To rebrand or not to rebrand… that is the question!

As a PR/marketing communications professional what are the things that keep you up at night? That next big deadline… a looming crisis… your next big event…

What about a rebranding?

If you’ve been through a rebranding you know it’s kind of the big kahuna when it comes to keeping you up at night. It’s a BIG deadline with probably a BIG announcement event and a definite chance that people will HATE it and you will have a crisis on your hands!

So why do it? Why subject ourselves to this stress and the unknowns that come with a rebranding? Will it really be worth it? Will people’s perception of my brand really change just because I change my look? Could it actually cause me more harm than good?

These are all questions we must ask ourselves when deciding whether a rebrand makes sense for our company.

In 2015 my team at Dayton Children’s Hospital found ourselves in this exact dilemma. Major changes were happening at the hospital but after completing a brand study where we surveyed consumers, employees and external physicians we realized that people’s perceptions of us were not where we wanted them to be. They did nverot know about all the amazing things happening at the hospital and the incredible changes that had been happening since 2012.

Something had to change.

So we started asking ‘should we rebrand?’ Our CEO was open to the idea but needed to see some options and hear the story behind them before we could make a decision.

After working with local design firm, Graphica, we took 27 design options and narrowed it down to three to share with leadership. Ultimately we were able to narrow it down to one and with a few tweaks and a lot of love it eventually became what you see today as Dayton Children’s “whirligig” logo.

There’s a lot more to this story which I’d be happy to share with anyone over coffee… but this blog isn’t just about Dayton Children’s rebranding. What about your company? Are you sitting at the same crossroads that we were in 2015?

Having been through what we consider a successful rebranding here are my top three questions to ask yourself before heading down this path…

  1. What story are you trying to tell? At the heart of it all a rebranding is not about a logo. It’s about changing people’s perceptions around the story you want them to believe about your brand. We knew we weren’t the small community children’s hospital anymore that people knew us as, but with a 42-year-old logo, that image was still in the community. Unless you had experienced the “new” us you would have no idea that anything had changed. A new brand identity allowed us to tell the story of our transformation. During our brand launch we even had a dad share the incredible story of his daughter’s brain surgery and say how he has lived in Dayton all his life and this isn’t the same hospital anymore. Having him reiterate that story we wanted to tell made the launch all the more powerful and kept the focus on the STORY rather than the LOGO.

  2. Do you have leadership buy in for a FULL rebranding and all that comes with it (budget, time etc..)? Throughout the 42 year history of our “people” logo we had made multiple tweaks to the mark, but none were significant. Therefore we never took the time to change out every little thing that had our logo on it. Before we rebranded you could walk around the hospital and see five to six different versions of our logo all over the place. Consistency was nonexistent. When we were making the decision of whether or not to rebrand we had to make sure that senior leadership was on board with making sure we could actually do a full rebranding. We engaged an outside firm to help us determine what the cost would be of rebranding versus just getting consistent with our current logo. Once we announced our logo we worked with an internal project manager to ensure we had a plan in place to replace the thousands of assets that had our mark on them. Some companies have the bandwidth to do a big bang rebrand where everything is changed overnight. We did not have that luxury. It took us a good year to get things done and even now, two years later, we still find pieces that pop up out of nowhere with the old logo on it! Ultimately we’ve been successful because we had commitment and leadership from top down to make sure people knew this was a priority and why we were doing it.

  3. Are you ready to address the naysayers and hold strong to your decision? With any rebranding you are going to have people who love it and people who hate it. We still sometimes get people contacting us telling us how much they don’t like it… especially our choice to go with all lowercase letters for the words! If you are going to rebrand, it’s not a matter of if people will have strong opinions, it’s a matter of how they will share them and what you will do about it. We had a comprehensive communication plan before our launch. We made sure we shared the logo with our employees first and addressed their questions the day before we launched it to the public. We needed them to be on board as much as possible before everyone knew about it. Then we had a long list of FAQs that helped us to answer questions we got on social media and from the media about the change. You’re never going to please everyone, but thanks to the work we put in ahead of time of knowing the WHY behind our rebranding we were able to change some of those naysayer’s minds! My success moment in this area was after a conversation with a volunteer who did not like the change. After I explained to him the why behind the rebranding and the story behind the logo he said “Oooo… well I didn’t know that! That makes more sense. Ok, I’m ok with it now.”

So if you’re thinking about rebranding I wish you all the luck in the world! It’s a whirlwind adventure but a fun one at that!


Grace Jones, PRSA Programs Co-Chair
Consumer Brand Director, Dayton Children's Hospital

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