One of the most talked about commercials from Super Bowl LIV was the somewhat disturbing killing off of the aristocratic Mr. Peanut, a campaign run by Gary Vaynerchuk's VaynerMedia. Many viewers were confused, and some were appalled, taking to social media to grieve (as intended). The mourning didn't last long. In a later Super Bowl commercial, Planters graciously sprouted Baby Nut (complete with its own merch store) from Mr. Peanut's grave to carry on the top-hat-wearing peanut legacy. Quickly, a #babynut hashtag was trending, memes were cranking, and people were talking about an anthropomorphic infant legume. That was the whole point.
Love it or hate it, Baby Nut will become a textbook case study of a brand refresh. Planters' history with Mr. Peanut dates back 104 years when a grade school student designed him as part of a contest. By any measure, a 104-year-old brand icon is probably seen as outdated, even though Mr. Peanut did have the occasional update over his lengthy years.
Though the reaction was mixed, Baby Nut brought Planters attention, relevancy (consider the current popularity of Baby Yoda and Baby Groot), word of mouth, trending social media hashtags, and emotional connection. Is you brand doing that? Here are four signs you might need a brand refresh (or relaunch) of your own.
1. Your brand is stale.
Peanuts last six to nine months in the pantry, so Mr. Peanut's 104-year run is impressive. Joking aside, there's no hard rule for when a brand becomes stale. Effective messaging and design changes with time, and in some industries that change is faster than others. Make a practice of periodically scanning your competitors' brands to make sure you're on top of when a refresh might be in order.
2. You need a separation because of negative perceptions or opinions.
Often, a refresh isn't enough. Brands are made up of multiple elements, including design, logos, messaging, mission, culture, and customer opinion. In some cases, a complete departure from the old brand is in order to remove lasting affiliation with a scandal, poor public opinion, or a huge mistake. As an example, one of the biggest rebrands in history was Philip Morris's changing its name to Altria Group in 2001 to create separation from the negatives related to tobacco (this didn't last, by the way).
3. Your customer base has shifted.
If dynamic market trends, a change in core offerings, or fresh growth initiatives serving new markets have shifted your customer base, a brand relaunch may be in order. It's a big undertaking requiring extensive market research, strategy, and execution efforts. A good example is Google's decision to rebrand as Alphabet. As Google eyed investments in other areas of technology like driverless cars and smart home tech, creating the Alphabet brand allowed a distinction between the larger organization and the search product we all know as Google.
4. Your brand never worked from the beginning.
Running a business means you're all in. It also means your passion may bring the side effect of a blind spot around the efficacy of your brand. In this case, you love your brand and it excites you, but it's not resonating with your target audience for reasons you don't understand.
Keep an ear to the ground for cues your brand has issues, such as when customers confuse you with a competitor, can't remember your name, misunderstand your offering, and so on. If that's the case, prioritize bringing in an outside branding firm to lend an objective eye and recommendations to set you back on course.
Branding is a critical element of any business, and tinkering with it may feel like a dangerous and expensive risk. A thorough rebrand (and even a refresh) can indeed become expensive, and may certainly present uncertainties. However, considering the consequences of doing nothing and watching a branding mismatch continue to manifest in poor results, it may well be a risk worth taking.