In our monthly “SKU View” series, Food Entrepreneur is tapping the expertise of mentors at SKU, a consumer products accelerator based in Austin, to deliver timely insights on issues that affect early-stage food and beverage brands.

AUSTIN, TEXAS — A new brand identity can yield powerful results for a food or beverage company, but there are many factors to consider. Founders should understand the risks associated with rebranding, said Andy Kurtts, founder and creative director of Buttermilk Creative, a brand and packaging design studio.

Previously, Mr. Kurtts led the in-house design group at specialty grocer The Fresh Market. He also is a SKU mentor.

He shared some tips and a case study for how to execute a successful rebrand.

Food Entrepreneur: When and why should a company consider rebranding?

Andy Kurtts: When a rebrand needs to happen can be a little more objective. There are a ton of factors that go into determining whether you need to rebrand or not. Below are a couple of examples we’ve seen why there needed a rebrand:

The existing brand and product are too narrowly focused on a certain customer or audience.

The brand is out of date — and it shows. Even Coca-Cola refreshes their look and feel every few years.

What are some of the challenges of rebranding?

Mr. Kurtts: As a founder, you’ll be reinventing yourself and your brand. This can be a very personal undertaking — and takes a lot of vulnerability and an open mind.

However, the benefits and energy that will be injected into your brand post-rebrand are worth the challenges. You’ll feel more inspired to present to investors and buyers. You’ll just have a better handle on your brand, which gives you more confidence.

Another challenge is the financial one. You’ll be reprinting everything, which poses lots of inventory management and financial challenges. But nothing is insurmountable, and you’ll have some overlap with the new and the old look, which is perfectly normal.

How do you ensure existing customers will embrace the rebrand?

Mr. Kurtts: Bring your customers and fans along the journey. There’s two tracks that need to be considered:

Your buyers and distributors — Let them know as soon as you've decided to make a change. It's just polite to give them a heads up. This doesn’t mean inviting them to be art director as you go through the design process (in fact that will infuriate your designer). Instead, after you’ve notified them about the change, ask for feedback or ideas on what they would recommend for the rebrand (remember, these are the people that have a direct connection to your retail customers, so they might know a thing or two about what will resonate). These folks will have great, practical advice to implement into your rebrand.

Your fans and customers — These are the folks that have supported you through thick and thin — they deserve a voice in this rebrand. So bring them along the journey, but in a very calculated way: For example when the project is about 75% done, send out a survey email with two options and gather feedback. Both options you would be happy with launching — so whatever they chose will work for you — but now your fans have helped in the process. They can now take ownership when they see it on shelves. Plus, you can thank them for the important help with the rebrand when you relaunch.

Are there any do's and don'ts when it comes to rebranding?

Mr. Kurtts: Don’t rebrand following a trend. Stay true to yourself, and a great designer can make that relevant.

Do the foundational legwork of figuring out your positioning, brand strategy, etc. — all of this will inform the look and feel of the brand.

Do listen to outside voices — just because you’re the founder, doesn’t mean you’re the target audience/customer.

What is an example of a successful rebrand that has helped drive growth?

Mr. Kurtts: A great example that we’ve helped with is the transformation of Macro Snacks to HA! Snacks (a SKU alum). The team worked with HA! Snacks founder, Justin Wiesehan, to refine his vision for his snack brand and help him develop his messaging, positioning and, of course, his name and design. Aesthetically we helped HA! Snacks have a much bolder presence on shelf and a look that appeals to a broader snacking audience. Some specific numbers around the rebrand success are:

Social media — 30% increase in engagement and following post-rebrand.

Online revenue — 115% increase in conversion rate online following rebrand, proving the rebrand broadened customer base and led to more trial and retention versus the previous "diet focused” brand. — Higher click-thru rates and conversion rates following rebrand, and higher review rating compared to Macro Snacks, with the same product in the bag. This can be attributed to a better brand experience from discovery, through purchase, unboxing, etc.  

Retailers — Landed key retailers like Neighborhood Goods, Foxtrot Market and SnackMagic, who were only interested in the products after the rebrand. Retailers who tried and sampled the products passed but then brought on board after the rebrand, proving the importance of a solid brand identity and consumer affinity with the brand.