Why Your Rebrand Might at First Feel Like a Botched Hair Cut

Change is hard—Your brand refresh, however much needed, might be an acquired taste.

You shrieked with excitement as your small business, middle-market, or billion dollar giant enterprise underwent a makeover—or in the world of business marketing, known as a rebrand. But when your new, generation Z-minded branding was revealed, overwhelm and doubt washed over you followed by a rush of thoughts, questioning if a rebrand was the best decision for your business after all. Does this scenario sound familiar?

As often as you’ve heard to trust your gut, that sinking gut feeling you encounter when forced to reimagine your brand in a new light is not so trustworthy.

When it comes to triumphing through the hardships of growing your business, it’s important to acknowledge that what is best for your company is rarely what is easy. A successful rebrand can’t be predicated on gut feelings—otherwise, we will only ever do what is comfortable, not what is best.

This is why our Executive Producer, Rachel Cevera often compares a rebrand to a new hairstyle. The results can take time to grow on you—even if it’s exactly what you asked for.

Think of it this way, you walk confidently into your salon and tell your hair stylist (or in our case, an expert team of creative strategists) that you’d like blonde highlights and a bob cut. You show your stylist images of similar looks you want to achieve (like other successful and emerging brands in your industry), and then your stylist carefully and deliberately styles your new do as requested, using the latest in salon techniques to achieve your perfect look. That is, until you’re spun around in your chair to look in the mirror at the big reveal (your new brand, reimagined)—only to find you immediately hate it. However, if you give yourself a few days, maybe even a few weeks to process the new stimuli, soon enough your new ‘do grows on you.

Your initial gut reaction wasn’t hatred, after all. It was the discomfort that comes with change—even if it’s change we’ve specifically asked for. But why is that? Why do business owners and decision makers desperately seek change to then quickly shy away from it?

BRAND INERTIA

Psychology Today explains that one of the forces we’re up against when it comes to change is our body’s inertia—that our bodies resist change to maintain a controlled state of equilibrium and regulation. The same principle holds true for brands—what we like to call ‘brand inertia.’ All of the forces driving your brand forward (business owners, investors, decision makers, and employees) fight fiercely every day to maintain a controlled state of business harmony. Naturally, any disturbance in that balance will meet some initial resistance. Like your new bold hairstyle, it might take quite a bit of self-convincing and an even greater push to book your appointment, walk through the salon doors, and commit to a stylist trimming away at the ‘you’ you’ve always known.

When assessing your recent rebranding work, ask yourself if you are truly unhappy with the redesign, or if it is simply brand inertia—resistance due to feeling overwhelmed.

FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN

Another source of hiccups when it comes to stomaching change is the feeling of uncertainty. Especially resonant for older and more established brands, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that things are working fine as is and that it’s best to avoid uncharted territory. Your branding is essentially the face of your business, your 24/7 sales team—so it makes sense that business owners want to stay in control. Harvard Business Review explains how change impacts the feeling of autonomy. Especially when created by a third party (like a creative agency), change leaves us feeling less in control, regardless of whether it’s in our best interest.

Our brains are hardwired to prioritize control. In fact, research findings suggest that we prefer situations that guarantee a negative outcome over situations where we don’t know for certain whether or not a negative outcome will occur (source). In other words, we would rather knowingly pay for a mullet cut than pay for a haircut having no idea what the stylist will do.

The tendency to dwell on the unknown is often the culprit for our initial resistance to change—it’s impossible to know for certain exactly how your rebrand will be received. However, just because we can’t predict the future doesn’t mean it will be negative.

Ask yourself if the sinking feeling in your stomach is stemming from the rebrand itself or from the uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty that comes with letting go of the reigns.

FAVORING WHAT’S TRIED + TRUE

Even if you’re a fearless CEO, continually pushing your business to its limits, there’s still one tricky tendency that might explain why you’re rebrand isn’t sitting quite well.

One study reveals that people consistently favor longevity and tradition. That is, regardless of other differentiating factors like efficacy or relevance, we tend to favor the option that has existed longer (source). In other words, when we go to a salon, we’re more likely to choose a style that’s been trending for the past few years, over a newer style trend that was introduced just last month—even if we like the newer style better.

The same concept can be applied to your rebrand. As business owners, it’s easier to feel comfortable with the branding that’s been carrying your business since inception than it is to accept a rebrand that has yet to prove itself appealing to your audiences.

Don’t let the tendency to favor older and more established options fool you into resisting what is ultimately in your company’s best interest.

After sifting through a sea of information and business advice, it can be arduous to identifying what changes are essential for the longevity of your brand. Even more difficult, is recognizing the source of your initial disapproval or sinking gut feeling—is it coming from a place of business acumen or simply from an instinctive and inherent resistance to change?

When assessing your rebrand, it’s best to take time to let it simmer. Eventually, you’ll almost always come to see what it is everyone else sees—especially if the concept is a result of strategic recommendations from your creative and marketing teams. Although it’s never easy, sometimes the willingness to evolve your brand is best.


Dora Sobze
Account Manager

Super power of choice: Being multiple places at once

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