How (NOT) to Rebrand: a WWE Case Study

How (NOT) to Rebrand: a WWE Case Study

*Opinion piece... do not sue :) *

Rebranding is an important step in any brand’s growth: it’s not uncommon to find that you’ve outgrown the branding you’ve had since day one, or your original branding might be a little outdated. However, if you don’t go about a rebrand in the right way, it’s very easy to set yourself up for disaster.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a deep dive into what WWE are currently doing with their NXT brand…

Let’s get this out of the way first though; yep, I’m a wrestling fan.
Why? Big men and tiny pants are a winning combination, and for its storylines, calibre of the roster, and wonderful tiny pants, NXT has been my go-to brand for a while now.

NXT is WWE’s developmental brand, which gives it a looser, rougher, more real feeling to it, and that’s where it gets its charm. Of course, it helps that up until now it’s been run by HHH; Vince McMahon’s son-in-law. We’ll get to why a Vince-free brand is a good thing later on…

WWE has three major brands:
RAW – The Red Brand
Smackdown – The Blue Brand
NXT – The Black & Gold Brand

Recently, though, we’ve been seeing teasers of the “new NXT”, and it’s safe to say that the rest of the world just isn’t feeling it. Weirdly enough, it also isn’t black and gold.

Here’s NXT in its current state:

And here’s the “new NXT”:

There’s rebranding, and then there’s REBRANDING. The only way you could make these brands any more different is to add a few sparkles and a dancing unicorn to the new logo. It’s as if they listed every single attribute of the existing brand and said “this is everything we don’t want”.

Before we go into a long list of why the rebrand happened, and why it’s become such a car crash, here’s my personal take on it:

It looks like it belongs on Nickelodeon.

So, why are they rebranding?
1. The NXT ratings aren’t what they want them to be
2. Competition
3. Focus on a specific demographic
4. The Vince Factor

So, ratings aren’t what they want.
They’ve switched from Wednesdays to Tuesdays already, but they’re still midweek. I pretty regularly don’t know if it’s Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and I can’t be the only one, so I imagine it’s pretty tough to match their Friday night ratings to begin with. Marketing is always an issue… isn’t it always?

NXT just isn’t pushed as a “main” brand like RAW and Smackdown are. There are very few NXT wrestlers appearing in WWE’s games or major ads, and very few big names appearing on NXT. When Mandy Rose moved from RAW to NXT earlier this year, it was reported that she was “demoted” – how can the audience be expected to get behind a brand when the company sees it as less important? With poor marketing and not much of a cross-over with the “main” brands, you just can’t expect a big audience. Brighter branding doesn’t make your brand more visible if you’re not properly marketing it.

AEW is absolutely crushing it at the moment, and right now they’re probably NXT’s biggest competition. Their branding is darker, which does lead me to think that the NXT rebrand might be a response to their success (which they have achieved WITH this dark brand) – perhaps going overboard on the bright and colourful aspect is WWE trying to set themselves apart? Yes, it’s silly. I know.

It’s not just a visual rebrand, though. Supposedly, management of NXT is switching from HHH to Vince & Co. (and the world is weeping), and Vince wants to focus on younger, bigger wrestlers. This also means that they’ll be wanting to reach a younger demographic as they’re finding that their fanbase is aging, but it doesn’t mean that they’re done any research on who this demographic are or what they want. Take WWE’s recent work with Logan Paul for instance… nobody wanted that.

I’ve already mentioned my feelings about the new brand looking Nickelodeon-esque: the pre-teen Nickelodeon demographic isn’t who they’re aiming to bring in, but it appears that the thought process was simply “young people like bright colours” and that was that. No research; no talking to their audience; just a big assumption and GO.

And lastly there’s The Vince Factor… apparently a recent episode of RAW had its script ripped up three times on the day it was being broadcast, and not a single advertised match took place. Vince McMahon basically does whatever he wants. If Vince wants an uninspired rainbow logo, that’s what Vince gets. With the recent baffling releases of wrestlers such as Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman, it’s pretty obvious that nobody is in a position to question these incredibly bizarre decisions.

So, what can we all learn from this?

When rebranding, you need to identify and assess the reason for your decision. You need to research your target audience. You need to ensure that you’re not alienating your existing audience. You need to take the time to do it right, and if your brand is based on your palette (i.e. the black and gold brand) then it makes absolutely no sense to abandon that palette entirely.

What do you think of the NXT rebrand so far? Tweet your opinions @offbeatwebuk

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