Aren’t you tired of the same old branding advice? The lists of rules and concepts you should consider? I am! So, I took a new approach. Let’s let 5 lessons from one of the best decades (uh, hello, the 80’s!) help us determine if it’s time for you to consider a rebrand.

1: You’re struggling to stay relevant to your target market.

It may be that to stay relevant, it will require a brand repositioning. You can’t look the same way forever and expect people to perceive you just the same.

Photo credits (left to right): BECUO.com | ContactMusic.com

Photo credits (left to right): BECUO.com | ContactMusic.com

Back when I was, say, 9 years old, the New Kids on the Block were the hottest group since the Beatles. They sported the latest trends – ripped jeans, jean jackets, rolled pants. When they made their comeback in 2013, they werent about to dust off their wardrobe boxes (although wouldnt that have been fun?!) and don the same outfits. Their target market, those 9-year-olds turned 30-year-olds, expected them to look like a 21st century heartthrob instead.

Lesson: Your brand may need repositioning.

Whatever amount of long-time “customers” (donors, stakeholders, etc.) your brand has, they are viewing you with today’s eyes, not yesterday’s eyes. While they may feel the brand is still delivering like it did when they first came to know the brand, don’t let your image give them a reason to look to your competitors who are repositioning and keeping up.

2: You’re struggling to appeal to a new target market.

If you’re not growing, you’re dying. We hear the same thing from our clients, “our donor base is not getting any younger” and “we need to find a way to capture a new audience.”

If your brand is trying to find a new target market, they will not feel any reverence for your brand; you’re starting from scratch.

Photo Credits (left to right): Computer History Museum, Google Image search for "Computers, tablets and phones"

Photo Credits from right to left: Computer History Museum, Google Image search for “Computers, tablets and phones”

The computer was a wondrous contraption when IBM launched the first PC in August 1981. Of course, now we see that “box” as clunky and slow compared to the suite of computers, notebooks, tablets and phones available today. Microsoft is certainly not competing with Apple using the look and feel of their first PC! Their Surface tablet is at the forefront of responding to customersneeds for a notebook-tablet hybrid.

Lesson: In order to grow, you need to stay relevant. And your brand expression is at the root of how to do that.

Your brand, from your visual identity to your messaging and/or your actual products/services, needs to reflect today’s environment (its problems, challenges and trends). The way to capture a new audience is to demonstrate that the brand is responding to the needs of your audience today and not yesterday’s.

3: Your brand’s visual appeal is stuck in the past.

Your brand perception is ultimately formed by your audience – the ones that interact with the brand based on their emotional connection – and influenced by the way you communicate.

Photo Credit: Google Image Search

Google Image Search

If you follow fashion or pop culture, I probably wont have to introduce you to the “scrunchie” or Kim Kardashian. The point Im trying to make here is that visual appeal changes over time. Back in the ‘80s Sarah Jessica Parker would rock a scrunchie on the red carpet, but probably not be caught dead with one in her hair even if she was in the privacy of her own home. While the scrunchie is out, there are new hair accessories that are in, like this hair jewelry KK is showing off.

Lesson: Your brand needs to show you’re maturing with the market.

If you look at your logo, marketing materials, website or any visual audience-facing material that your brand produces and they look “out of style” to you, odds are that your audience is also getting that vibe. And that probably means a variety of things to them, e.g. you’ve lost your edge or your products/services aren’t keeping up with today’s needs. There are ways to combat this whether it is a refresh, a makeover or a complete overhaul of your visual identity.

4: You want and/or need to differentiate from your competitors.

There are extremely few categories that aren’t flooded with competition – from nonprofits to products to services of all varieties. And the very essence of competition means that your landscape is changing (or has changed, will change or is constantly changing). One of the ways to differentiate is to ensure your brand is clearly understood and can stand apart from the rest.

Image credits (left to right): Etsy Listing for original jeans, Levis.com

Image credits (left to right): Etsy Listing for original jeans, Levis.com

Jeans have stood the test of time. They are a staple in practically every closet, from young to old. But I bet and I know, the jeans you wear today dont look like the first pair of jeans produced by Levi Strauss in 1873. Nor do they look like the acid wash jeans that everyone was wearing in the 80s. Todays look? The skinny jean. Levis has changed their look to stay ahead or with their competitors offerings.

Lesson: Your brand can only stay on top by changing.

Sorry folks. I know change is sometimes uncomfortable, but to differentiate, you need to evolve. Does your brand reflect this evolution? An evolution in products/services mean your logo and messaging need to accommodate that change, too.

5: There is a gap between who you are and how you’re perceived.

This is the one I’d call the big whopper and the reason why most of our clients come to us for help. Over the years they’ve stayed relevant by changing in practice (products/services), but not in their brand image. I can’t stress enough that this is a gap you must close; otherwise your audience will slip away in a cloud of confusion.

Image credits: Google Image Search for "Michael Jackson"

Image credits: Google Image Search for “Michael Jackson”

I cant do an ‘80s comparison without including Michael Jackson! Although, I think example supports both sides of my argument.

MJ changed his musical style and his looks just about every year during the ‘80s. Perhaps it was to stay relevant or maybe it was that he simply kept evolving as a musician. On one hand, this helped him satisfy his hoard of fans and appeal to new ones. On the other hand, by the time he left this world, it also contributed to a very wide gap between who he actually was and how he was perceived. And if I had a third hand, I could argue that it all led to him being considered the King of Pop – mystery, hype and always producing something exciting.

Lesson: Make sure your brand has clear definition.

If you can’t seem to craft a succinct and easy-to-remember definition of your brand, then it’s time to fix it. Because if you don’t, your audience will stop trying to figure it out on their own. And that will lead to less interaction, fewer sales, fewer donors, etc. Often, when you do fix the gap, it’s clear that your visual identity needs to change to reflect the new definition.

Summary

If you are struggling with even one of these 5 points, it is time for you to consider a rebrand. That could be a brand new logo with new messaging and a new mission statement. Or it could mean just a slight refresh of your logo with additional messaging. Whatever it is, you owe it the future of your brand to do it.