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Is rebranding the real branding? Interview with Anaezi Modu, Founder and CEO of REBRAND


As we saw in a previous post, if there is a sum that the entrepreneur wants to spare in the launching phase of a new undertaking, that is the branding itself of his/her project. But if the enterprise grows, creating a brand in a professional fashion is no longer an option. And this is how it often happens. A rebranding is normally many companies' first true effort at branding. It is the moment of doing the homework that wasn’t done when it should have been It is the moment when it has to be decided whether to acquire a brand status, this is, if we dare to be different, to compromise with our discourse making it come true every day in a consistent manner. To talk about rebranding, we interviewed Anaezi Modu, probably the person who best knows global examples of rebranding.

Author of the upcoming book REBRAND: Empower Your Customers to Build Relevance and Results, she is founder and CEO of REBRAND, the most important source of case studies and efficient strategies for brand-transforming worldwide. REBRAND has been quoted in books and publications such as The Wall Street Journal, CNNMoney, FastCompany and Yahoo! Finance. Celebrating over 10 years of excellence, the REBRAND 100® Global Awards, juried by an esteemed panel of international design and business leaders, is the highest recognition for brand rebuilding and redesign in business.

I met Anaezi in 2010 at the emblematic Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, attending the Icograda Congress organized by ddi, Straight to Business, where she was participating as a speaker. Many years later, I had the chance of being selected to participate amongst other brand professionals as the first Spanish juror of the 2014 edition. From here, I thank you once again Anaezi Modu for the experience, especially because it is hard for a small Madrid-born consultancy like grasp to have access to first-class rebranding projects at a global scale. 


1. What are the most common triggers of rebranding?

The triggers can vary by industry. For example, for non-profits, it derives from lack of clarity and differentiation as perceived by audiences of another non-profit that might target a similar audience.

For banks, it can be due to a merger or an acquisition. For the energy and utilities sector, it often results from a need to update and improve the brand experience for customers and prospects, as they diversify their businesses.

Here are more reasons we have seen among the brand transformations in our . . . showcase each year. They include efforts to:

. achieve specific profit goals or to reflect and manage a change in business strategy

. showcase efforts for the public good, recast a company emerging from bankruptcy or restructuring

. establish internal buy-in and external brand cohesiveness and consistency

. better align products and services with shifting customer preferences and feedback

. spin-off a new product, service line, or sub-brand

. attract and retain qualified and experienced employee talent

Whatever the specific reason or reasons, some degree of shifts in internal culture and business structure, are essential to achieve success.

2. Is there a best way to incorporate the past in rebranding?

The ways to retain existing brand strengths or attributes depend on each specific brand’s context and structure. Learning through research on customers, employees, and representatives of prospects will help you determine what’s working and what must change. Assumptions are often wrong, especially when we believe we can make those for customers without actually engaging with them.
Customers are more in charge than ever, and that isn’t an overstatement. In fact, you are a customer of many brands. Just reflect on how you have changed in the way you buy goods and discover the best products to purchase. Many of us use one or more of the numerous tools available, social media being one, to learn about brands – positively or negatively. That change in your own behavior is also replicated by others considering or engaging with your brand.
As challenging as it can be, the expressions shared by different individuals represent opportunities to learn. Paying attention to those filled with emotion, especially about your own brand or your industry, is especially informative. Leverage and integrate insights that are applicable in your strategic positioning phase of your rebrand. The process will also help to retain and integrate legacy aspects of your brand as you move forward.

3.  Restyling, refreshing, rebranding… is there any difference?

A restyling or refreshing is usually just an update of certain visual assets. A rebranding to me is more comprehensive. Some believe that if you rebrand, a logo change must be part of that effort. I don’t agree. The most profound changes affect the organization’s structure inside and out in meaningful ways. The degree of what constitutes “meaningful” depends on the extent of the research conducted, the positioning strategy, as well as a particular set of capabilities, resources, and demands of those you serve – again, inside and out.

4.  From your point of view, what defines a successful rebrand?

Simply put, one that meets the stated goals and preferences of employees, the audience, and the broader community. Of course, doing so with a purpose to do good, and to limit, to the extent possible, harm done to individuals and to the environment.

There are many parts and pieces to a successful rebrand that also include efficient and thorough implementation, as well as a work process that fully engage employees throughout the process.
One thing is for sure. Employees support best what they co-create. If they are the true ambassadors through their actions and behaviors, then harness their expertise and experience to create a brand/rebrand they can believe in and be passionate about. At the end, you will make changes that both employers, customers, and prospects will appreciate more and more over time.

For your readers not familiar with, I would suggest that they review some of the 1,000 before and after case examples we have available for public learning on effective brand transformations. Our focus is not on the best look and feel, although many there look great. There is much to learn from the global range and mix of industries presented.

5.  Why rebrand with the help of a branding consultancy?

It is very difficult to be objective about one’s own brand because it is difficult for us to see beyond our blind spots. Engaging a consultancy can help bring a fresh perspective as well as expertise that can complement and supplement in-house capability that might exist.

If the organization is small, it is unlikely to have it’s own internal experts that can devote the time and effort required for this extensive effort, in addition to their other daily activities. If the organization is large, and has expertise internally, the issue of an objective, fresh perspective still applies.

One thing to note here. I always encourage brands that come to us for recommendations on agencies to keep an open mind. What I mean by this is that they should still consider consultants that may not have worked in their specific industry. Unless there are critical regulatory reasons of why industry knowledge is absolutely essential, an entity with experience in other industries may provide the status-quo breaking insights that can help propel your business forward.

6.  Tell us a little bit about the book “Transform to Thrive” you are about to launch

Transform to Thrive has been our tagline from the start. As a concept, it refers to our belief that brands, as all living entities, must be in a perpetual state of evolution and improvement to remain relevant. I don’t quite remember where the quote comes from that says “Change is the only constant there is.”
Transform to Thrive is the overarching theme that guides all we do. We are collaborating with our network of respected industry colleagues to develop teaching tools, guides, publications, and workshops. The goal is to share learning on what we’ve seen work over our 10+ years. In essence, Transform to Thrive is our guiding principle. The first book, under that theme is REBRAND: Empower Your Customers to Build Relevance and Results. In fact, some of the thoughts I share with you in our discussion here are from the book. 
Among our colleagues, we often hear abstract phrases like “branding is storytelling” or “a brand is a promise.” Rather, a brand in and of itself isn’t really all that important. In fact, I’ll go further and say that many don’t really care about a particular brand, per se.
Instead, the brand that let’s you be you, supports you when you need it, get’s out of your way when you don’t, helps you feel richer, look younger, be smart, feel rested, or whatever… will be invited into your world to stay. Your life is at the center of your world. The smart brands, especially in our recent times, understand that they are like a picture frame within which we create our lives… a life we want to have, a life we have, or a life we aspire to have.
That’s what I mean by empower your customers. When you support your customers to be who they want to be, you will remain relevant, and they will actually help you build your brand in ways you may not imagine. The typical example is Apple, which has so many loyal fans and customers that spread the word on the brand. As a consequence, the brand has loyalty and significant profits. Of course, I’m not saying that all organizations have profits as a core desire. However, even for non-profits, everyone has something they are looking to move – be it products, services, ideas, point of views – something.

Many thanks Anaezi Modu for having given us your time for this interview and for all we have learnt about rebranding.

We are very proud of our truly global jury of multidiciplinary experts, representing small and multinational firms. Thank you for your contribution among that respected panel, and thank you for your thoughtful questions in this discussion, Irene.

And this is your turn to speak about your concerns with regards to your brand. Is it time for rebranding?


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