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We’ve seen plenty of businesses decide to rebrand their look and messaging. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. David Dancer has led his voice and expertise as a marketing expert across various industries, and in today’s episode, he dissects what companies can do to rebrand successfully. Whether facing a change in the market or just ready for a refresh, David explores the do’s and don’ts of rebranding.

imPRessions Season 2 Episode #3 Transcript

Jenn: Hey, Kalli.

Kalli: Hey, Jenn.

Jenn: Really excited to have David Dancer come on the episode today. He is an old client of mine and is a brilliant marketing mind.

Kalli: I’ve heard such good things about David, so I’m really excited to get the chance to connect with him and get to know him a little bit.

Jenn: Yeah, he’s going to tell us a little bit more about rebranding. You know, brands, they decide that they want to do a new logo or completely new slogan or whatever, you know. So he’s going to tell us the do’s and don’ts of rebranding.

Kalli: Amazing. I can’t wait.

Jenn: And I’m sure you’ll find a way to float in Vampire Diaries.

Kallo: They relate to everything like it.

Jenn: They truly do. Hopefully, we get some social media love from one of the writers of Vampire Diaries and just make your year.

Kalli: It would make, my gosh, it would make it so many. It would make more than just my year.

Jenn: All right, well, let’s check in with David.

Kalli: Sounds good.

Jenn: When it’s time to spruce up your look, a new haircut or wardrobe may be just the thing. A change of appearance can help us regain confidence or attract a new love interest. The notion of a business makeover is no different. Businesses take the plunge to rebrand for a variety of reasons, perhaps to give consumers a different impression, stay ahead of competitors, or target a new audience. Whatever the reason may be, companies need a strong strategy to successfully and appropriately rebrand and transform the marketing approach. David Dancer, a brand innovator, and Forbes Top 50 marketer has led some of the most compelling marketing rebrands to help businesses grow and sustain success. Hi David, it’s so great to speak with you again.

David: Hey, thanks so much for having me. Great to be here.

Kalli: Of course, of course. And I kind of want to just dive right in, David. You know, the decision to rebrand can be such a difficult one, you know, to really decide that you want to change it up. And also the workload and the budget are also big considerations when doing rebrand. So my first question is, how do you know when it’s time for your brand to need that facelift?

David: Sure. Thanks, Kalli. And I think, Jenn, you actually gave a really nice preview of an appropriate answer to that question. And I think, you know, you had talked about there’s personal reasons you want to, you know, quote unquote, spruce yourself up. And then, from a business perspective, I think you listed off some really, really good reasons why you might consider it from a corporate perspective. There could be an M&A, and so you may need to be able to absorb a brand and protect that brand you’re absorbing. And then also sort of refresh and create a new look, feel, and experience for your existing customers and new customers. You may be in a part of your sort of growth and maturity cycle, where you’re revamping your mission. Maybe things have evolved and you’re taking a stronger approach towards sustainability, if you will, and you may need to ensure that the brand reflects that. And you also mentioned we just want to attract new prospects. We want to gain new customers, we want to drive incremental revenue growth, and your brand may need to be revamped to address and to attract new customers into the fold. And then maybe married with this bringing in new customers. There’s also times when you’ve changed your service offering, you’ve created a new product, you’ve innovated on a new product, and you need to make sure that the brand reflects that. And I think finally, the other thing would be you simply wanted to modify, update, and change your customer experience and how you service and how you interact and engage with customers. So, those are some of the really key reasons why you might consider undergoing a rebrand effort.

Jenn: Yeah, I want to talk for a second about some of those challenges, because we’ve seen it happen with some companies in the past. Kraft changed its logo, Tropicana announced new packaging, and as innocent as that all seems, it had actual ramifications for the brands. So what happens, in your opinion, when a company maybe changes a core element of its identity? Do they lose clients or revenue, or do they get some, you know, criticism on social media? Do you recommend at that point in time that a brand listens to the masses and reverts back to its old identity, or do you think that they should continue with the rebrand?

David: I think there’s a lot of considerations in those types of situations. You know, you might think that Kraft and Tropicana are very what I would call “heritage brands.” They have a lot of history there. They’re brands that sort of defined food and beverage in America and globally. And so people have a lot of very personal attachments to the brand, what they deliver from a product perspective. And then also they’re used to pulling that mac and cheese out of the cabinet a couple of times a week and hearing their kids, you know, become excited about being able to have that treat or pouring that orange juice in the morning. It’s a very familiar thing. So there’s I think some brands it’s you have to understand, is it sort of the heritage and the loyalty and the commitment to the brand, and we’re just going through a phase of change. But I think in those two examples you gave, and there’s many others- like The Gap tried this and several others- where I think you’ve also got to consider and listen to, probably almost more importantly is, are you having and seeing an implication to your revenue streams? Are you seeing customers attrite from your brand? Are you not expanding into these categories that you’re looking to expand into? Your example of Tropicana, if I recall correctly, when they rolled out this change, they saw a dip of 20% in revenue, you know, in the next quarter. And a large portion of that was attributed to this brand change, which when some people say, hey, it’s just a label, it’s more than that. And so I think, you know, you have to listen. If you’re if you’re losing 20% of your revenue, you have to. And I think these examples, we’ve just mentioned, all of those examples, they reverted back to their original logo with some, some smaller modifications than they had originally intended.

Jenn: And I think it’s also important to realize that marketing is emotional, right? There’s like a legit psychology behind putting together a marketing plan and strategy. So, like you said, you have this iconic historic brand that somebody’s been drinking this orange juice since they were five years old, and their grandmother would buy it, and they would share this breakfast, you know, whatever. So like something as simple as a logo or packaging changing can actually affect their emotional response to it from certain people because of what that, you know, the product means to them.

David: That’s really true. And I think when you sort of think about maybe what happened and, you know, I was not a part of or, and haven’t talked to anyone at Kraft or Tropicana or the Gap. But I think when you look at the changes, I think one of what you’re saying, Jenn, is, do you understand the connection that your current customers have to the brand? Are you familiar with that? Do you understand the insight around that? And I think you gave a great example, grandmother serving orange juice. You know, it’s sort of proven right. Many people use products that someone in their family, usually their mother, used, which is why today I still use Tide, and I still use Cascade, and I still use other brands that I was just introduced to at a young age. So I think as you’re rebranding, I think you really do need to ensure you’re connecting with your customers. And by connecting, I literally mean depending on the size of your brand and your budget and your ability, you could be conducting focus groups, could be conducting surveys.

There are lots of ways to gain insight on what your customers think of the brand and sharing some of these potential changes in advance to be able to make modifications you see fit. And I think conversely, you’ve got to balance that with, as we said often, you’re looking to attract more customers, different types of customers. So you want to try to, as best as you can, include those folks in in the conversation as well. And I think these three examples of Kraft and Tropicana and Gap as a brand professional, my observation is too much, too soon.

It just went from one look and feel to a very different look and feel. We changed the orange with the straw that everyone remembers on the carton. We change the logo. We changed how the how the visual elements were constructed. And I think my observation is it’s just it’s too much, it’s too fast. So I think you can really serve yourself well. And having potentially a phased approach and connecting with consumers and prospects along the way to avoid that type of situation that they faced.

Kalli: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, especially because, like you said, people, they’re going by things that they remember from their childhood or products that they’ve used forever. And sometimes it’s funny… I was just talking to somebody, I’m Greek, and I enjoy Greek chocolate. I don’t speak Greek, so I can’t tell you what the name of the company that makes the chocolate is. But I know what it looks like. And if they change their packaging, I’d be lost. Like it could, you know, especially that because it literally is all in Greek.

David: That’s right.

Kalli: You know, so those things are so important, and I think the approach that you said, like phasing into it, makes a lot of sense. But I’m wondering, what are some of the other types of mistakes companies can make when they decide to rebrand? You know, it’s one thing to say, “Do it all at once,” and it’s completely different, and nobody recognizes you anymore. But what are some other things that companies should look out for when they are launching a rebrand?

David: I think one of the biggest elements, and there’s a great example and a social media platform that we’re all familiar with, is, you know, when we talked about potential phasing, that’s one element. The other piece is communication. You know, your brand represents everything. The ethos of your company is your brand. And strategic decision should revolve around that brand. And the example that I’m alluding to is from Twitter to X. There is seemingly no sort of strategic reason why X and what X means.

There was a lack of planning, you know, do we call them now, tweets or not? And that continues today as you hear people fumble around, I tweeted, or I did something. I’m on X now. Am I still tweeting?

Jenn: I refuse; I won’t call it x.  I won’t do it. I refuse.

David: Yeah, a real lack of…One, there is an example of something that could go wrong, which is… does it strategically make sense? Do people understand the reason why you’re doing it? But I think importantly communication. This was something. And you should consider all your stakeholders, your investors, your shareholders, your employees, your customers, your partners, and your suppliers. Everyone is part of and is engaged with the brand. And I think my observation of how I followed the transformation from Twitter to X was it was sort of tomorrow morning we’re rolling out a new logo. It’s going to show up across some channels. You still go on to the platform and find the Bluebird all over the place, and we have it. So it was very, in my mind, just very unplanned. It felt like if I had to guess, and we all know some of the things that go on with Elon Musk, just a very rushed, quick get-it-done. And I think that’s a real recipe for failure. And we certainly saw brands walk away and they have much broader problems than just the name. But I think that’s an example of where communication is another area that companies often overlook. And I think this can go back to the idea of thinking about a rebrand or thinking about a brand as only your logo. And so, as I mentioned before, it’s everything. It’s everything about culture. It’s about how you approach customers. It’s how you work with vendors; it’s how you select suppliers. It really should inform most, if not all, decisions that you make to some degree across the company.

Jenn: I think it’s hilarious that X failed, I really do, and I because like, it was so stupid. And like you said, it was overnight where all of a sudden Elon’s like, “Nope, we’re X.” And everyone was like, “No, no, you’re not. I’m never gonna call you that.” And some still have like it’s saved. My web browser, or like my app, still says Twitter. So, it’s just very funny. I want to ask you because you have worked across a wide variety of industries, finance, clean energy, cannabis, like all pretty eclectic, you know, industries. So I want to know: Do you think a successful rebrand depends on the industry, or do you think any industry can combat a successful rebrand if it does it correctly?

David: I’ll say as my headline: if done correctly, the industry doesn’t matter. So I think to answer the question really directly.

Jenn: Is one easier to rebrand in a certain industry than others?

Yeah, yeah. And I think what I would add to “you can do it successfully” is that there are challenges, as you’re alluding to Jenn, in every industry. So, you know, think about one of the things that a rebrand should do,  and that is it should position your company as one that has it’s own able differentiation. And again, that can be on a variety of things price, product, your delivery of service. It could be on a lot of different things, but you want that own differentiation so that you can stand out from other competitors within your industry. And when you think of visual identity, you know, I can reflect on working on rebranding in finance. So if you really think about it and think about your banks and your brands, banks, the, the sort of the color palettes, there’s a lot of blue, there’s a lot of green, there’s a lot of the same. When you think of the airline industry, almost every single US-based airline has red and blue. When you think of energy, another rebranding project that I worked on while in clean energy, clean energy, green and blue. So there’s a lot. When you think from a visual perspective, there’s a lot of work to be done to understand how to stand out. And I think what that points to is by industry, you really need to do your homework to understand all of the competitors and the landscape where that industry is going and what the opportunity to differentiate and stand out is, and really strategically think that through. And I think often that can be led by people. Personal opinion of I like this versus that or this is, you know, and it’s often a small group, maybe it’s even a homogenous group and not a diverse group. Goes back to, once again, get those customers involved, get prospects involved. But I think by industry, the real opportunity is to make sure that you understand that landscape. And I think, again, some of those industries are the reason I give those examples is some industries there’s a lot of the same.

Kalli: That makes a lot of sense. And actually, you know, I kind of want to take a little bit of a step back. I know you said there are a lot of companies that are doing similar things and have a similar look and feel. Even when they’re rebranding, you’re kind of seeing those same trends in different industries. But here’s my question. Is a rebrand always necessary? Or maybe there are steps businesses can take before they jump completely into changing their brand identity. And if that’s the case, what would those steps be in your opinion?

David: Yeah, I definitely think that pausing on the rebrand project and really, really stepping back and defining with your entire executive team and marketing team and other key stakeholders, what are we solving for? So, I think that goes back to that list we talked about in the very beginning, you know, did we purchase a company? Are we going or relaunching new products? Are we looking to attract new types of customers? Again, this idea that rebranding isn’t just the logo, you know, again, you may need to be in a place where you need to adjust service levels, you may need to change your return policies. And some of those might seem tactical and maybe don’t seem brand related, but they really are. They really are and should be defined through your brand strategy, and how you’re going to deliver your employee policies need to change your procurement. You know, that list of those things goes on. And so I think one starting with strategically what you’re trying to solve for to understanding if things can be solved without a major rebrand. But what I would say are maybe tweaks within certain functions or within certain components that the company delivers and engages with its stakeholders. And I think if you get out to the other side of that and say, we’re launching three new products that just aren’t even represented in our brand, the answer’s yes. Or we’ve just absorbed a company, and that company has customers, and we need to make sure that they understand and know how our brands are going to work together. The answer is yes, but I think there’s a lot of cases where you can say, let’s just change this delivery, let’s just change this policy. Let’s just change our strategy on CRM versus conducting an entire rebrand.

Jenn: Yeah, sometimes the subtle ways of doing it are most effective. You don’t have to do everything all at once.

David: That’s right, that’s right.

Jenn: And, not to diss Elon again, but we did talk about some brands that didn’t really do it the right way. I’d love to know if you have any specific brands that rebranded flawlessly. If so, tell us a little bit more about what caught your eye. 

David: Yeah. I think one that is fairly recent within the last sort of handful of years would be the rebrand of formerly known as Dunkin Donuts, which now know is known as you all are well aware, as Dunkin. My observation of that rebrand, I think taking a step back, they really took advantage of listening to their consumers and understanding their behavior because that brand, its customers, they were calling the brand Dunkin. That’s what they called it. That was their shorthand. And so they took advantage of that, and they were able to honor that and sort of get on board with their customers, if you will. And then I think the other thing was, as health and wellness and nutrition continue to grow in in focus and popularity, donuts has somewhat of an unhealthy connotation. It limited what people and what consumers viewed the brand as delivering, and a coincidentally, another honor to the brand. They had become very well known for coffee and so folks in the northeast started this, and they went to Dunkin instead of Starbucks. And thanks, Ben Affleck. Yeah, right. And they really honored that. And I think, you know, that translated into “we’re going to shorten our name,” not necessarily change it, but shorten our name. And I think they did a really nice job. When you do talk about the visual identity they really simplified their design system. So, one word versus two words, changed font type, simplified colors. It really cleaned up the brand. It modernized the brand. And they also, you know, launched a big campaign. And they were all over the media talking about this. And to your question before, Jenn, some of their consumers said, “wait a minute, we don’t like this Dunkin. It’s Dunkin Donuts.” But they really realized… That’s something that our customers just need to get familiar with. We need to roll this out. They saw their brand actually take off at the time, and shortly thereafter they actually launched a loyalty program. And so, they’ve just seen, you know, a lot of growth and a lot of positive results from this rebrand and this rehaul as they compete in this really competitive, quick-service restaurant space.

Jenn: I agree, I totally agree. I think it made a lot of sense for the brand. I have another one to complain about because I want to know your thoughts because, to me, it doesn’t make sense. HBO Max is now Max.

David: Yeah, I think years ago, you know, HBO had this very premium, very sort of liberal breakthrough programming. And I think as streaming and cutting cords, you know, grew in popularity. I think, you know, we’ve seen this across all the brands. I think that all of them are a little clunky. “Wait, it’s this, plus it’s this X.” They sort of just said we’ve got to have something to differentiate. And I think now it’s all coming back together again. It’s all sort molding and melding together. But I do think, Kalli, what you were alluding to, is I think that their strategy seems to be it’s because we’re acquiring all of these other brands that are not HBO. And I think, Jenn, to your point, I’m not sure consumers are following that. I’m not sure they are as concerned about other brands being absorbed. They just want the programming HBO offers. And guess what? If there’s a ton of other programming that you’ve purchased? Fantastic. I’m in there, and I’m actually browsing, and they can serve that up to me. So I think it’s a little odd. I think that the reason is because of all of these acquisitions and trying to create a broader platform. Does an HBO have the authority to expand into these other categories? Couldn’t HBO just sort of remain as such because the brand is so strong? Because I do think it is a strong brand, and it really has done some breakthrough programming over the years. But, it’s confusing. Your app changes, and you wonder what changes. Again, this goes back to communication. Am I being told why and what? And what does this do for me? And by the way, is there any value to me other than I have access to more programming? I’m not sure that there is.

Kalli: So, funny story. I went to go watch one of my favorite TV shows…

Jenn: You’re gonna say it anyway. Just say it. She brings it up all the time.

Kalli: So, Vampire Diaries was on HBO Max, and I went to watch it a couple of weeks ago. The screen came up that was like, it’s no longer available. And obviously, I got very upset because…what am I supposed to do now that I can’t watch the same episode for the 10th time? And it was because they are Max now, and they completely changed the app and didn’t even make it like a seamless process. So I think that that was really a mess.

David: Yeah. And I think that’s a great that’s a great example. You kind of went even beyond communication needs of…”telling me what’s going on.”

Kalli: Yeah. It was like, how do I watch?

David: You went to this experience of wait a minute… can’t this be easy next time I log in? Couldn’t this prompt me through three steps and get me to what I need to do?

Kalli: Obviously, a rebrand is a big undertaking, so not everyone’s going to necessarily be on board. And also there’s a lot of times there are legacy brands that, you know, have had the same look and feel since their inception. How do you go about convincing an eager CEO or a founder, now ready for this change, that it’s not a good idea? So you’re like, this isn’t the time for it. You have this legacy, like HBO. Maybe somebody should have said, maybe we keep HBO in the name, like Disney+ is doing really well and has Hulu and all these other things, and they’re still Disney. What do you say when it’s not a good idea?

David: Yeah, this is our example as CEO who might want to. And I think that CMOs often want to do this too. It’s a bit of a… I’m going to leave my mark here. So it’s something that I think maybe I just need to do. And in both of those cases, I really would do as I mentioned before. And that is to take a step back and understand what we’re solving for. And is it is there truly a slump in sales? Are we launching a product? Do we just want a new look that often comes up? There is a term called I’m a growth brand marketer, and we’re going to make changes to the brand if they drive growth and a better experience and meet our business objectives. We’re not just doing this because the logo needs to be freshened up, because that may not make those KPIs. They may not deliver on those KPIs. And so I think the other, as you said, it is an undertaking. I think when you look at a rebrand, you should also step back and get very specific about this. And I think this often opens the CEO’s eyes pretty quickly. You can spend anywhere from 10 to 30, 30%, and possibly even more of your revenue costs on marketing. And so, you know, it’s a huge investment. And depending on where you are in your growth stage and the scale of your company. I would say you need to set aside 20% of that marketing budget in any given year to be able to conduct a rebrand, and I think that’s probably being pretty efficient. And so I think not only might you take 20% of an annual budget from marketing, you probably should allocate a percent from every single department to support the rebrand.

There’s things that that come up and sort of sort of catch you off guard as you do these projects. Like we need to change all of our invoicing system. We need to change our sales tracking system from products to physical assets to other digital assets. And so I think putting that business case together of what are we solving for are really looking at, do we actually have the money and do we have the resources. These probably take a good year. You know, once you do your insights and your strategy, you build everything out. And then from a phased perspective, roll it out across the organization. So you really, really need to feel confident that as you do that rebrand, you’re going to be delivering business value.

Jenn: Well, there you have it. Maybe you’ll get a call from Max or Dunkin or someone listen to this episode, because all of that really, truly has been so informative and insightful. David, you know, there’s so many things that go into this, from creating a new logo to updating messaging and everything in between. Rebranding a business is no easy feat. So, good thing there are experts like you in the world to help brands flawlessly execute a new marketing strategy.

David: Yeah, it’s definitely not something to be taken lightly. And conducting something like this, it does require expertise. And the learning I’ve had over my career is to make sure you have the right resources and the right expertise there, whether it’s an agency or a consultant or a partner, because you can make a lot of mistakes along the way if you don’t have that experience. And I think you can really streamline the process. So I think there’s folks out there that can absolutely help if you’re if you’re thinking about rebranding.

Jenn: Well, thank you again for your time today. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you. And we’ll definitely have to plan a Soho House date soon.

David: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Kalli and Jenn, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. Loved talking about brands and it’s great to catch up with both of you.

Kalli: Thank you so much, David.

Jenn: For those listening, thanks for tuning in, don’t forget to follow us on social media, rate, review, and listen every other Wednesday as we publish new episodes. Kalli and I are always looking for informative and fun guests, so if that’s you, drop us a line at Bye for now.