Legacy brands must work hard to stay fresh and compete in crowded categories. It isn’t enough to have once been relevant. You need to stay relevant.

Rebranding is a powerful approach to maintain relevancy. But it’s no easy feat. After all, a successful rebrand isn’t just updated logos and color schemes. It’s a broader process that includes understanding target audiences, market trends, and competitive dynamics to develop a refreshed brand that has relevance and differentiation. Getting it right means knowing what’s going on in the world, and what customers want.

Enter market research.

By gaining valuable insight into market and customer details, as well as the resonance of different brand identify and go-to-market directions, you’ll execute a rebrand process that truly lets your brand stand out from the pack.

Why Pursue A Rebrand in the First Place

A rebrand takes a lot of work. First, you need internal stakeholders on board with the process. Then, you need to assess what needs to be updated, and why. Lastly, the elements that make the rebrand come to life must be executed.

Why go through with this process? There are a lot of reasons.

1. Strong Brand That Needs To Freshen Up: Legacy brands have a lot of equity. But, their legacy-ness may be keeping new customers from trying them out. Dated brand elements—fonts, colors, images, claims, positioning—can stand in the way of new customer acquisition. Rebrands let brands retain existing customers while drawing new customers in. This is at the heart of the Campbell’s Soup refresh.

2. Legacy Brand That Needs Revitalization: Sometimes, a brand’s positioning results in declining sales over time. It’s association with a certain customer type, its price point, its distribution channel, or other factors may result in lagging performance. Brands that find themselves here need to reposition themselves and undergo a rebrand to kick start sales growth. The recent shift in Old Spice is a great example of this type of rebrand.

3. One Of Many Brands In A Crowded Category: As product categories mature, more and more brands come into the mix. This results in lots of brands that don’t stand apart. Going through a rebrand helps products seek targeted customers or positioning that will let them stand out from the pack. Fiji water is a great example of this process in action.

4. Brand Going Through An Identify Crisis: Think Aunt Jemima syrup or Uncle Ben’s rice. Enough said.

Sure, there are other reasons for rebrands. But, these tend to be the biggest rebrand triggers.

How To Tackle A Successful Rebrand With Research

There are countless business-centric questions that come up with rebrands. Everything from the risks associated with the rebrand itself to the timelines and resources needed to go through the process.

However, for the sake of this article, we’ll focus on the brand- and marketing-centric questions that typically arise. And, how we can directly tackle each of those questions with market research.

1. What is the perception of our brand today, and how does that compare to our competitors?

Before undergoing any rebrand, it’s important to take stock of the current brand landscape. This means understanding what consumers think about your brand versus competitive products. This is an opportunity to learn about perceptions regarding reputation, relevance, and quality as well as unique traits you may think brands “own” in this category.

Additionally, it’s important to understand how unique customer groups perceive category brands. Differences across customers groups—ages, genders, regions, etc.—often give insight into additional brand strengths and weaknesses.

How To Answer This With Market Research…

If you’re in the exploratory stages, consider interviews or focus groups. Leverage open-ended questions to learn about brand experiences and perceptions. This is a great first step in identifying potential pitfalls your brand has today.

For greater validation consider category landscape surveys to further home in on how customers perceive brand values and messaging. This is also a great way to collect general sentiments about the category as a whole.

2. Who should we be targeting?

Once you get a lay of the land, it’s key to evaluate which customers you actually want to target. This means understanding not just demographic criteria but also psychographic criteria. By building a fully-flushed understanding of unique category buyers, you can better isolate the buyer you want to go after.

How To Answer This With Market Research…

The most nuanced way to understand category buyers is via a customer segmentation study. This is a survey-based approach that collects information on customer demographics and psychographics to produce profiles of the distinct groups or segments within a category. By having comprehensive information about unique customer segments, teams can identify the right target for their brand.

3. What do we want our brand to represent?

A rebrand is an opportunity to re-think a brand’s positioning. You may want to use the rebrand to further solidify a certain set of value propositions…or use it to adjust the sentiments associated with your brand.

Of course, answering this question goes hand-in-hand with identifying your ideal customer target. After all, these two things should align!

How To Answer This With Market Research…

At the heart of this question is understanding what is going to resonate with your target customer. And, implicitly, what is going to help your brand differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace. This points to using both qualitative and quantitative research methods to perform positioning testing.

You’ll want to gather feedback on positioning ideas, which can include how well your target customer gravitates toward value props as well as potential brand tones and voices. Via this process, you’ll land on a positioning that has high appeal and relevance while building a strong differentiating feel.

4. What creative or visual elements will best contribute to the rebrand?

With your brand strategy settled, the next thing you need to do is make that brand come to life. Said another way, it’s time for brand identify work. This means developing logos, color palettes, typography, and other imagery that shows what the brand is about.

How To Answer This With Market Research…

As you can image, there are a lot of ways to bring a brand to life. Therefore, there are a lot of different potential brand identity directions. You’ll want to test these directions to see what really hits the mark.

At the earliest of stages, consider focus groups where you share different directions with participants. Listening to their feedback will let you see if any of your early ideas are trending where you want them to go. If your identify work is more “cooked,” it’s time to do survey testing. Asking questions about how each direction ranks against desired benchmarks to further validate the direction to move towards.

5. What is the best way to introduce our new, refreshed brand?

Said another way, this question is about how to go to market with the new brand. This could mean a lot of different thing. For instance, it could include package design, website development, and the production of marketing materials. It could also include questions around which marketing channels or marketing tactics to use. Additionally, it might even include questions about pricing.

How To Answer This With Market Research…

When you get to this point, here are many different types of market research validation work to consider. You may want to do price testing to see if your rebrand increases equity and therefore allows for a price premium. Or, package testing if that’s relevant for your category.

You could also consider interviewing or surveying your desired customers to do channel testing. This will help you isolate online and offline behavior patterns to optimize marketing spends.

6. How will we measure the impact of rebranding efforts?

Measurement is at the crux of evaluating any initiative’s efficacy. In advance of launching any rebrand, teams must identify the metrics or benchmarks they want to use to evaluate rebranding success. And, have methods in place to collect those metrics as discrete stages in the rebrand process.

How To Answer This With Market Research…

One of the most classic metrics used to measure rebrand efficacy is brand awareness. That is, evaluating how well people can remember the name of your brand when asked. If your rebranding activities are successful, you will expect to see improvements in brand awareness over time.

Of course, this assumes that you’ve launched the rebrand and put marketing resources behind that launch. Before this happens, you can test your old brand against your refreshed brand via survey feedback. By capturing how well each approach aligns to your desired positioning, you’ll be able to see if the rebrand successfully captured your strategic direction.

Where To Begin Your Rebrand Research Process

In the ideal world, you have unlimited time and money to do everything we just outlined above. However, we don’t live in an ideal world. As a result, most organizations need to pick and choose from this list.

How do you choose?

We always suggest asking yourself where do you have the greatest number of unknowns. If you haven’t done any work to understand the broader category landscape, let alone competitive brands, start there. On the flip side, if you have a great understanding of category dynamics, you’re likely ready to move into positioning or brand identify work. That means plugging in validation research to see if you’re moving in the right direction.

Just be sure you don’t get ahead of yourself! It’s all too tempting to jump immediately into brand identify or go-to-market efforts. But, if you don’t have a good grasp on the broader landscape, those activities likely won’t be successful.