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How to manage a rebrand in the midst of COVID-19

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Rebranding can be difficult at the best of times. Companies fear losing recognition, customer retention and brand loyalty. With this in mind, rebranding during a global pandemic, when customers are far and few between? Seemingly impossible. 

That is what business entrepreneur Rebecca Klodinsky took on when she rebranded her swimwear company Frankii Swim to IIXIIST in March this year.

Having built the brand from the ground up as a 24-year-old, Rebecca has juggled multiple rebrands, a saturated market, and the economic impacts of COVID-19 to mould IIXIIST into the $7 million a year business it is today.

When Rebecca founded IIXIIST as Frankie in 2012, she unknowingly filled a hole in the market for versatile, fashionable yet affordable swimwear.

“When I was at uni, I just couldn’t find a bikini that fit perfectly and was in my price range,” Rebecca said. “My friends were buying swimsuits from top tier brands that were so expensive, but other than that, you only had Target or Kmart.” 

As someone who actively practices yoga, Rebecca wanted a suit she could wear to the beach, but with enough structure to wear to the studio as well. Shortly after finalising her designs, she packed a backpack to go find manufacturers in Indonesia. 

Rebecca described this time as “new and exciting” as e-commerce was yet to hit its stride. 

“I started a little online store and an Instagram page. I remember googling what exactly a hashtag was and what it does,” she laughed. 

“No-one really knew what was happening with e-comm at that time, it was all so shocking and interesting.”

Rebecca has built her multimillion-dollar swimwear brand twice, having to first change from Frankie to Frankii Swim, and then from Frankii Swim to IIXIIST, a dual-relaunch that came down to an overly saturated market filled with businesses that all sound the same.

However, after spending years in and out of lawyers offices, doing everything in her power to save the second brand change, Rebecca decided enough was enough; it was time to take the leap to a name that was bold and stood out on its own. In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia, Rebecca rebranded her business as IIXIIST. 

“Rebranding as the pandemic hit was initially quite tough,” she says. “In the beginning, I did freak out a little bit and thought, ‘My God, this is the end of me.’”

“People were experiencing mass job losses and had no pocket money to spend on things like bikinis. On top of that, everyone was in lockdown and not able to travel for spring break or the European summer, which is usually our busiest time of the year.” 

However, Rebecca used the pandemic as an opportunity to combine a new marketing strategy with her rebrand, to come out of the pandemic stronger than ever. 

“We could trickle the rebrand into the messaging of a new marketing strategy which meant the rebrand wasn’t as hard and fast as we initially planned.”

“Usually you’re selling the dream, but now we have to sell the reality. We focussed on people staying home and getting customers excited to share images in their swimwear at their houses.” 

When asked what advice she would give to retail businesses trying to stay afloat during COVID Rebecca simply said: “Wait it out.” 

“Take it slow, utilise this time to get your messaging right. The retail sector is getting washed out at the moment, so if you can wait this period out until we see it correct itself that’s what I would do.” 

“No one wants to be sold to right now, so if you’re looking to make any moves make sure you’ve got the money to do so.”


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Ellie Dudley
Ellie Dudley
Ellie Dudley is a journalist at Dynamic Business with a background in the startup space and current affairs reporting . She has a specific interest in foreign investment and the Australian economy.