The nemesis of rebrands: Fear of change

Fear of change is understandable for various reasons. But it has to be overcome for your brand to stay relevant. Especially in organisations that have been around for a while.

Branding | 3 minutes read | Michael Gough

The nemesis of rebrands: Fear of change
The nemesis of rebrands: Fear of change

“The only thing to fear is fear itself.”


The Franklin D. Roosevelt quote is almost worn out. Almost.

But when it comes to the rebranding process, there’s still a lot of truth left in it.

That’s because updating a brand on whatever scale often starts with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement. There’s an appetite for change. The ideas flow thick and fast.

But after a while, reservations are expressed. Ambitions are restrained. Fear sets in. And the more complex the situation, the greater the fear.

Before long, the whole update stalls. Sometimes the plans are shelved entirely, never again seeing the light of day. On other occasions, what started as a bold, confident direction becomes watered–down and ends up being thoroughly uninspiring.

The only constant is change

So is it better not to bother? There’s no doubt that changing your brand takes a lot of effort.

So before we move on to overcoming the fear of change, consider how important change is for your brand.

Relevance needs to be maintained. Especially for organisations with rich histories. You don’t keep it by standing still. You have to keep adapting to articulate why you matter now.

Changing markets, audiences, and behaviours make reframing necessary. Without timely changes, a brand risks being perceived as out of touch.

Another consideration – especially for non–profit organisations – is the age profile of your audience. If you’re still targeting an ageing audience, they’ll need replacing sooner rather than later. And that means attracting a younger audience.

So change is necessary. But the fear of change makes it difficult.

The first step to overcoming it is to understand what you’re up against.

Fear of change is human nature. Unfortunately, we’re hard–wired to resist change in most cases. We like predictability. In fact, research has shown that we prefer a predictable negative outcome over an uncertain outcome.

So when we battle against fear of change in the boardroom and with internal stakeholders, we’re battling against human nature. This gives you some idea of the scale of the challenge you face.

Fortunately, there are ways around human nature.

At Sparks, we’ve learned a lot from working with brands with rich histories who want to find a distinctive edge in a noisy marketplace. And we’ve developed an approach that factors in fear of change. One that engages all the relevant people. Incorporating this engagement into the creative process means that your chances of success are much higher.

Bye–bye inertia.

These are the three ways that our process works with, rather than against, fear of change. 

1. Create certainty 

If you want to overcome inertia you don’t just need an inspiring vision. You need to create a sense of safety. That way, people are more willing to move forward with you.

The best way to create certainty is through clear and methodical processes. Tell people what steps you’re taking, why you’re taking them, and when they’re happening. Provide timetables. Show them the path ahead.

And from the start, communicate how rebranding will be beneficial – for individuals and the organisation as a whole. Keep the outcome in view. Our process is set up to give stakeholders these assurances along the way. 

2. Celebrate history

The people most closely associated with the last brand iteration are most likely to be defensive. The proposed rebrand threatens to undo all their hard work.

This concern is understandable. So it’s important to show that rather than replacing what they’ve done, the new direction will build on it.

We always develop ideas with an eye on the history of the organisation we’re working with. This is often fertile ground for creating directions that have continuity as well as freshness.

So work on celebrating relevant fundamental aspects of your company’s rich heritage. How can the rebrand nod to these moments?

3. Enlarge the circle of stakeholders

Any rebrand will have ripple effects. Done properly, it won’t just impact the marketing or communications of the business. It’ll touch on every aspect of it, sometimes on those you least expect.

To account for this, we help our clients to enlarge the circle of stakeholders. When people are consulted on the rebrand, they feel ownership of it. This lowers resistance to the change that’s on the way.

But we’re clear that this isn’t design by committee. Stakeholder input informs design, it doesn’t determine it. The idea is to get them in the room early so that they feel part of the change, not surprised by it.
Most inertia in the rebranding process is due to fear of change in some form.

So factor it into your rebrand from the start. And you’ll find that clarity of direction is maintained, giving you a much better result – for everyone.




Our use of cookies

This site relies on cookies to work. We'd also like to set optional analytics cookies to help us improve it.

You can read more in our Cookie Notice


We use cookies to protect our site and users, and to enable necessary functionality.

Analytics cookies

We would like to set Google Analytics cookies to help us to improve our website by collecting and reporting information on how you use it.