The Art of Transformative Rebranding

Branding today has changed significantly from its past incarnations, thanks to technological advancements, changes in consumer behavior, a greater emphasis on corporate responsibility, and the emergence of social media. Nowadays, you’ll find that agencies consider branding a deeper, more strategic investment in a brand’s identity, vision, positioning, and customer experience. It’s nothing short of transformative, and its impact is the very same. 

But what does that really mean? Here’s one astute take from global brand leader Greg Hoffman: 

“Brands spend a lot of time thinking: What perception do we want our consumers to have of us? What they should be asking instead is: How do we want our customers, our clients, or our audience to feel about themselves and their ability to achieve their aspirations and dreams?” 
Greg Hoffman

This perspective leads to making branding more about a personal connection. Putting it into action gives brands the opportunity to be more flexible in all applications—which is certainly a challenge, but also a chance to show up in authentic, outstanding ways and, of course, to draw more of the right audience. 

Where should a business start regarding strategic, artful, transformative rebranding? What do these kinds of changes look like in practice? And, most importantly, what are the implications for your business? 

  1. Digital Presence and Engagement that Prioritizes Personalization

The shift to a digital-first landscape has changed what customers expect from brands. Consider: 

  • Then: Traditional branding meant a heavy reliance on print, television, and radio for exposure. It could afford to be more generic, using more one-size-fits-all messages to reach a broad audience. 
  • Now: Digital platforms, social media, and search engine optimization (SEO) are core to most all brand strategies. Engaging with customers directly through online platforms is the rule, not the exception. This means using targeted content, interactive experiences, and personalized products and experiences. Brands are expected to cater to consumer needs and preferences and tailor content and communications accordingly. 

Which brands have mastered this? Nike is consistently relevant in branding, and that’s the case when we talk about digital presence, too. Nike excels at using digital platforms like its Nike Training Club and Nike Run Club apps. Both encourage consumer engagement through personalized workout plans, tracking features, and a connection to a larger community.

Your brand can learn from Nike — for effective digital presence and personalization opportunities — by leading with authenticity. Know your audience in-depth and in detail, and understand its needs. That’s how you’ll determine what unique offerings can make your brand a go-to for meeting those needs.  

  1. Values-Based and Purpose-Filled Practices 

Consumers are increasingly looking for brands with a purpose beyond profit, and they want to hear what businesses are doing to fulfill that. So your brand can’t take transparency for granted, a pointed change from past trends. 

  • Then: Businesses were more focused on product features, benefits, and brand image. They did not typically have readily available information about company practices, sourcing, and operations. 
  • Now: Sustainability, ethical practices, and diversity and inclusion aren’t just nice to have — they’re necessary components of a brand’s identity. Brands should communicate values clearly, take stands on social issues, and provide transparency about practices and product origins. All of this builds consumer trust and long-term loyalty. 

For a great example of this, look no further than Patagonia, which has spearheaded this approach for decades. Lifetime product guarantees and regular environmental advocacy make Patagonia a massive draw for consumers who want their purchases to make a difference. Another brand doing this well is the sweatshop-free clothing company Everlane. An emphasis on “Radical Transparency” in its supply chain, and consistent sharing of details about product costs and manufacturing processes, make Everlane stand out. 

How can your brand adopt these approaches? It’s a platitude, but it’s true that actions speak louder than words. Take steps that prove your brand does more than give lip service to causes. Sharing stories is one way: using content and advertising to amplify what your brand does to honor its values. And don’t overlook consumer empowerment, which Patagonia gets right: demonstrate to consumers that engaging with your brand has a real social impact. 

  1. Creative Consumer Engagement that Leads to Co-creation 

One of the biggest shifts in branding has been with the brand-consumer dynamic. 

  • Then: The brand-consumer relationship was one-way, and feedback was largely limited. 
  • Now: Brands actually encourage engagement and feedback, whether that’s through social media, online communities, or review platforms. A shift toward co-creation means consumers have a say in product development, branding, and marketing strategies. 

This change requires an extra dose of creativity. How can you take action on consumer participation and co-creation to get audiences truly excited to engage with your brand? 

Consider LEGO’s approach: through its Ideas platform, fans can submit their own designs for new sets. Designs that get the most community support are reviewed by LEGO, and can even potentially become official sets. The recognition and royalties creators can gain from this kind of engagement is a huge draw — as is the opportunity to share their genuine enthusiasm for LEGO. Whether your brand goes a more tangible route like LEGO or one of clever social media engagement, the key is showing consumers they have an active stake in your brand, and that their input has strategic value. 

multiple shapes of legos stacking
LEGO encourages fans to submit ideas for set designs which results in high engagement.
  1. Social Media-Informed, Partnership-Driven Content Marketing and Storytelling 

It would be impossible to explore transformative rebranding without speaking to social media, influencer partnerships, and content marketing. Social media has changed everything and leveled the playing field enough to create a new category of minor celebrity-cum-salesperson — influencers. The presence of social media and influencer marketing has made content marketing integral to brand strategy. 

  • Then: Direct sales and promotional tactics defined businesses’ marketing efforts. Social media was not a significant factor in branding strategies (and for years was not a factor at all, since it didn’t yet exist!). 
  • Now: Content marketing and storytelling are vital—not using them would be unthinkable. Brands need to craft narratives that are emotionally resonant with consumers in order to be memorable and build loyalty. Social media platforms are essential to branding because they offer ways to reach large audiences, engage in real-time, and leverage influencer partnerships for more authentic promotion opportunities. 

These new circumstances mean brands must prioritize and utilize personal connections. Brands looking for inspiration in this realm should note Gymshark, a fitness apparel and accessories brand that grew exponentially through partnerships with fitness influencers on social media. This route allowed Gymshark to leverage their communities to build a stronger brand presence. 

When it comes to powerful content marketing, look to The Sill, an online plant store that regularly shares care guides, tips for plant care, and stories about plants’ benefits. This simple but straightforward approach transforms products into a foundation for an entire lifestyle that, again, begins and ends with community. 

three potted plants with small signs in the pots
The Sill focuses on community needs by providing plant care guides.

Follow these examples by remembering the importance of human connection to telling a memorable brand story. What kinds of communities resonate most with your brand, and how can you draw them in on a personal level? What kinds of content will encourage their regular engagement? Are there influencers in your industry building community with their own content — and can you loop them into your brand strategy, too? 

Become a Brand Ready to Adapt to Anything 

The lesson at the heart of transformative rebranding is that brand evolution has transformed in and of itself. In the past, it was more deliberate and gradual. In today’s fast-paced, uncertain environment, brands need to be agile and adaptive to market fluctuations, consumer behavior, and global events. So if you think your brand will last another two years, think again. 

The good news is that being constantly attuned to your brand’s presence means building the foundation to create original, unique products and to be a major industry force. Of course, to do this well, it helps to have a partner who can deeply understand your brand and generate ideas to stretch it to new places. 

At Isadora Agency, we’ve made this central to our approach. We see the potential in every brand we partner with, and even when they’re seeking other kinds of projects from our experts, they walk away with more powerful, resonant brands. Explore the transformations we’ve made possible for past clients, and find out how this approach can empower your brand and your business for the long haul.

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