What does it take to get a rebrand right?

For a rebrand to be successful brands need to undertake extensive market research to ensure the new look or positioning is received positively and loyal customers don’t feel like the identity they know and love is being ripped away.

BBC Good Food
Feedback from reader panels led BBC Good Food to rework its content

Rebranding or relaunching a beloved product presents both risks and rewards for a company. Changes to a brand logo or product offer can breathe new life into a business, sparking growth and a wave of employee and customer enthusiasm.

But such changes can also have a detrimental effect on a company if poorly executed and not in line with consumers’ views of the brand. Done wrong, a rebrand risks angering loyal customers and sowing confusion about the company’s market positioning.

Clothing retailer Gap is a classic example of a rebrand gone wrong. Not only did consumers share their dislike of the new logo it launched in 2010, the backlash was so severe that the retailer promptly reverted to its previous design in one of the quickest branding turnarounds ever – just six days.

Market research plays a vital role in ensuring that businesses get the process right. Last month publisher Immediate Media relaunched two of its most popular magazine titles, BBC Good Food and Top Gear, following an extensive period of research and development. The findings fed into a complete reworking of both publications’ content.

This involved drawing on Immediate’s reader panels, which range in size from 2,000 to 5,000 people, depending on the publication. Publishing director Simon Carrington says speaking to these readers is an ongoing process within the business and is not just restricted to the period before a relaunch.

“In magazine publishing we’re constantly researching,” he adds. “Magazines have to evolve and adapt in the current climate so we talk to our readers as much as we can. Sales data only gives you so much.”

Although the company surveys  readers every month to gauge their views on the magazines, Immediate tailored its questions in the lead-up to the relaunches to find out how readers would react to specific changes. For BBC Good Food this included asking readers to rank different options related to why they buy food magazines.

Insights from gamification exercises and customer focus groups helped shape Zizzi’s recent rebrand

This revealed that having access to recipes is the primary reason, but that readers also wanted more lifestyle content than the magazine previously offered. The relaunched version meets this demand by including more content on restaurants and food-related travel.

“Recipes are the heartland of BBC Good Food but our readers have told us they are interested in other food-related subjects,” explains Carrington. “Editorially, we employ experts in their field so you have a gut feeling if something is right or not. We certainly felt that food and travel was right and in that instance we were able to use research and talking to our readers as confirmation of that.”

For the Top Gear relaunch, meanwhile, Immediate held special focus groups with different categories of reader including regular readers, occasional readers (those who buy between four to six copies per year) and lapsed readers, meaning those who used to buy Top Gear but do not anymore.

The relaunched magazine no longer incorporates a news section and has devoted more resources to features, following feedback that motoring enthusiasts tend to get their news from online sources. The new format also incorporates more content about the presenters of the upcoming Top Gear BBC TV series, such as Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc.

Carrington says that by speaking to readers with different degrees of loyalty to the Top Gear brand, Immediate was able to build a fuller picture of what its audience wanted from the relaunch. In the case of both Top Gear and BBC Good Food, the company is planning to survey its reader panels within six weeks of the relaunches to gauge their initial reactions.

“By speaking to really distinct audiences, we can understand why they love the magazine, [why they] kind of like it, what would make them buy it more and why they’ve stopped buying it,” he notes. “You can ask them specific questions such as ‘if we did x, would it entice you back to the magazine?’”

Fast feedback

Italian restaurant chain Zizzi rebranded last year following its acquisition by private equity firm Bridgepoint. This involved removing the word ‘Ristorante’ from the brand logo and making the word Zizzi bigger and bolder.

Under the new owners, Zizzi has also refurbished several of its 140 UK restaurants and changed its menu to provide more options for different segments of diners including millennials, vegetarians and vegans.

“The joy of working for a smaller brand is saying ‘shall we change that?’ and in six months we had changed it“

Johanna Fawcett, Zizzi

Speaking at Marketing Week Live last month, Zizzi marketing director Johanna Fawcett explained that the company conducted the research that backed the changes in a relatively short space of time.

Focus groups provided insights on the logo redesign, while Zizzi recently began using gamification tools in its emails to draw out richer insights from its database of customers (see case study).

READ MORE: How brands are using gamification to boost engagement

“For some of the focus groups we did on design, we literally sat [with participants] in our Bow Street restaurant [in London],” she recalls. “When you’re so close to a brand sometimes you don’t see some of the problems.

“We had our Zizzi logo with the word Ristorante all over it [and people were saying] ‘what kind of word is that, why do you have that on your logo?’ The joy of working for a smaller brand is being able to say ‘shall we change that?’ and literally in six months we had changed it and taken it out.”

Some businesses are also turning to neuroscience as they seek quick feedback on a rebrand or product relaunch. Neuroscience firm Sensum states that it is helping to test rebrands for a couple of undisclosed companies. This involves measuring the impact of such changes at a subconscious and emotional level.

CEO Gawain Morrison suggests that for established brands and recognisable logos, implicit response testing works well. This involves running an online survey and timing how long it takes respondents to answer each question.

These response times are weighted against their answers to gain a better understanding of how strongly they feel about those answers. Given that people already have an emotional set of associations with established or well-known brands, this type of testing can help to measure the impact of a rebrand on their existing attitudes and feelings.

As research is carried out online a large number of people can be reached and brands can run eye-tracking and facial coding analysis through people’s webcams.

Unbiased logo change
Unbiased had a gut feeling that it needed a rebrand but canvassed opinions from its target market

Trusting your gut

In other instances, rebrands are born out of an instinct within a business. Unbiased, a website that allows people to search for financial and legal advisers, rebranded this month by changing its logo and brand colour scheme. This included introducing a speech bubble icon within the logo.

Head of brand and marketing Gaelle Comte says the rebranding process started with an “internal feeling” within the business that the brand had become “a little bit dated and in need of a refresh” after seven years with the same brand imagery.

“We did internal research across various brands in the industry to see what was out there – not necessarily direct competitors but other fintech companies,” she adds.

Unbiased combined these insights with feedback from focus groups that found people lack confidence when it comes to choosing financial advisers. One of the primary aims of the rebrand was to help people overcome this uncertainty.

Following a period of creative development, Unbiased presented its top two choices for the rebrand to members of its target audience to see what they thought of the potential new looks. The final version was chosen following these conversations.

“We’re trying to make quite complicated topics simple and make sure people are not scared by them – so making our brand accessible, clean and fresh, and a bit younger, was definitely one of the objectives of our rebrand,” says Comte.

Unbiased is supporting the rebrand with online and radio advertising and is planning a TV campaign to break in September. Comte is also reviewing the user experience on the brand’s website to find ways “to make it work harder for the customer journeys that we know people want to take”.

The website allows people to search for advisers by location and find information and advice tailored to their specific needs.

Although the rebrand occurred as a result of an internal instinct about the need for change, Unbiased plans to scientifically measure the impact of the new look. This includes using brand tracking measures for the first time and measuring the impact of the changes on website conversions.

“We’ll be tracking whether people are more favourable to our brand and whether advocacy goes up,” notes Comte. “Ultimately we want to widen the appeal of advice, because thousands of people are missing out on improving their situation in the UK and we’re trying to reach out to them.”

Case study: Zizzi

Zizzi Restaurants has implemented numerous changes following its acquisition by private equity firm Bridgepoint last year, including a new logo, menu and service offer. At the heart of this revamp and refreshed brand positioning is a new approach to gathering insights using gamification.

The chain had been seeing a steady decline in open and click-through rates from its email marketing output. In an effort to reverse this decline, Zizzi incorporated gamification tools into an email campaign planned around the Rugby World Cup last September.

Zizzi logo
Zizzi’s new logo (above left), and old logo (above right)

This involved presenting people with a virtual scratch card from which they could win prizes if they signed up to enter. In addition to the main prize of a trip to New York, entrants could win smaller prizes to redeem in Zizzi restaurants, such as a free cocktail or dessert.

Marketing director Johanna Fawcett notes that this was a successful way of driving footfall and an alternative to the usual tactic of sending voucher codes via email. The game attracted 90,000 unique players and resulted in a three-fold increase in the brand’s average click through rate, prompting Zizzi to consider whether gamification could also be used for research purposes.

“My challenge to my marketing team was [to say] ‘gaming worked, people clicked through and we’ve got this pool of hyper-engaged customers who seem to react much more strongly with this content, so can we use it to get more data on their preferences?’ For example, are they more interested in pizza or pasta? Do they have three courses or just one [when they visit our restaurants]?”

Zizzi used its next gamification campaign, which it launched in January, to gather more of these insights. This time questions about customer preferences were incorporated into the game, which involved taking part in a virtual board game for the chance to win prizes.

Zizzi’s brand refresh involves presenting itself as a more modern brand that resonates better with younger diners. The preference insights gathered through gamification have helped it meet this brief by being more reactive to the needs of customers and by allowing it to introduce new products at speed, such as a vegan pizza. It is also adding new layers of segmentation to its two million-strong customer database to help it better target its messages.

“Initially gamification was about digital engagement,” adds Fawcett. “The bigger win potentially is that it helps us to identify preferences so we can hone our email communications.”


How brands are using gamification to boost engagement

Thomas Hobbs

Mobile gaming is now big business with players of Candy Crush Saga spending $1.3bn on in-app purchases alone last year and the total estimated value of the mobile games market now at $25 billion. And brands including restaurant chain Zizzi and Marks & Spencer are honing in on gamification in a bid to boost customer engagement levels.