Is Your Brand Going through an Identity Crisis?

Brand Strategy
Identity Crisis

What happens if your brand makes a bold change and it backfires? Maybe your customers hate your new tagline or logo, or they think your new packaging is off-putting. Whatever the reason, you’re seeing a wave of negative feedback on social media – which feels pretty devastating when you’ve just invested time and resources on your project.

So how do you react? You really have only two choices: ignore it and hope your customer adopts your new branding, or address it and pivot. It’s a tough call. There’s no right answer. Airbnb and Yahoo rode out the criticism. Gap and Tropicana scrapped their redesigns. Slack is still TBD.

If your brand is having a similar identity crisis, know that you’re in good company, and you can make a plan to move forward. Follow these five steps to figure out which course of action is right for you.

Do a gut check.
Every day brings another trending topic on social media, and customers often dislike change at first. Many brand controversies burn out quickly and are forgotten by the next news cycle. Is that the category your crisis falls into? Will this go away on its own? Or is it serious enough that you have to address it? Try to set aside your initial emotional reaction. Make an educated guess based on historical examples, current social media chatter and your own intuition.

Slack, for example, said it redesigned its logo to achieve a “simpler color palette” and a “more cohesive visual identity.” And while some people love the new look, others have pointed out that the negative space in the logo looks uncomfortably similar to a swastika. Because of the nature of the symbol, and the gravity of its meaning, Slack executives need to consider their response – and its possible repercussions – carefully.

Assess the damage.
Look at the situation from all angles to determine how much harm it will cause your brand. Will it affect your business objectives – sales, customer retention, partnerships? Will it tarnish your brand perception, either internally or externally? Put yourself in your customers’ shoes; think about what you would expect from a company you support. Gauge the fallout so far and predict how intact your company will be when the dust clears.

When Tropicana rebranded its Pure Premium orange juice packaging in 2009, customers expressed their displeasure at the grocery store. They stopped buying the product en masse, and Tropicana took a severe sales hit. Dollar sales decreased 20%, around $33 million, in less than two months, and the brand quickly returned to its old packaging. The financial risk was too high for the company to double-down on the new design.

Weigh solutions.
Consider what you would need to do if you decide to pivot. What will it take to fix this problem? Do you only have one option – for instance, a complete redesign? Or can you take more moderate action, like removing the new tagline from your digital properties? What elements will you need to alter, from your social media profiles to your building sign? Take into account factors like budget, time and logistics.

Get an outside opinion.
Depending on the severity of your predicament, now might be a good time to talk to a PR agency with a crisis management department. Draw on their expertise to help determine your next steps. What response, if any, is appropriate? How can you address customer concerns in a productive way? Should you provide more context and background for your decision? Or do you simply need to accept responsibility for a mistake and apologize?

Be human, but make a business decision.
Ultimately, you have to evaluate all of this information and choose which route is best for your brand. Balance the human concerns – how your customers, employees and other stakeholders perceive your brand – with the bottom-line issues – what you need to do to keep your business running smoothly. And then make the call.


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