being ignored by everyone is worse than being disliked by some
A company releases their new brand and their oldest customers hate it. Most people would see this as a sure sign that the owners made a mistake. However, this might actually be the perfect response. A company should only rebrand if something significantly changes in their business. This usually means that your existing customers are no longer the right fit or that you need to expand your customer base. Polarising rebrands are powerful because being ignored by everyone is worse than being disliked by some. But not all likes turn in to customers. We will look at how polarising brands can succeed and how you can use this for your own business.
- Polarising v.s controversial
- Know your customers
- Show your why
Change is scary. That is true for most people. A big reason people buy from brands is because of habits and a consistency in getting what you expected. When a brand decides to make a big change, customers often feel uneasy but if the change is very small, it beckons the question why? You will never please everyone at all times so the decision to rebrand must be based on the assumption that the initial opinions will be followed by a stronger support than before.
Standing up for something important can bring purpose to your business and help forge a community around your brand
Polarising v.s controversial
Knowing someone’s dislikes can teach you a lot about them. There is even a dating app for it, Hater, which matches you with people sharing your frustrations. When brands take a stand, people take notice. The perfect example is Nike’s ad “Take a stand for something, even if it means losing everything” featuring Colin Kaepernick after he famously decided not to stand for the national anthem during the 2016 NFL season. By doing this, Nike took a stand against racial discrimination and kept their reputation of caring more about values than revenue. Standing up for something important can bring purpose to your business and help forge a community around your brand. However, not all polarising opinions are controversial. Take Red Vines and Twizzlers. In many families, you only buy one brand so there is a polarising effect of the two brands competing, but the topic is not going to spark a riot. All this to say that the purpose of being polarising is for people to feel a sense of belonging and the topic can be big or small. Don’t feel like your company has to take a controversial stand on a global topic if that is not aligned with your mission.
Know your customers
There are a lot of ways to learn about your customers. You can break down the data from your website traffic and sales. You can speak to existing customers and even ask people who stopped buying from you why they left. It is important to be clear on the difference between people who interact with your brand and your customers. In some cases, social media followers might just be in the early stages of your sales funnel but for many companies, social media is more of a vanity metric than a clear account of their customers.
When the fashion company Zara rebranded, they knew that their customers had changed. While their old customers were looking for simple style, their new customers were looking for luxury and sophistication for a reasonable price tag. Although polarising, the new brand made in partnership with Baron and Baron was very intentional, focusing on artful imagery and a slightly edgier version of their existing logo.
The new brand could partly be a response to other fashion brands like Mango lowering their prices to reflect the recession. Zara are not planning to lower their prices since they feel this could communicate a lower demand than expected. In light of this, the new brand focusing on more luxurious products means Zara can keep their prices and instead change their audience to people who are happy to pay a little more for their style.
Show your why
Nothing is better for business than underpromising and overdelivering. Customers are always weary about companies that pretend to stand for a good cause but never deliver. Be clear with why you decided to be for or against something and tell your story around it. Explain in a clear way how you work towards your goal and be transparent. If you are against plastic waste, show how your business has reduced your own use this year. You can even set a public goal and report your progress. If you are struggling to hit your goal, tell your customers and share what stopped you from getting there and what you have learned moving forward. Being honest and trying hard is more important than being perfect.
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