Proactive vs. Reactive Rebranding

Updated 3 months ago by Shannon Healey

Learn to recognize the nuances between these rebranding approaches to see how your brand resiliency, preparedness, and strategy stack up.

Breaking news: rebranding projects are kind of a big deal. Ok, so maybe that’s not a secret, but they’re commonly misinterpreted, undervalued, or hastily simplified. A rebrand is much more than a new logo, comes in a variety of types and costs, and carries massive value when done well. After all, rebranding projects present a chance to uphold (or reinvigorate) a strong brand presence and, ultimately, business success.

There are two paths toward a rebrand: proactive and reactive.

While it may be tempting, I urge you to resist defining these actions as merely offensive or defensive tactics. Yes, there is some of that, but there’s a hearty meze platter of factors that contribute to the contrasting scenarios.

Proactive rebranding is a planned, calculated effort driven by strategy. Reactive rebranding is a response to a series of events or a major situation.

Easy enough. Now, let’s get to the nitty gritty – some of the reasons that encourage these methods – for the full picture of what sets proactive and reactive rebranding apart. Friendly tip: you might even start to think of how you could handle certain cases as they apply to your brand.

Be Ready For It – Proactive Rebranding

The term proactive, regardless of context, is about preparedness and having the ability to anticipate necessary steps before needing to take them. Apply that reasoning to rebranding and you’ve got an approach that’s deliberate and forward-thinking. Brands with a keen sense of awareness (of themselves and the market) are just the sort you’d find engaged in a proactive rebrand. Some instances that would cause this:

  • Good Stuff in the Works: New services, products, or facets of the business have been developed, or are on the brink of being launched. The change or additions shouldn’t feel forced, but rather need to naturally integrate into the business. Rebranding can solve this hiccup on a holistic level while holding the core of the prior brand intact.
  • 1999 is Calling: Maybe the brand’s been around for a while and lost a bit of its luster. A little patina can be a good thing, but when a brand feels out of touch or has fallen to the wayside, a rebrand is a way to bring life back from the inside out. Regaining relevance doesn’t (usually) happen overnight, but good things are possible when a brand has a sense of place and confidence.
  • Shifting Focus: Say there’s a new company strategy that could have a critical impact on the business and the brand – it’s key for all components to align. Or, perhaps a new target market has been introduced, impacting directives for interdisciplinary teams. A rebrand would reflect the change across the board, for internals and the audience.
  • Bigger, Faster, Stronger: Growth in numbers or planting flags in new places is amazing, but not without brand impact. Often perceived in the physical sense, expansion can also refer to a digital brand establishing a brick and mortar. It’s only fitting to reflect the evolution with a rebrand – a milestone and level-up.

Roll With It – Reactive Rebranding

On the other side of the coin, there’s the reactive rebrand. It’s the one that probably wasn’t on the immediate to-do list, but was unexpectedly triggered, causing a total rethink of the brand on a fundamental level. A few reasons why that might be:

  • Going Through Changes: Has there been a buyout, or major changes at the top of the organizational tree? With revamped leadership, a parent company – or fresh-pressed hybrid organization – this likely means a new mission, vision, roadmap, and so forth. The change can feel like an earthquake, and a rebrand is a must to rebuild a strong foundation.
  • Fierce Competition: No brand wants to get left behind, but if the other guys are doing it better, being more innovative, or simply monopolizing the market share, well, it’s time to step up. The goal is generating sales at the end of the day, and there will always be competition and business trends to keep up with. Branding is one of, if not the key ways to set your product or service apart from the rest.
  • Got a Bad Rap: You’ve probably heard there’s no such thing as bad PR, but there’s arguably no better reason to run back to the drawing board then when your audience turns against you, or they’re hearing a lot of not-so-positive things about you. Yeah, not ideal. This could relate to any number of things from employee conduct to environmental impact, you name it; you may even consider changing it – the name, that is. Handle the situation with tact and speed, to take down the problem while it’s still manageable and reshape the narrative.

Nail It – Successful Rebranding

There’s not necessarily a better or worse approach; it’s all a matter of place and time – and whatever comes with it. With proactive rebranding, it’s inherently more about evolution, taking the next step, and keeping things fresh. Reactive rebrandings present the opportunity to flex your adaptability chops, change the tide, or show ‘em what you got.

Mind you, we’re talking about successful rebrands, not belly flops that end with a cringe-worthy “ouch” or reversion to the old brand; that generally doesn’t bode well for business. In either scenario, the trick is being honest and open with your audience, letting the authentic values of a brand – and quality of the product, service, or whatever represents – shine through.

Are you still with me? If you’re digging this rebranding stuff, you might be interested in reading about the right time to begin a rebrand, or bookmarking our good-to-knows before you begin if you’re on the brink of one of these game-changers.

Shannon Healey

Content Creator