By Gary Knight, CEO at WOLF

Rebranding can be one of the most valuable exercises a company can undertake – transforming the brand and changing perceptions both equal commercial success – if it’s done well.

Typically the decision for a fundamental re-brand is driven by the ever-changing consumer market and the related product requirement. Technological advancements, competition and environmental issues are just some of the factors that influence and change consumer behaviour, which prompts a brand to consider its existing proposition.

And that is what we’ve done with The World’s Online Festival (WOLF). We’ve adapted to a changing marketplace. WOLF is an evolution of Palringo, the first chat application to go live on the Apple App Store.

After it launched in 2006, Palringo attracted more than 27 million users across 350,000 user-created social groups. The app saw particular success in the Middle East, where it thrived with users, notably for women, who built communities and made long-term friendships there, based on shared interests.

So why a rebrand? The business found itself perfectly situated between two exploding markets – online social platforms trending towards real-time rich-media entertainment, and the booming real-world festival phenomenon. This presented a great opportunity for the business, if we could adapt the product’s offering. It would maintain customer loyalty but also attract a new audience.

WOLF is the first app of its kind to offer a user-created festival environment filled with group chat, live audio shows, friendship and entertainment. It’s built on the foundation of Palringo but takes the business to an exciting next level. It has been a huge undertaking for myself and the entire business.

During the two year process we have had to ask ourselves some really challenging questions about the ‘why’ of our product proposition - and ‘why’ we needed a rebrand.

Embracing the opportunity for new

The first thing to understand about rebranding is, it isn’t about a change of colour, a name change or a fancy new logo. It involves a fully encompassing, comprehensive, strategic overhaul, across the entire business. It requires a huge amount of work, resource and investment so it’s vital companies take it seriously.

For us, the reality is that today’s consumer is almost unrecognisable from the one we were targeting when Palringo launched 14 years ago. Technological change is accelerating at an unprecedented speed, which is changing the way consumers interact with the apps, brands, products and services that they choose to buy.

Consumers want experience. They want entertainment. They constantly want more because they’re sold more. We saw an opportunity to embrace this change and adapt our offering to meet the new demand. For us, a rebrand gave us a license to take centre stage once again and make some noise.

Understanding your market

Talk to your market. Existing and prospective. Don’t rely on what you think they need. Ask them. At WOLF, we spent a year conducting extensive market research and testing which revealed the parallel that our digital product offered with real-life festivals. From here we evolved the WOLF app that allows users to create shows and chat using audio, as a layer on top of the group text chat that had been the company’s foundation.

We got to this point by taking our audience on the journey with us. We talked to them. We asked. Without that, how do you know what a rebrand should be, or if there is even a need for one?

Living your brand values

Every rebrand story must start with defining the core values and living them internally in the business. The brand itself is the visual asset but it’ll only be successful because of the product, the proposition and most importantly the people behind it. Ask yourself and your team where the brand is now, then ask, where does it need to be? Does your product, vision and culture support the new brand values. Are you authentic in living the new brand values?

The rebrand we’ve just gone through presented a great opportunity for us to talk to all of our employees and revisit our company vision and brand values together. Engraining those values into the business means everything that we do is aligned to what we want WOLF to be. The values play out in our product because the people behind it are living them. So, start inside, then work towards the outside and instil the values when going to market.

Embracing the risk of 'change'

Of course, change always exposes some degree of risk. While a new offering and brand identity can attract a new audience, there is a threat that the loyalty of some existing customers may decline. As the saying goes, ‘You can’t please everyone’, and you can’t.

A brand must do its homework on the market and only embark on the change when the risk is minimal and doesn’t exceed the opportunity. Luckily, since launching the rebranding, we have received a positive reaction and surprisingly little vocal resistance to the change.

Fully committing, top to bottom

When you’re thinking about a rebrand, you have to pull out all the stops. It is vital to have full commitment across the business and to enjoy the chance to create and work in the arena of uncertainty again. It’s exciting. If the budget doesn’t allow for a comprehensive research programme and potential product overhaul, then you might be better to wait. Remember, a new logo won’t fix a fundamental business problem. Product-market fit remains the absolute priority as ever.

We did it. It wasn’t straight forward but it was fun and invigorating to the whole business. We embraced the risk and we’re not looking back. We have a whole new set of challenges ahead of us but this is the next chapter of our story and we’re excited to see where WOLF will take us.