Why a Rebrand Can (and Should Be) About More Than Just Your Image

October 14, 2014
October 14, 2014 Tom Allin

When I was still new to Full Contact, one of my first projects was tagging along with a client to learn more about the company’s sales process. Between stops, we covered a range of topics, including what exactly Full Contact was going to be doing for the company.

Still being fairly new to the account, I bumbled my way through an explanation that included – among a jumble of other words – the following three syllables: re-bran-ding.

The client looked at me nervously: “Rebranding? That’s a big word to use.”


I was reminded of this conversation recently when I attended a talk by Malcolm Gladwell at Future M and INBOUND 2014. In his talk, Gladwell spoke broadly about transformation and brands adapting to change.

But, what I took away most from Gladwell’s speech was his focus on reframing problems. Specifically, he told the stories of two men – David Sarnoff and Malcolm McLean – and how they reframed problems to revolutionize their respective industries.

Told simply: Sarnoff broadcasted the first live sporting event on the radio, while McLean developed the first widely used shipping container. In both cases, Gladwell explained, these two men reframed problems – and made tremendous changes as a result.

  • Sarnoff shifted the way consumers thought about the radio from (in the words of Gladwell) “A large expensive object that costs a month’s wages and brings me the news” to “A device that brings the world to my living room.”
  • McLean, the owner of a trucking company, saw that his challenge was not making one part of the shipping process (i.e. trucking or shipping) more efficient, the challenge was making the process of “getting from A to B more efficient.” Thus, the shipping container was born.

Gladwell continued: “Reframe the problem to make solutions possible.”

Naturally, this reminded me of my rebranding conversation. After all, in a lot of rebranding cases, a product/service/company isn’t going to change. What will change, however, will be the way that the product/service/company is talked about and considered.

Take Dunkin’ Donuts for example. Before they founded Full Contact, our two partners – Marty and Tim – led the creative team that created “America Runs on Dunkin’.”

Please understand: the product did not change, but the spirit of the business did. People were still going to buy coffee and donuts, but, now, it would be with an understanding that this was a necessary ingredient to getting through the day – just like the fuel in your car. By reframing what it did, Dunkin’ now stood for something – helping Americans (and America) work and thrive.

The company had been rebranded – and reframed.

Of course, at its worst and most cynical, branding can simply add shine to an otherwise uninspiring product. But, at its best, the act of (re)branding can help reframe how a product or a company solves the problems and meets the needs of its customers.

Take some time to consider what your business is really in the business of doing – and what it means to the people who use you. Reframing what your business does can positively affect all your stakeholders.

Sure, “rebranding” is a big word – but rebranding that also reframes has even bigger potential.


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