By Bo Mattsson, CEO of Cint

Building a brand’s integrity, heritage and loyalty are the three cornerstones of any marketing activity. Companies spend millions investing in PR, advertising, digital, off-line and below-the-line activity. Years are spent in the crusade to successfully market their products and services with the most notable goal of building brand awareness. I can appreciate that it is very easy to get lost in the moment when it comes to refreshing product literature and logos, especially when there is a new senior management in post, but to rush the decision to recreate a brand, potentially brings with it a lot of risk.

One such example that springs to mind was the Gap rebrand back in 2010. Within just days of launching its new logo, the international clothing giant had to axe its revamped iconography. The famous blue logo was replaced with simple black lettering on a white background and a small blue box in the top right-hand corner; the visual change caused uproar among customers with thousands taking to social channels Facebook and Twitter to voice their anger. To stop any further brand damage, Gap quickly returned to its old brand.

What seemed like a good idea at Gap HQ and probably was the outcome of many months, thousands of dollars and numerous resources to create, took an ungraceful nosedive; an expensive and embarrassing lesson learned for Gap. Investing in quality panel research with its key audience, before the considerable investment, would have not only saved them money, but also face.

This extreme example of a rebrand gone wrong stands as a stark warning for any business considering a corporate facelift. Which is why, no matter the size or sector of your organisation, customers should be questioned about what they think of your current brand and what impact it will have on them if you change it.

So where to start?

Market research doesn’t need to be expensive or overly complicated. There are plenty of free survey tools which can be used to seed your questions such as Survey Gizmo or FluidSurveys. If using the free tools, then there is normally a limit on the number of questions you can ask before incurring a cost; this is generally around 10 questions. It is therefore important that each and every question asked will provide a useful, relevant response.

Try to ensure questions aren’t leading and that any insight you glean from them helps build a better picture of how your brand is perceived. For example, asking which brands respondents have heard of in your sector will illustrate whether yours is immediately recognisable, or asking them which of the top four brands, including yours, they can describe the brand iconography may help you understand the brand heritage.

Equally important to asking the right questions, is speaking to the most appropriate people. My advice is to better invest in a quality panel of respondents who can answer questions about the brand. You may be lucky enough to have a database of customers that you can turn to and ask to take part in a survey or focus group, but if not, there are panels available, like the ones we have at Cint, which allow you to drill-down into niche audiences which best reflect your audience demographic. For example, if you have a pharmaceutical brand in the UK, you can speak to a panel of healthcare professionals, or if your products are for babies and young children then ask a panel of parents.

After research has been undertaken and audited, it may become clear that your brand already has strong equity and that the money earmarked for refreshing it could be better spent in another area of the business. On the other side, research may just further fuel the desire to rebrand and reinforce what you already thought, but the insight from the findings may better inform how the new brand should look and feel.

Investing in market research may appear to be an unnecessary expense from the outset, but in fact, it offers invaluable insight which could in the long-run, safeguard customers.