When brands are aging and sales start to plunge, they find themselves with no choice but to transform. In this fast-paced dynamic brand scene, the options are either transform or die. The Brandberries interviewed Ramel Kabbani, executive director of Landor Dubai, to get his take on how brands can undergo an effective brand transformation.
The Brandberries (BB): Brand transformation is a tough and bold strategic decision. What are the reasons that drive strategists to take a good, hard look at their brands?
Ramel Kabbani (RK): Strategists should constantly take a hard look at their brands and deploy the right approaches to make sure their brands are relevant and differentiated. Brands are living things—they grow, they age—and sometimes, they become obsolete. Capable strategists understand those realities and know when a brand transformation exercise becomes crucial.
BB: Currently, millennials are leading consumer markets. Are they more inclined to the status quo or do they embrace change?
RK: Millennials are a very paradoxical crowd. In 2016, we at Landor conducted a study about them and found that millennials want brands that stand for something while constantly evolving. So for instance, they expect brands to anticipate and embrace change, whilst also staying true to their heritage and provenance. Millennials want brands that feel personalized whilst being inclusive and fostering a sense of community. And they value brands that are principled, yet open to new ideas and co-creation.
BB: When mentioning brand transformation, “rebranding” is the buzzword. What does a rebrand do to a brand with plunging sales or slow growth? When is rebranding able to resurrect a brand?
RK: There are many factors that affect plunging sales or slowing growth. Rebranding could be the solution—if the problem is brand-related. A successful rebrand helps rearticulate the brand’s story and establish a coherent experience that creates affinity with audiences, while also sparking meaningful conversations and changing behaviours. Both internally and externally.
BB: Is a change in the visual brand identity effective without a revived brand experience?
RK: The visual identity is just a small part of brand experience. So the answer is no—it isn’t enough in isolation.
BB: One of the main challenges a brand faces during brand transformation is how to kick off its face-lift. Can you mention some tips and tricks for effectively unveiling a rebrand?
RK: I think the most important tip is to first unveil the new brand to your people, because your employees are your brand’s ambassadors. They need to understand it in order to embrace it and live it every day. Brands should be creative and as relevant as possible for stakeholders in the way they choose to unveil the new brand.
BB: How does a brand with a strong, well-known identity make the decision to rebrand without affecting its equity? Should it steer away from a revolutionary identity uplift?
RK: It is difficult to generalize as each case needs a tailored solution. What we should not do is adopt a one-size-fits-all approach.
BB: Gap and Mastercard are two examples of brands that have pursued a rebrand in the mature stage of a brand’s life cycle. Yet consumers responded differently. Gap’s rebrand has faced harsh outrage, and consumers asked for the return of the old brand that they loved. However, Mastercard scored it right. What did Gap do wrong that Mastercard did right?
RK: I am not sure of the reasons why Gap and Mastercard decided to rebrand. Obviously in Gap’s case, the reason for the decision and the extent of the rebrand were not in line with the true brand issue Gap was trying to solve. Perhaps in Mastercard’s case, however, this was done right and alignment between all factors was stronger.
BB: A rebrand does not only affect the visual identity of a brand, but also its culture—the core of the brand. How can brands tackle the internal culture challenges that erupt with the transformation?
RK: That is a great question because the success of a rebrand exercise is directly connected to the company’s culture. If the rebrand effort or program does not tackle and address behavioral change internally, then it is not going to transform anything and will lead to a rift between the existing culture and the new brand.
This piece was first published as “Articulating a Strong Brand Transformation: Q&A with Landor’s Ramel Kabbani” on The Brandberries (10 September 2017). Republished with permission.