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Celebrity Rebranding 101

Published on December 15, 2017, at 7:20 a.m.
by Lexi McKenzie.

Celebrities have been rebranding themselves for years but lately, public figures seem to be changing up their images left and right. The popularity in rebranding begs the question, what exactly goes into the rebranding of a celebrity?

Rebranding is the process of changing or shifting an already existing “brand“of a person or a business. Attempting to alter the pre-existing opinion of a key public is a difficult task and includes careful planning and execution.

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When is it time for a rebrand? 
How does one know when a brand needs to be revitalized? Michael Butler, founder and CEO of M3 New Media, said if a company is losing market share, it is time for a rebrand. In other words, if a brand is not reaching its desired market fully, it is time for a change.

Brand assessments need to happen at least twice a year, but the more often a brand is assessed, the better off it will be.

Julia Bonner, founder and president of Pierce Public Relations, said a brand is something to be aware of all the time; people should never grow complacent with their brands because the world is always changing

“Sometimes people think a rebrand only needs to happen when a crisis occurs, but that isn’t the case,” said Bonner. “The bottom line it’s important to stay relevant to the people you want to reach.”

What do rebranding for a company and a celebrity have in common?
A rebranding campaign would look different for a company than it would for a celebrity, but there is some common ground between the two. According to Bonner, the biggest similarity between them is the way the rebrand is initiated.

“Whether it’s a company or individual that’s thinking about a rebrand, sometimes it stems from the same issues,” said Bonner. “Whenever your brand is challenged, it is a good time to think about where you are and where you want to be.”

According to Bonner, the biggest difference in rebranding a company and a celebrity is the execution of the rebrand. She said for a company, a rebrand might include changing tangible elements like its logo or letterhead but celebrities might want to expand the types of projects they take on and broaden their platforms.

Photo from Pexels

How do you plan a rebrand campaign?
The first step in planning any campaign is determining the goals. M3 New Media will sometimes will go on a retreat with its clients to establish the key messages before it moves any further. Butler said understanding how a client does business is necessary to run a successful rebranding campaign.

Public relations professionals need to understand where a brand should be by determining the goals of their client and then figure out how the brand is going to get there.

The current position and situation of the brand need to be assessed before any other steps can be taken. Bonner said if a client does not think they are reaching their target audience as well as they could, it is time to figure out what needs to change.

How do you measure the success of a rebrand campaign?
After putting in the intensive work for a rebrand campaign, how can one tell if all that work paid off? The answer is to look at the numbers. Butler said that assessing social media reach, online shares and mentions are ways to determine the success of the campaign.

“It all comes down to the money; everyone is competing for the consumer spend,” said Butler. He said sometimes you will instantaneously know if the campaign was successful and other times, it can take up to two quarters, or six months, to determine.

Celebrities need to figure out where they are going before they can determine if a rebrand was successful.

“Say an artist has been known for being a musician for most of their career, but they also want to be known as someone who elevates young women within the industry,” said Bonner. “Success in this situation might include getting asked to speak at colleges and women’s conferences or getting interviewed on relevant topics by outlets that reach the desired audience.”

What are some successful cases of celebrity rebranding?
There have been many successful cases of celebrities altering their brands, some more successful than others. Butler and Bonner both mentioned Martha Stewart as an outstanding case.

Martha Stewart started out with a small following in the 90s, was then arrested for insider trading in the 2000s, and managed to develop a massive empire. Bonner said Stewart’s brand has stayed really focused on creating home and lifestyle products and content over the years, and she has been able to expand it to all different areas including cooking, entertaining, gardening, crafting and more.

Jessica Alba is another example of someone who was able to give her brand a makeover. “She went from being an actress and being known for very distinct roles in films to CEO of the Honest Company,” said Bonner. She said Alba realized where she wanted to go and figured out a way to get there.

Is there any branding advice for young professionals?
Developing a brand needs to be intentional, said Bonner. It must be centered around your values and the perception you have of yourself. She said you have a brand, whether you are being intentional about building it or not.

Bonner said the best way to begin assessing your brand is to ask people close to you about words they would associate with you, whether it be professional or personal. She said to then see if you feel what is being said about you matches up with what you want your desired brand to be. If not, it is time for a rebrand.

“If you don’t have clarity about what it is that you value in your own personal brand, you’re not really building toward anything,” said Bonner. “If you’re intentional with your personal brand, you will open more doors of opportunity for yourself because you know what you want and can begin taking steps to get there.”


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