Startup Rebranding 101: A 4 Step Introduction
Hai Truong

You may realize along your startup’s path, that the first iteration of your company’s brand is just not working. If you have stayed the course and continued to thrive with your initial product, variations in the marketplace and growth may compel you to explore a new look and feel. However, before you decide to pull out the dry erase markers, color swatches, inspiration boards, and font books, take a step back, breathe, and consider these four tips to get you started with rebranding. You may realize that after a deep dive into your current branding efforts, that you all you need is an update and not an overhaul.

1.) Start With What You Want To Communicate

Take a look at what is currently working with your branding efforts and what is missing. When your startup shipped its MVP and built traction, a green arrow floating above a cloud could have been an accurate depiction of your brand and the company's product. However, if your offering has since pivoted away to a different market vertical or service, then it makes sense that your logo, mission statement, and color scheme may need to change too. Make sure all the necessary stakeholders are included in the conversation and discuss amongst each other regularly during this exploratory phase. By the end you should be able to convey, who you are, what you stand for, and what problem you’re solving. If the result is not memorable, simple, and unique, go back and iterate further.

2.) Take Your Time

This tip does not mean that you should take a couple of years to get the rebrand done. It does, however, mean that if your company has grown considerably from a co-working space to an industrial loft, that you take enough time to gauge what the current brand lacks to warrant a rebrand. Something must be working if your company is continuing to thrive, however, if you see that the current look and feel is dated, then it could be time to for a change. Don't feel rushed to release a brand new look before you have taken some time to let it sink in and see if it feels right. Test it with your customers. Gap's 2010 rebrand should serve as a cautionary tale of why you should think it through before launching a new look.

3.) Develop a Communication Strategy

Make sure you have the following items in place before you roll-out your brand to the world:

A Personal Message To Your Customers: Make sure the message comes from the CEO and also comes from the heart. People can read insincere and canned language from a mile away. Give context to the rebrand as it relates to the startup’s mission and the reason for the rebrand. Additionally, reassure them that the rebrand won’t diminish the quality of product and engagement with your company. Giving them peace of mind can go a long way in preventing miscommunication and headaches later on.

Engaging The Press: Consider how you can bundle the rebrand with any new features or offerings. Blogs and other outlets want truly newsworthy content, not a promotional plug, so give them something to work with that makes the rebrand a momentous occasion to spotlight you.

Advance Notice to Partners: If your startup is engaged in any organizations or events, make sure they are given enough notice, about 7-10 days is standard to give them time to update things on their end.

Links, AdWords, and SEO: If your rebrand involves a new name, and if you’ve had some luck building a rank in the search engines, consider some low-cost AdWords. For example, if you were previously Adaptify and are now Adamantium, consider an ad like “Adaptify is now Adamantium.” This leverages the existing value of the old name and helps move the new name further up the page ranks. Additionally, if you are moving to a new domain, keep the old one and make sure redirects are in place for all potential outbound links to point to the new site/name.

4.) Prepare to Receive Feedback and Be Open To Criticism

It may be difficult to accept that the efforts of your team and the people who are in charge of your rebrand could be rejected or criticized by your customers. They use your product, engage with it, and have been loyal, so they will naturally support what you think is best, right? Wrong. We are not saying they won’t love it, but don't expect things to run completely smooth when you relaunch the brand. What may seem dated or unnecessary to your team, may be what fans of your company love the most. Engage with your constituents before you overhaul everything. Moreover, though people may not like certain elements of your new brand, embrace the response as an opportunity to engage in dialogue with your community. You may find that educating them on your process and inviting them into the conversation may yield an opportunity to nurture an even deeper connection with your fanbase.