Rebranding after a crisis

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A number of journalists have framed Facebook’s recent rebrand to Meta as a crisis management tactic for its high-profile controversies.

While this may add spice to their reporting, the truth is that Meta is more about Facebook bringing its technologies under one umbrella company and its focus on the next iteration of the Internet – the metaverse.

Irrespective, an effective rebrand can be a strong tool for organisations seeking to reposition after crises.

As Forbes Communications Council member Teri Llach puts it, a brand is “a promise made to its target audience. It carries a unique identity and story that your customers will remember when they think about your company, your product or service.”

The problem organisations have after a crisis is that their brand promise is tainted with the gory details of what went wrong. The unique story customers and stakeholders remember is an unhappy one.

A rebrand can’t completely erase the story in the minds of stakeholders but it can help start a new chapter. And if those stakeholders are compelled to keep reading, soon enough the memory of the crisis will fade and the brand story will be a positive one once again.

However, a post-crisis rebrand has the potential to come across inauthentic, doing more harm than good, so it’s important to take a considered and strategic approach. Here are five tips to consider.

1. Deal with the issue first

An organisation can’t just change its logo and hope everyone forgets about everything that’s happened. Stakeholders are wise to window-dressing. A process of acknowledgement, honest reflection and action to ensure the issue doesn’t happen again must take place before a rebrand can.

2. Learn from the experience and own the change

As the saying goes, “never waste a good crisis”. When one occurs organisations should learn from the experience and evolve.

The change process is often just as important as the change itself as it is what makes the rebrand authentic in stakeholders’ eyes. Organisations shouldn’t be afraid to take their audiences along for the journey, explaining to them the changes being made and why. Humility, honesty and a desire to be better can go a long way to building back trust.

3. Make the rebrand all about purpose

Organisations are established with a clear purpose and understanding of the value it will bring to the lives of stakeholders. But along the way, that purpose is sometimes lost or overshadowed by operational and strategic priorities. Returning to the reason an organisation exists is crucial to a rebrand following a crisis. It is true to what the organisation is about and provides a north star for its personnel through the transition.

4. Put the audience at the centre of the new brand

An organisation has a lot of work to do to reconnect with its audience and build back trust following a crisis. The new brand must be audience-centric and can’t be the inward-looking brain-child of management. It’s important to gain first-hand insights about audience expectations through research. Only a brand that is built around the needs of its audience can be successful.

5. Create space between the new and old brands

“Crises are shaped in the media but preserved in search, where they live on as a reminder of the crisis long after it has passed.” Tripp Donnelly from REQ

Organisations want to avoid doing great work on a rebrand only for their audiences to be reminded of the crisis every time they ‘google’ the brand. So it’s important to consider how to create some space between the old and new. A new brand name may be necessary and other factors that could draw links to the crisis removed.

Life after a rebrand

It sounds obvious but once rebranded an organisation must avoid repeating the same crisis at all costs. A similar crisis will be more damaging because stakeholders will feel tricked by the organisation’s promise to change and won’t forgive and forget a second time.

Future risks should be mitigated but most crucial is for the organisation to live up to its new brand promise and start writing the positive story it is trying to tell.


Brand and corporate positioning

Brands are increasingly becoming important positioning vehicles for organisations. A strong and strategic corporate brand can help build, strengthen and protect an organisation’s reputation as well as communicate its purpose and the role it aims to play in the lives of its stakeholders.

As part of our focus on reputation and positioning, SEC Newgate advises clients on corporate brand strategy including in times of crisis or when they simply need to reposition to better tell their story.

If you’d like to learn more, please contact Daniel Deutsch on [email protected].

Daniel has a background in consumer communications and complements SEC Newgate’s corporate positioning services with corporate brand strategy.

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