How do you know when it’s time to rebrand your business? For that matter, what is the purpose of a brand? It is a historic time for New Zealanders as the country is in the process of rebranding itself for the first time in over a century.
When the government first brought the flag change proposal to the public’s attention in 2014, it was met with total apathy. It was almost embarrassing how unpatriotic and uninterested kiwis were in the initiative. The only time people started voicing their opinion on the issue was when the government announced that the exercise would cost a hefty $26m. Then New Zealanders were up in arms as lobby groups tried to prevent the expensive exercise from going ahead.
The rest of us hoped that the investment would at least result in a great new design. You might think that with a $26m budget, the government would have commissioned the world’s top branding designers and artists, but no, in typical democratic Kiwi fashion every Tom, Dick and Harry was invited to submit their designs and suggestions to the flag-change panel. Irrespective of your design knowledge or credentials, you had the opportunity to rebrand New Zealand if you were up for it. Unsurprisingly, when the top 40 designs were revealed in August, many Kiwis weren’t impressed. The new designs simply didn’t resonate with most New Zealanders. When we looked at the designs, we didn’t feel a natural affinity with them, they didn’t speak to us.
According to marketing theory, branding is considered to be the “face” of a company. A logo is meant to be memorable and easily recognisable, and most importantly, reflect a company’s principles and philosophy. This idea may provide insight into why the new flag designs have not been well received by the public. Two of the final four designs feature an intricate silver fern pattern, which if we’re honest has really just become a pretty picture. The silver fern and Southern Cross symbolism do not communicate kiwi values or kiwi philosophy whatsoever. Therefore, they are not really suitable to feature on our national flag.
One logo that is undeniably strong and effective is Apple’s logo. The symbolism is powerful primarily because it depicts the company’s core philosophy. In 1977, the US was experiencing a technology revolution. Computers were slowly becoming part of people’s everyday lives and consumers were curious about what the future of computers would hold. When brand designer Rob Janoff was tasked with creating a logo for what would become the largest computer company in the world, he sought a symbol that would ultimately represent curiosity. He took inspiration from the story of Adam and Eve and the tree of knowledge. In this story, Adam and Eve were forbidden from eating an apple hanging from the tree of knowledge. However, they were overcome by their curiosity and temptations and ate the apple anyway. Janoff believed that an apple with a bite out of the side represented boldness and curiosity. Janoff’s considered design would represent a computer company that was always curious and wasn’t afraid to pursue new knowledge and understanding. Rumour has it when Janoff presented his logo to Steve Jobs, he didn’t need to explain what the symbolism meant, Jobs knew straight away.
Like Apple, many companies rebrand themselves as a way of informing the market that they’re aware of the times and are ready to evolve with them. Rebranding also serves as a symbol that the company is growing and seizing the opportunity to invigorate the brand for both external and internal audiences. Another reason you might consider rebranding is if you wish to appeal to a different audience. For example, Telecom changed their name to Spark in 2014 as market research suggested that younger customers would be more interested in doing business with Spark than with Telecom.
Small branding changes can really make a world of difference if they’re implemented for the right reasons. I suppose the best way to know whether to rebrand your business is if you can stare at your logo and still feel inspired and energised. If you feel that your company’s logo no longer makes a significant impression on you or your customers or you feel that it does not convey your company’s philosophy, it might be time to update it.