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Why Rebranding Doesn’t Work

Updated: May 26, 2020

Every quarter, a Quality Assurance department rebrands its QA process because it has a constant stigma it can’t seem to get rid of. The QA process has gone from “get eighty percent or higher” to “pass/fail” to “great job/could use improvement” to “green/red” to “rainbow/unicorn”. No matter how harmless and nice they make the verbiage or the visual appeal of the QA process, people are just as afraid for their jobs and fearful of the process.

How do these rebrandings not work even when it’s changed to something that couldn’t possibly be taken negatively? Because it’s not the brand that people remember or what determines how they will feel about it — it’s the experience they have and what they’ve learned to associate with the brand. If someone has learned that getting “magenta” means they can lose their jobs, they will fear magenta. Employees will go home and replace their curtains so they don’t stress about work every time they open their windows. On the contrary, if getting “the dark abyss” on a QA form means people get recognition, praise, bonuses, and progression opportunities, people will associate a typically horrifying concept with positivity and optimism. They would go home and eagerly hug their spouses while exclaiming over a celebratory glass of wine, “Honey, I got thrown into the dark abyss at work again!”

… It’s not the brand that people remember or what determines how they will feel about it — it’s the experience they have and what they’ve learned to associate with the brand.

You cannot simply “rebrand” in hopes of having everyone forget about the things that didn’t go so well in the past and start over with something new and better — Not if the new thing is so similar that everyone immediately associates it with what was in its place previously. A rebranding is only successful if you change what the brand means, how it operates, and what it offers to its customers. I know hundreds of people who now become anxious and fearful at the mere mention of certain beautiful colors, relaxing vacation spots, and nature’s gentlest creatures, all because things in the workplace were titled with this positive imagery but resulted in terrible outcomes for everyone.

When Dominos rebranded, they didn’t change their logo and paint their stores and continue selling the same pizza only to be befuddled as to why their sells weren’t picking up. They used brutal, humorous honesty to admit what they did wrong and changed their recipe entirely. It was still the same pizza chain with decades of history and the same past mistakes, but they fixed the problems and gave people a reason to try out their new product … and it paid off.

So, if you plan on rebranding, you need to think about your image last (in most cases, anyway). Instead, think about why people aren’t fans of your service. Is it too easy for someone to lose their job over that process? Is it far too complicated to be useful? Is it entirely unnecessary but required nonetheless for reasons unknown? Only when you have the honest answer to these questions will you be able to fix the real issues.

Follow this simple process and you won’t even need to worry about rebranding (if you’re still going to rebrand, just make sure you do these things first):

  1. Admit what went wrong and take responsibility for it

  2. Fix the problems your customers have been telling you about for a long time

  3. Give customers a reason to give you a second chance

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