For years, children and their families enjoyed watching and listening to the television and music career of Hannah Montana (the screen name for Miley Cyrus). Late last year, however, Cyrus decided to blow up the brand of her childhood and replace it with of a much more explicit and controversial figure. Whether or not that was a wise decision is up to pop pundits, PR handlers, and parents. What is known is -- Cyrus decided to update her brand image in a big way.
It's been said that one of life's only true givens is change. If that is accurate, even the most venerable brands will eventually need to consider rebranding. Far from repudiating all the hard work that goes into the original brand, rebranding is an acknowledgment of changing times, consumer appetites, and social mores.
Is it time to update your company's brand? Check out the following signs to see.
Sign: Your brand has no targets
Your brand cannot be all things to all people. That's a nice theory but a terrible reality. You must refine your focus. Every organization needs a brand plan (a formal document that details its mission, values, messages, etc.). Major items in any brand plan are your brand targets. These targets provide specific groups you are trying to reach. Examples might include young families, senior citizens, single women that earn more than $35,000 a year, etc. The more focused your brand targets are, the more successful your brand is.
Over time, brand targets can dilute. They must remain clear. If your organization is all over the place with its targets, then it's time to rebrand.
Sign: Your brand has an enemy within
Brands often fail at the staff level. You cannot have a strong brand without a strong staff and buy-in around your strategy. As Nicholas Ind says in "Living the Brand," "It is the collective power of individuals in an organization that provides and sustains a competitive advantage."
One quick exercise you can do with your staff members is to ask them, "What is our organization really about?" Compare their answers with those of your management and executive team. If the answers are all fairly different or don't match, you have a weak brand, and it's time to rebrand.
You can also ask staff members if they can recall your mission statement. Ask them what (if anything) it really means to them. If you get a lot of blank stares or wildly disparate answers, then it's time to rebrand.
Any successful rebranding effort will include training your staff members and energizing them on the new brand. The biggest threat to your brand almost always comes from within. We spend a lot of time worrying about external foes to our brands. Don't forget the more subtle yet just as dangerous internal brand erosion factors elude you.
Sign: Your brand fails the 3 Cs test
The folks at MarketingProfs say there are three Cs to a strong brand: clarity, consistency, and constancy. You must be clear about what you are and what you are not. Then you must be consistent with that brand over all delivery channels. Once the message is clear and consistent, then you constantly communicate those messages.
How is your organization doing with these three Cs? Is your brand clear? Is everyone singing from the same hymn book, or is everyone on a different page? What makes your company different? Avoid words like "service," "speed," or "quality." Everyone uses those words, and that doesn't make you different.
Do your customers receive consistent service across all channels of your organization (i.e., in person, phone, website, and social media channels)? If not, how do you expect to generate a singular, resonant brand that adheres to the three Cs test?
Branding can come across as a hulking and complex beast of a concept. While branding is certainly a big deal to any organization interested in growth, it can often be measured against the relatively simple three Cs test.
Brands are constantly evolving. Organizations -- yours included -- simply cannot succeed in our challenging and tumultuous economic climate without a strong brand. Taking the three Cs test and examining other signs can help you decide whether or not it's time to rebrand.
Mark Arnold is president at On the Mark Strategies.
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