before you start, but don’t get stuck on a single idea early on. This can prevent you from exploring other options that may end up being better matches in the long run. Write everything down and shortlist later on. Explore all possible synonyms and related terms to come up with as many ideas as you can. Remember success will be gauged by how well it relates to your market, not you personally.

Brainstorming a list of names: Compile all your ideas and inspirations in one central place for ease of viewing, then, begin the brainstorm. Guidelines such as aiming for 50 name ideas or suggesting names with no more than five syllables can help you discover more usable names. Avoid special characters and word alternatives, such as replacing words with numbers or using common endings like ‘R’ us. Generic brand names should also be avoided as they can be difficult to recall. Keep your brand name ideas flexible. Consider Amazon; their transition from an online bookstore to the broad retailer they are today would have been impossible had they included the word ‘books’ in their name. Owning a single, generic word, like Apple, is also challenging and requires time to establish, trademark, and secure the domain name. Avoid this option unless you have a large budget for domain acquisitions and marketing.

Auditing ideas: A business name should be evaluated holistically, as even seemingly minor flaws can damage a brand. To effectively gauge a name’s suitability, consider the name’s language and cultural connotations to ensure it won’t be misinterpreted. Say it out loud and get an understanding of what it sounds like. Are there any potential mispronunciations? Finally, is it memorable? This can be one of the most important points for ensuring the name resonates with your target audience and sticks in their minds.

Final ideas: At this stage, you should have a shortlist. There are just a few remaining things to check before you make things official. It’s important to check that there are no legal or trademark conflicts, that there is availability in terms of social media, domain names (both local and international) and mobile app name. It is useful to have some good taglines that will work with your brand name. You should also use this time to compare any positives and negatives from the audit between names.

Feedback: Responses comes from a place of personal preference so it should not form the basis of the ultimate decision, but it often brings up valid points that may have been missed, despite the rigorous methods outlined above. Finally, this stage encourages a well-informed decision that isn’t swayed by personal preferences. This should help you decide on the overall name that best fits your brand going forward.