Brand nudging: Why a rebrand might not be the answer

Brand nudging: Why a rebrand might not be the answer

June 2024. Author: Oliver Bingham

  • Insight

In the overlapping worlds of brand and marketing, the only way of getting to the right answers starts with asking the right questions. Here, we’ll tackle perhaps the biggest question of all – “Should we rebrand?” – and argue why changing your brand from the ground up isn’t necessarily the right answer…

A rebrand touches every facet of a business – from marketing to IT to senior leadership to sales to HR to facility management to product development and beyond. That’s a lot of moving parts that need to be aligned if it’s to be a success – not to mention the cost involved, especially once every aspect of implementation and rollout has been considered.

So, let’s start by exploring why rebrands are often considered in the first place…

“Why should we rebrand?”

There are a few reasons to explore here. Expansion, or at least the desire to expand, is one of them. A brand could be about to enter a new market or territory which includes audiences that might not resonate or ‘get’ it in its current form. It might be merging with or acquiring another business that has a direct impact on its current brand and how it’s perceived. Or it might be about to launch a new product or service which has the potential to shift perceptions or shape its overall future offer.

A change in leadership is another catalyst for considering a rebrand. A new CEO could want to put their own stamp on things or signal intent to the rest of the business. The same goes for a change in CMO who might feel they don’t have the control they want or need over elements of a brand they’ve inherited. With the average tenure of a CMO just a tick over four years according to recent research, a business can easily find itself playing ‘rebrand whack-a-mole’ by changing multiple times in a single decade as a result of new hires.

The need to reposition is perhaps the most widely accepted reason to consider a rebrand. If the idea at the heart of a brand is no longer relevant or ambitious enough, the things that are supposed to bring it to life tend to fall short. It might feel stale and flat, be struggling to innovate, not be doing enough to attract the top level of talent or not have the foresight required to adapt to evolving circumstances such as customer motivations and desires.

If the idea at the heart of a brand is no longer relevant or ambitious enough, the things that are supposed to bring it to life tend to fall short.

That brings us onto spotting the sign that genuine change is required, and that a rebrand should be considered – because it’s deeply associated with positioning.

“How can we tell if we should rebrand?”

Of all the questions we’ll attempt to answer, this is perhaps the simplest. When it comes to deciding whether a rebrand is necessary, there tends to be only one thing we look for: alignment. Does senior leadership agree that the current brand isn’t helping the business grow? To find out, we’d ask if they believe a brand is holding a business back rather than pushing it forwards. We’d probe if there’s consensus amongst teams that things are stuck in the past. We’d interrogate if employees are feeling disconnected to the brand, and the extent to which it’s positively – or negatively – impacting culture. And we’d examine if the current brand is playing a role in the development of new products, services or ideas that will help the business achieve its ambitions. By breaking things down in a straightforward way, and by asking about real and tangible scenarios, we begin to form an understanding if wholesale change is needed and, more importantly, if a business is actually ready for it.

In our experience, if genuine change is going to be implemented there first has to be overall consensus that it’s unequivocally needed. That’s why the general rule of thumb tends to be: if there isn’t alignment, don’t rebrand.

“What’s the alternative to a rebrand?”

To make your existing brand work harder. Make it sweat. Make it mean more by deploying it in new ways and ingraining it deeper within your organisation. Make it take customers and employees by surprise. Make it simpler, more streamlined and, as a result, more powerful. That involves thinking about things in an entirely new way – re-engineering, reinterpreting and reimagining the bits and pieces that make up your brand today, with a view to improving what they are and how they’re deployed tomorrow. It’s easier said than done – but a damn sight easier than enduring a full rebrand project.

With marketing budgets tightening year on year, making your existing brand work harder has become a more appealing option for financial reasons. But we’d argue it’s more often than not the right option anyway. The brands that capture our heart and souls hardly ever make sweeping changes. Instead, they evolve constantly – viewing transformation as a process rather than an endpoint.

At Cubic, we call this approach ‘brand nudging’ – identifying sometimes small but always meaningful changes that ensure brands are and remain the best versions of themselves. The approach builds brands for the long-term, not just the now. And ensures they’re continually better placed to make the most of opportunities for inventiveness and freshness to be introduced – because they can soak up possibility like a sponge.

The brands that capture our heart and souls hardly ever make sweeping changes. Instead, they evolve constantly – viewing transformation as a process rather than an endpoint.

“What does that look like?”

We’ve been a partner to FCC Environment for over 15 years. In that time, we’ve worked on well over 500 projects together – but none of them have been a rebrand. Despite that, the business is unrecognisable in terms of how it looks, feels and sounds compared to when the partnership started. Over time the standards of the brand have evolved and ‘nudged’ forward, with visual freshness added to ensure it remains easy on the eye and its brand idea ‘From waste to resource’ is more deeply embedded across the organisation.

Design elements have been reconsidered and refreshed with purpose and intent. Challenges, including how FCC communicates its commitment to the environment and attracts the talent of tomorrow, have been solved. All underpinned by thoughtful strategy and a commonsensical approach that’s meant a rebrand simply hasn’t been required. Has it taken time? Sure – but so does anything that’s really worth doing. Will it ever be finished? No – but that’s kind of the point. There’s always more to do, more opportunities to take advantage of and more ideas to bring to the table.

It’s a partnership we’ve learned a lot from and will continue to take a lot from in terms of how we build brands and respond to rebrand briefs. It’s also a demonstration of how applying the same level of creativity and imagination that would go into a rebrand project can bring about successful outcomes at a fraction of the cost and stress.

“What’s a sensible place to start?”

We always suggest conducting an audit that covers every element of strategy and design across the entirety of a business to kick things off. That should evaluate a brand’s strengths and weaknesses – especially the extent to which its delivering or could deliver its current positioning. It should set a benchmark and baseline for where things currently are – serving as both a starting point and springboard for generating ideas for revitalisation. And it should be inspirational, insightful and, most importantly, honest. Combined with stakeholder conversations clarifying alignment and ambition, the insights learned from the audit should inform a direction of travel and either make a case for or against beginning a rebrand project.


So, if you’re asking yourself “should we rebrand?”, take a step back and first consider if you’ve made the most of the brand you have currently, as well as if your business is ready for the real change a rebrand will bring.

If you can make your existing brand mean and deliver more through ‘nudging’, you can set about looking for answers that may well already be buried within it.


If you’re interested in exploring this further, why not get in touch to find out more?

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