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Agencies Creative Works How Do You Solve a Problem Like...

Branding experts share how to get your rebrand to stick with your audience


By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

April 18, 2023 | 14 min read

As one of the biggest franchises in gaming works to promote a new brand identity, we ask agency experts how to make a successful go of a rebrand.

EA Sports recently rebranded one of its most succcessful titles

EA Sports recently rebranded one of its most succcessful titles

Nothing seems to capture the industry’s and the public’s interest quite like a rebrand. The latest to catch the eye was the renaming of EA’s Fifa football video game franchise as EA Sports FC. Will consumers take to the new name or will they carry on, as in the case of WeightWatchers’ reincarnation as WW, using the original?

In any case, getting consumers and internal stakeholders to buy into a new brand (whether a design shift or a wholesale rechristening) isn’t always easy. So, how do you manage it?

How do you solve a problem like... getting the rebrand to stick?

James Hacking, founder, Socially Powerful: “The heritage of the Fifa series has been ingrained in the football gaming world since 1993, so getting that word out of people’s mouths will be tough. One of the first things to do is to partner with the major gamers. They’re watched by millions of people every day; you need them on your side.

“The launch of the game needs to go off with a tremendous bang – it’s the first opportunity to make a statement. The brand has to be unmissable across social channels and at live football, and the game must stack up to be the market leader.“

Luke Taylor, co-founder and creative partner, UnitedUs: “Rebrands are a fantastic opportunity to energize a business, a market or, in the case of EA’s Sports FC, an entire gaming genre. With any rebrand, success or failure will depend on the relevance and resonance you can instill in your audience. The first question will always be ’why?’, so you need to answer that head-on, amplifying the value of the new direction, championing the positive differentiation it provides to grow the business, and ultimately hype up the excitement around the future of the brand.“

Nici Hofer, founder and artistic director, New Commercial Arts: “A successful rebrand involves a well-defined brand strategy and ownable visual identity. Distinctiveness is key and a deep understanding of a brand’s core values unlocks distinction. I believe in evolution instead of revolution: a fresh interpretation of a brand without neglecting its heritage. Removing all nostalgia can quickly feel inauthentic and leaves the consumer without anything to connect with. Harnessing a brand’s personality results in authenticity and people intuitively respond to realness. Identifying what a brand genuinely stands for reveals how we can set it apart from its competitors. When it’s done right, it feels like the only possible answer to the brief.“


Vicky Bullen, global CEO, Coley Porter Bell: “Brands today need to be immersive and managed on multiple dimensions. It’s no longer just about being motivating and distinctive – they need to be digitally coherent, experiential and intelligent to be truly sticky. The first priority is to make sure you are telling the right story to the right audience – simply put, make it relevant so people want it in their lives. Then help people know it is still their brand by identifying and retaining distinctive equities.

“And you must take the full client team, from CEO to new employee, through the rebrand journey – find ways of getting different people’s input into the strategy, listen and respond. If everyone within a business can understand the brand – can live it and bring it to life – and become walking talking brand advocates, you have made the first stride toward stickiness.“

Veronica Padilla, vice-president, head of design, Periscope: “With rebrands, it’s all about the three Es. First, respect the equity: the more the brand is beloved and known for its distinct qualities, the less dramatic the change should be. Rather, subtle shifts are the best way to go. If you go too far, you will madden the masses.

“Second, retain your essence: maintaining the essence of the brand is equally important to preserving and protecting it. In other words, don’t shock people by creating an aura vastly different than what exists, or you’ll likely experience backlash.

“Lastly, aim for ease: make it easy for your most passionate, loyal fans to understand why you did what you did. They should intuitively appreciate the effort. If you accomplish that, they’ll defend you when the trolls come out.“

Matt Boffey, chief strategy and innovation officer, Superunion: “There are two major components in getting a rebrand to ‘stick’. Firstly, choose a name that is easy to say and recognize, don’t pick something obscure or hard to pronounce. It’s partly why we changed Hermes to Evri – it alludes to the company’s ambitions and is easier to say on sight. Secondly, use the new name to drown out the old – the more it’s used, the more it’s adopted and accepted. Give it some currency by being loud and proud in media, marketing, interviews and conversation, because building awareness and familiarity is key.”

Mark Weinfeld, senior vice-president, managing director, Innocean: “Sometimes brands are hesitant to shorten their name, in most cases – if they don’t – consumers will. Most consumers probably don’t know what UPS or IBM stands for. Recently, we saw Architectural Digest rebrand to AD and Weight Watchers to WW. Acronyms are a way of shorthanding a brand name, but it takes dedication and commitment to get it into memory. One tactic we have used is to always use the full name in the first mention of the brand in an ad or post and then using the acronym in each of the following references – and continuing to do this for a few years. It helps lead consumers into the transition without losing the equity that you have built over the years.“

Danielle Horanieh, managing director, Mother Design: “You can’t have a successful rebrand without a well-informed strategy to back it up. Strategy ensures that every creative choice is true to the brand and it allows the company to tell an authentic story about the change. Second most important aspect is to design an internal engagement plan for the brand development process as well as a rollout plan that clearly and confidently communicates the ‘why’ and gives teams the tools to implement the new brand.

“It takes courage and conviction to undergo a rebrand. But it’s worth remembering that unless you do something wildly offensive, people will eventually come around to it.“

Liza Enebeis, creative director, Studio Dumbar/Dept: “Building a strong brand starts with a clear vision of your strategy and positioning and making sure that key people in your agency/company are on board. Once that is defined, all your design decisions will follow and you can use this as your guide whether you are defining design principles, tone of voice etc. Having strong governance internally will help the brand consistency and continuity.

“In terms of buy-in or for the brand to stick, you need to give it time – an overnight change to a logo will take time to be recognized and loved.“

Rob Skelly, associate creative director, Born Ugly: “The toughest challenge is breaking entrenched mindsets and implementing behavioral change. This takes time. Consumers are invested in brands and they want to understand the ‘why?’ If they see meaningful change, it has a much better chance to stick. Brands need to bring consumers on the ride rather than suddenly pulling the rug away. Lilt slowly evolved into the Fanta visual identity before completing the transition. Uncle Ben’s announced its reasons for a new brand purpose long before the new Ben’s Original logo and name were revealed. Behavioral change takes time and the more transparency and storytelling consumers get, the better.“

Paul Kelders, chief executive officer and founder, Jump! Innovation: “Make it good. Seriously. So much of what fails to ‘stick’ is, and I say this with gleeful irony, crap. Or worse, pointless (Hull City FC to Hull Tigers anyone?) Making it good means giving the world something better than they already have. Something pleasing to the eye, maybe even something that brings a smile. Something I can enjoy bringing into my life; that reaffirms my outstanding good taste. This can also be done by enhancing how the brand is spoken about. In the work we did for Richmond Sausages, we introduced the phrase ‘The Nation’s Favourite’ to the naming ‘lock-up’, giving some important social proof and helping add 1 million customers in a matter of weeks. That was something better.“

David Jenkinson, creative director, Pearlfisher London: “You can’t make a rebrand stick. A rebrand either resonates or not. It is a moment to re-engage and reignite a brand that must be carefully designed, with conviction, by both looking back and forward. What is special about the existing brand? How can this be progressed to better connect with existing and new audiences? Rebrands that don’t properly consider this are inevitably superficial.

“To convince stakeholders, the key is to unpack why the rebrand is essential now and why it’s a risk not to proceed with it. Is the brand losing its point of difference or desirability? A rebrand should be presented as a crucial moment for a brand to restage, reset the agenda and lead the conversation.“

Andrew Lawrence, global executive creative director, Elmwood: “As a design agency with 40 years’ rebranding experience, we design for our clients’ behaviors and values, not only what the consumer wants to see. Our aim with any rebrand project is to future-proof the brand for NPD, innovation and growth – which doesn’t necessarily mean doing what feels right in the current design landscape. Rebranding is about understanding how that brand will function in three years, five years and beyond, ultimately ensuring it will stand the test of time. Throughout this process, clients must trust us with our expertise to deliver on their business brief and objectives across the creative.

Suneil Saraf, head of planning, Drum: “Repositioning a brand, irrespective of how deep it cuts, asks both existing and new consumers for one thing: to reappraise what your brand stands for through a new lens. With that as context ‘re-behaviouring’ is critical to landing a repositioning. When repositioning, sticking to the status quo isn’t an option – act like you mean it to supercharge understanding of the new brand. Consider how you can prove the newly reinvigorated belief at the heart of your brand. What meaningful value can it create for audiences? How could the new brand show up unexpectedly? What new partnerships or alliances align with your brand world?“

Heather McTavish, executive creative director, Virtue: “It goes without saying that the sell is never easy, especially when it’s not a one-to-one rebrand and is something that changes every three months. But, with enough rhyme and reason, everyone eventually buys in.

“A rebrand has to be born from a place of reason. For ourselves at Virtue, we kept the things that made us, us. Our birds. Our words. Our POV. And dropped the things that didn’t. Inspired by our editorial background, we created a system that changes quarterly, because nothing lasts forever. We wanted to create parts of the identity that would evolve every season.“

Cecilia de la Viesca, joint managing director, Passion Digital: “It’s important to establish clear goals and objectives both before and during the process to avoid just changing it for changing sake. For us, it was important to develop a clear tone of voice and brand guidelines to ensure we had strong internal engagement and we have actively encouraged staff to champion the brand and use it across all client communication, social media and other channels. Explaining internally ’why’ we changed and the impact that we expected on everyone’s life in the agency has helped with internal buy-in too; everyone internally needs to believe in the new branding. The last piece of the puzzle is, with no doubt, consistency across channels and in everything we do, from internal documents to client presentations, social media and any marketing collateral.“

Sarah Parkes, chief sales and marketing officer, Talon: “At Talon, we recently underwent a global rebrand and took away key learnings from it. Firstly, it must align across the entire business – something that all employees could buy into and believe. This can also be supported via in-depth brand training and appointing internal brand ambassadors to ensure any new brand values, look and feel truly permeate the fabric of the business indefinitely. Our successful rebrand has already had an impact with attracting clients, such as Pepsico, which is also going through a change, and is leveraging the brand-building power of OOH to ensure its new logo becomes synonymous with its brand.”

Richard Ryan, creative director, Something Different: “First, be honest with yourself: why are you doing it? Is it window dressing? Is it desperation? Is it a true expression of what you stand for? You can’t get others to buy into it if you don’t buy into it yourself. A rebrand is a chance to refocus on what makes you you. We recently rebranded Something Different to crystallize our USP for prospective clients and it takes soul searching and honesty to get to a clear, believable message. But when you find the nugget that encapsulates what you stand for, it’s worth its weight in gold. Or possibly RFPs.“

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