There are lots of reasons that a company might decide to rebrand its products after many years. It might want to ensure that its product line maintains its appeal for a new generation of consumers. It might aim to reinforce the quality and usability of its products with new, high-end packaging that speaks to those attributes. Or it might seek to unify a broad range of products with a cohesive visual language.


Jelmar’s recent rebranding was driven by all those motivations. But there was an additional benefit to the rebranding process that we didn’t foresee: we got to know our customers a lot better.


A company with a small staff wouldn’t necessarily choose to invest in consumer research prior to a rebranding, and we debated whether it was truly required. After all, it’s expensive and time consuming to gather opinions from broad samples of consumers—and given our large, engaged social media following, we have lots of opportunities to receive customer feedback about our products.


And yet, a formal research process has served Jelmar well in the past. When I first stepped into my father’s role as president, I decided to survey consumers to determine what mattered to them most in a cleaning product. That research led to the “greenvenient” reformulation of our products that has contributed to their continued popularity, even while environmentally friendly cleaning product lines from other major brands haven’t fared so well.


So we decided to learn more about how our customers feel about our current branding, especially our packaging. And I’m glad we did, because while many of our customers’ opinions confirmed what we already knew, a number of them surprised us.


For example, while we might have expected that some segments of our audience would consider it important to include a prominent EPA symbol on our packaging, we wouldn’t have predicted that the vast majority of our customers strongly believe the American flag image should appear on the front of our packaging. And while it wasn’t surprising that consumers as a whole favored a cleaner-looking packaging design with less text, we didn’t expect that they’d prefer subtle updates over a complete design overhaul.


Those insights helped start us down a new path—one that recognized that small changes could make a big impact on consumer favorability. For example, when we tested a particular product bottle in a focus group, consumers found its yellow color dull and unappealing. Then we gave that same bottle a slight metallic sheen, and suddenly consumers loved it. Their shift in perception reminded us of something important: we make premium products, and to sell them in less-than-premium packaging is to sell ourselves short.


And in my opinion, there’s an even broader lesson to be gleaned from our rebranding experience. CLR® occupies a category of rare products that consumers have depended on for generations. Our customers know our problem/solution TV ads, and they’ve shared our YouTube videos with friends on social media. We’ve become part of the broader culture, and we’ve been around long enough that multiple generations have developed a nostalgic connection to our brand.


That’s wonderfully flattering, and it’s also a huge responsibility.


A company’s leaders always run the risk of failing to see the forest for the trees, as the saying goes. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day details of running a company and lose sight of the big picture. But by connecting with our customers, we got ourselves to think not just about what our company makes, but also about what our company means. And meaning, ultimately, is what makes a great brand.