Rebranding mistakes are easy to make. This cartoon of Tom Fishburne about rebranding brought me memories of my time as Director of Research for Blockbuster Online when we launched a service called Blockbuster Total Access.
This service not only allowed you to rent movies online but also you could exchange online rentals for new movies at the store. The cool part was that you had movies to watch while waiting for new movies to arrive by mail.
Understand You are Not The User
As part of the launch, we decided to redesign the envelope used to send movies by mail to differentiate it from the old online rental service. We wanted to highlight the added value of the new service provided. As a result, we launched a rebranding exercise. We got more than 200 design versions of the envelope and logo from four creative groups (internal and external).
Fortunately, the Blockbuster Online group had a strong advocate for market research in our GM, Shane Evangelist. He refused to make a decision until we tested the options. He wisely understood that we were not the target audience. Without user feedback, we were just in a battle of personal tastes and opinions.
Due to such a large number of design versions, we first needed to narrow them down to a manageable number for testing purposes. We selected designs representing each school of thought from the different teams. This reduced the number of designs to around 30. We then ran several focus groups with different customer segments. This reduced the number to 12 designs, representing 3 different rebranding approaches. However, we still needed a winner. Consequently, we decided to run a MaxDiff exercise to quantify preferences.
Be Creative, But Don’t Ignore Brand Legacy
The rebranding exercise gave all the teams a creative high. Blockbuster was a known, mature brand. All teams tried to revamp and modernize it. Inspired by minimalism, some went so far from the brand’s history that it was unrecognizable. This happened to Tropicana orange juice a few years ago with devasting results.
Which design won? The one the designers liked the least.
The main advantage of this design was that it made brand recognition effortless by combining key brand elements grounded in familiarity. It had the traditional brand colors (blue/golden yellow). It was about movies, and the value message was clear. The quantitative research validated these insights.
Use Both Qualitative & Quantitative Research
The results didn’t surprise me. From the focus groups, we learned that this design covered all the basics. At the same time, it still managed to be appealing and scored high on simplicity. However, other designs were competing closely for customers’ attention and brand connection.
Focus groups are often used to test advertising and designs, but many agencies stop at that. Very few go the extra step of validating the results.
Focus groups are good for exploration but don’t give definitive answers. Although the focus groups gave us strong indications about the winning design, there was too much at stake to base the high-cost decisions we faced, on a couple of focus groups. For more about when using focus groups is appropriate, read When Using Focus Groups Makes Sense.
In short, to avoid rebranding mistakes, test, test, and test again with your target audience using both qualitative and quantitative research methods.