Undertaking a successful nationwide rebrand during a global pandemic


Making long-term decisions about the future of your franchise during a global pandemic is no easy undertaking – but, done well, the results of a shift in strategy can have a profound impact on your business. A successful rebrand will bring every part of your franchise together to create a clear and commanding message. And, whilst rebrands have been proven to have a palpable effect on your business when executed correctly, it will take comprehensive planning and imagination to achieve your goals.

Kevin Thackrah, Director of the UK’s largest pet-care service franchise, Petpals, has recently undertaken a transformative rebrand. Here’s how he and his team created the exciting fresh look and new business model.

Why do you need to rebrand?

As a business owner the first thing you must identify is: “Is it time for a rebrand?”. In the case of Petpals, the rebrand was not just about a change of logo or imagery but a strengthening of the vision, mission and values that makes our brand unique. It can be a tough journey deciding whether a rebrand is going to benefit you, your franchisees and your loyal customers. At Petpals, we have had massive success with our original branding which predominantly focused on the care services we offered for dogs. Before the rebrand, all our branding - from our website to our vans - had led with an image of ‘man’s best friend’. However, at Petpals, as our business has developed and grown, we have looked after a variety of incredible pets, so we felt our branding should celebrate that.

Therefore, even though we still have massive love for our canine best friends, we felt we should represent all the animals we care for at Petpals in our messaging. Another motive for undertaking a nationwide rebrand was the apparent value in offering Petpals with both the option to invest in an owner-operator model or as a management model. This was a big step in the evolution of Petpals, so we made sure we revisited our core values, mission, vision and training and support package before making the changes.

What is the demand for the service?

Another avenue to explore is the state of the industry - has the demand for your service changed during the development of your business? On Monday 23rd March 2020, the nationwide lockdown became mandatory and, by Tuesday 24th, our client activity dropped by 90%. Despite the obvious challenges we faced during this period, we also saw great opportunity in the increase of pet ownership. With 3.2 million* households acquiring a family pet since the start of the pandemic – and busy owners now returning to work – more people than ever are turning to the services of fully trained and experienced pet-care providers. So, as a result of this change, we revisited the rebrand plans we’d initially considered in 2019 as we felt this could help us connect with the growing marketplace. On the surface, it may have seemed risky to change an established brand during a difficult period. However, we felt the growth in pet owners offered a perfect time for us to introduce Petpals to a new audience. I believe we needed to be bold in order to capitalise on the growth of the market.

Due diligence is significant

If you’re going to make a powerful change to your business model you will need to do powerful research. Before the pandemic, Petpals was coming up to the 19-year-old mark, so we were already preparing to make the changes required to refresh our business model and customer offering.  Before the nationwide lockdown was enforced, we had formed a national focus group – made up of existing franchisees and representatives from our support team – to discuss the adaptions we could make to the existing model. One of Petpals’ core values is how teamwork will achieve greater results than individual effort, so we made sure we demonstrated this during the rebrand process. I think our initial images missed the mark to start with and as a result of franchisee input from across the network, we came up with our final branding. At the end of the day, the franchisees make up the Petpals family, so any rebrand would need their valuable input if it was going to be a success.

Get your message out

An example of one of the most significant changes we’ve made to the brand is how customers can expect to see a fresh design on our vehicles and uniforms. Our existing franchisees will be transitioning to the new branding in phases over the next few months. But one thing remains consistent - our commitment to excellence when it comes to caring for animals. We also maintained communication via social media throughout the pandemic, posting daily during the peak of the lockdown.

It goes without saying that the global economic and business environment during the rebrand have not been easy, however we feel that the changes will help us continue to be the UK’s leading provider of ethical pet care services. Despite the challenges that we were confronted with during the pandemic, we’re proud to say that we did not lose a single franchise during the period and our nationwide rebrand has been a success. Whilst a rebrand might seem like an overwhelming undertaking, with the right planning and execution it can be a successful way of communicating existing or new ideas to your audience and future consumers.

Kevin Thackrah is Director of Petpals, the UK’s largest multi-service pet care franchise. Petpals offers much more than a home boarding or dog walking service; it is a professional, tried and tested, successful business format which is fully supported by the Petpals team and nationwide network of franchisees.

* Pet Food Manufacturers Association’s Pet Population report 2021

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