Recently, Mars, Incorporated decided to roll out a rebrand for M&Ms in an effort to reposition the company to promote inclusion and global belonging. What most people heard, though, was that the green M&M was no longer going to wink at them in her knee-high boots.
The news was suddenly filled with the M&M rebrand, discounting its effectiveness and even lamenting the loss of the M&Ms people thought they knew. And some questioned whether button-sized candy could shoulder the weight of something like inclusion. Remember when they just melted in your mouth, not in your hand? That alone was a claim to superior chocolate.
These kinds of rebranding projects are not unusual. Nike also repositioned itself, aligning with a political view with support of Colin Kaepernick’s protests around social injustice. But if not done for the right reasons, or if it simply doesn’t fit your brand, you may regret taking this step. If you’re considering a rebrand, how do you know whether it’s the right path to pursue? Consider these questions:
What’s “Wrong” With Your Current Brand? A rebranding project is most successful when there’s a clear reason to shift. Maybe your company has expanded services, and your name and logo are too specific to include everything you do. Or perhaps your tagline hasn’t aged well or has inadvertently become associated with something problematic. There are great reasons for a rebrand, but it should be clear that it’s time to make a change.
You may have had an unfortunate, coincidental association with a negative event. Consider all the jokes made about Corona beer in the early months of 2020. Or maybe in the 1990s, you sold a product called Simpson’s Gloves. Consider that Bud Light once had a commercial series with a tongue-in-cheek celebration of Real American Heroes, but could not in good conscience continue the ads after September 11, 2001. They changed it to Real Men of Genius, which might be funnier anyway.
These are solid reasons for a rebrand, driven by consideration for others or an association with a negative news event. But there are other times that the consideration may be a little misguided or misunderstood.
Have You Documented the Perceptions of Your Audience? It is challenging to separate a hunch or gut feeling from reality. You may talk to a customer or two and formulate a hypothesis that your brand is not working for you anymore, but this may not represent the perceptions across your target market. Don’t guess at it; do some surveying and other research to see what the needs of your audience are.
What Personal Views are Within Your Proposed Rebrand? This is where things get tricky. Particularly in cases where a company takes a particular stance on a controversial issue, it can get into territory where the CEO or CMO runs with a rebrand because it’s the “right” thing to do.
Don’t get hung up on this. If you have employees in the room that disagree, it’s likely that much of your audience disagrees with you, as well. There are plenty of ways to express your personal views, but it doesn’t have to come through a rebrand.
You should also ask whether there’s a reason this particular issue is one for your industry or brand. M&Ms can talk about inclusion, but kids are still busy debating whether you can taste the difference in the colors.
Could Your Rebrand Have Negative Consequences for Your Company? When you choose a rebrand based on personal views, you’re likely to alienate some of your market. That’s why knowing as much as possible about your target market matters. You may have a great cause that you want to align with in a rebrand, and it’s one that makes sense for the industry you’re in and the customers you serve. It will probably go over great, but you need to ask the question.
Meanwhile, the world will probably go on eating M&Ms without thinking much about their marketing. The rest of the business world is shaking their head, thinking, “It’s chocolate. How hard can it be to sell chocolate?”
If you are considering a rebrand we just want you to ask some questions first and then enjoy the excitement and growth that can result from a successful rebrand if it’s the right path for your company. Want to talk about your ideas? Contact us at SJC Marketing.