Repositioning Versus Rebranding

by Brad VanAuken, BrandForward, Inc.

Question:
What is the difference between repositioning and rebranding?

Answer:
Rebranding has become quite popular, especially for brands that want to shed a previously negative image. For instance, Philip Morris rebranded itself to Altria. Rebranding is simply changing the brand’s identity. It typically includes changing most or all of the brand identity elements such as the name, icon, colors, type font and tagline. The identity change may also be accompanied brand repositioning.

However, a brand can be repositioned without changing its identity. Repositioning focuses on changing what customers associate with the brand. This usually entails a change in the brand’s promise and its personality. Taglines often change with brand repositioning (to communicate the new promise). And sometimes the identity itself is updated or refreshed to reinforce the change in the brand’s positioning. However, most brand repositioning projects do not result in completely changed identities. That is, usually the brand name does not change. And frequently, neither do the identity elements other than the tagline and perhaps a slight identity system updating.

Another way to envision this is to think of a brand as a person. If a person rebrands himself, he gains or loses weight, changes his hairstyle and color and wardrobe and perhaps even has plastic surgery. If the person repositions himself, he changes his values, attitude, personality or behavior. Any combination of these changes can occur together or separately.

In summary, rebranding is an identity change. Repositioning is a change in the brand’s promise, personality or other associations. These changes can be performed together or separately.

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