10/23/2014 | Dorie Clark

We all know how powerful brands can be. When we choose a product or service, we're not just looking at price. Instead, it's about the overall brand promise. It's the same with your middle market company. You've built a relationship with your customers, and your brand means something to them. That can be a valuable competitive advantage, but in certain circumstances, your brand may be holding you back. If that's the case, it's time to look at strategic rebranding. Here are the questions to ask yourself to help determine if your midmarket firm needs to consider rebranding:

Ask yourself five key questions to determine if your midsized firm may need a rebranding

  • Have your products or services changed? As your company has grown, your product and service mix probably has grown along with it. If you've been branding yourself for years as "the hardware superstore" but now stock a myriad of other items, many customers — especially those who don't visit you regularly — might not be aware of that. Think through whether your current positioning matches today's reality.
  • Has your audience changed? Another common issue as companies grow is that their audience changes. Perhaps you're now serving customers in a variety of regions or countries. Maybe you started out servicing small accounts and now you've worked your way up to partnering with the nation's most prominent companies. If such changes in audience and clientele are the case for your midmarket company, then rebranding might be in order. You want to be sure that you're presenting a contemporary vision of your business and the market that your business is reaching in order to give new customers an understanding of exactly what you have to offer.
  • How do you compare with the competition? It's also useful to conduct periodic assessments of the competition in your business sector. If your product mix and the clients that you serve have changed over time, your competitors' products and clients may have as well, so it's worth pondering whether you're as differentiated as you ought to be. Is it crystal clear why a customer should choose you rather than them? What do you offer that no one else does? Rebranding to better articulate the unique value that your company brings is a worthy endeavor.
  • Is your look up to date? When people talk about branding, a company's logo is the first thing that usually comes to mind. Branding goes a lot deeper, of course — it involves how your stores look, how your employees interact with customers, how your press releases are worded, and how you handle customer service complaints. The logo is still important, however, and it's easy for the aesthetics to become dated. Style that may seem cutting-edge at the time — the popular mid-2000s combination of brown and light blue comes to mind, or today's hashtag craze — may seem out of touch just a few years later. Periodically re-examine your company's look and feel to make sure that it's still relevant.
  • Has your business gone through a negative incident? Typically, a long-standing brand is a positive because of increased name recognition over time, but if your company has been associated with a negative incident in the past (such as a lawsuit, a personnel scandal, an industrial accident, or the like), it may prove too hard to overcome. You don't want potential customers to keep asking about a fiasco that happened years ago. In those instances, you may want to rebrand — changing your company name or at least your logo and look and feel — so that the association with the bad news fades.

As your midsized company grows, you can't assume that the brand that got you here will be able to take you to the next level. Examining how your company has changed and what that means for your brand will enable you to make better and sharper business decisions as you move into the future.

Have you had to rework your brand recently? Were there any unexpected considerations?

Dorie Clark is an NCMM contributor, marketing strategist, and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and the forthcoming Stand Out. Subscribe to her e-newsletter, follow her on Twitter, and circle her on Google+.