Branding vs. Rebranding vs. Brand Extension: What’s the Difference?

Ask 20 people their definition of branding and you’ll get 20 different answers.

Regardless, most will agree that branding is one of the most pivotal investments a business can make. When you have a strong brand, it converts to sales and customer loyalty. It gives you a referral base and insulation against the inevitable missteps every business makes. It’s why Toyota remains the world’s largest automaker despite embarrassing recalls the last few years.

While the value of a solid brand is immeasurable, the intricacies of building a brand can be difficult to decipher. Let’s compare and contrast the three main types of brand development – branding, rebranding, and a brand extension – so that you can begin to evaluate your organization’s branding needs.

Branding: The First Marketing Step for New Businesses
Entrepreneur.com defines branding as “a marketing strategy that involves creating a differentiated name and image — often using a logo and/or tag line — in order to establish a presence in the consumer’s mind and attract and keep customers.”

Being creative marketers, we could easily argue that this definition is far too shallow. A brand is so much more than a logo designi and tag line, and those two items are reached only after hours upon hours of strategy. But, for all intents and purposes, Entrepreneur’s description is adequate in that your brand is essentially the defining representation – or the “look and feel” – of your business.

Pure branding relates mostly to new businesses. Creative agencies like Netwave Interactive help to give visual and contextual identities (out of thin air!) to businesses so that they can launch with confidence. Just as we did with Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group.
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Rebranding: Re-Engage and Reconnect
If you have been in business even for just a few years, you already have a brand whether you realize it or not. In many cases, though, that’s by no means a free pass to ignore the importance of individual branding.

If your brand is indistinct and/or uninspiring, it will eventually become a major Achilles heel to your success (that’s if it isn’t already). Worse, if your business has been the subject of a scandal or public outcry, your brand might be recognized for all of the wrong reasons. In either case, a “rebrand” is usually in the cards. This means that your business needs a facelift – whether complete or just a few tweaks – to re-engage and reconnect with customers. Rebranding is also a catalyst for a reenergized internal company culture, as it gives employees something to get excited about.

A sterling example of rebranding is Old Spice deodorant. Over the years, it became known as the scent of old men, but thanks to witty commercials with former NFLer turned pitchman, Isaiah Mustafa, the brand’s new tagline, “Smell Like A Man, Man” is a hit. BusinessInsider.com listed Old Spice as one of the 10 most successful rebranding efforts of all time.

Rebranding: When Your Brand No Longer Fits
Rebranding is also necessary when company growth outpaces brand awareness. Mergers, acquisitions and growth can fuel the need to rebrand. One of our long-time clients, Manasquan Bank, has a 141-year history as a savings and loan association. They offer the same services as any large commercial bank, so they wanted a new brand that embraced their exceptional reputation for customer service while highlighting their e-banking capabilities and steady growth.

The result was a new logo, a new name (dropping the word Savings), and a rebranding strategy that “respects the past and embraces the future”.

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Brand Extension: Explore New Avenues
The growth of a business is determined by the ability of its leaders to identify and seize new opportunities. Most established and growing businesses eventually need a “brand extension,” which may arise with any of the following:

  • A new market
  • A new customer base
  • A new value proposition
  • A new product
  • A new service

A brand extension usually takes into account new customer types, geographies, and the addition of specialized staff. You are appealing to different audiences who may not recognize or value your brand. This is generally the least expensive and least time-consuming form of a branding strategy. You want to carry forward the best aspects of your existing brand, while adjusting it to simultaneously embrace the new audiences and avoid offending the current customer base.

Here’s an effective brand extension:

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Carl’s is the undisputed king of fencing in central New Jersey, with more than 25,000 customers. They want to leverage their high customer service rankings as well as their capabilities in related home improvement categories including roofing, siding, decking and windows.

Carl’s original logo and tagline screamed “fencing” and was holding them back. We designed the new logo that embraces their tag line, “Surrounded by the Best,” while instantly conveying that Carl’s can do all types of home improvements.

Let Us Help
At the core of any branding initiative is a clear understanding of how far your business has come, where it stands today, and where you want it to go in the future. We can help with that process, and manage all aspects of your branding, rebranding or brand extension from start to finish. Click here to see some of our work for past and current clients.