You’ve got a niggling feeling you need to consider a rebrand, but you’re not convinced. When do you make that call? Is it an unnecessary distraction from what’s really important in the organisation? And if this is the right time, where do you start, how will you get this right?
Yes! Go ahead, because:
1. Our visual and verbal identity is all over the place
The branding is inconsistently applied. Just not professional enough. Different people in the team produce customer-facing materials that look off-brand and amateur – no one seems to care that much about it. Your team aren’t brand advocates; if there was a concept behind the creative, it’s been long forgotten.
2. We’ve changed our offer
You grew, expanded into new markets, took a new direction, and had a new client base or a new offer. What was right at the start of the journey is no longer relevant. There’s customer confusion about what your business does. It now feels dated or poorly designed. A brand consultant will help you design for the future state, your North Star.
3. The world has changed around us, left us behind
You need to up your game. You haven’t kept up with changes in how people relate to branding – it’s become more personal, more emotional – you need to focus on the ‘why’ and not just the ‘what’.
Perhaps the original branding fell into the trap of following trends that have dated and use sector cliches.
How a rebrand gave this tech firm the edge in its category
KTSL had fallen into the trap, so many tech companies do, they focused on the awe and wonder of tech, not the people who delivered it or the people who used it. Worse still, they defaulted to the category cliches of ‘mystical’ tech images – techie interfaces floating over dark layered backgrounds – Tokyo-style nighttime skylines. We showed them what SaaS challenger brands were doing and the marketing of big tech brands like Google. We shifted the focus to the individual, speaking in clear everyday language. Full project case story here.
4. The pieces of the puzzle don’t fit together anymore
You’ve bought other companies or merged, introduced new products or services, things feel unstructured – your prospects and clients can’t navigate the different elements. Perhaps sub-brands look unrelated? One of the key roles of branding is to help people navigate, you need an objective viewpoint to help you to consider the best type of brand architecture to build.
A note on mergers and acquisitions: an inclusive co-created rebrand process – if done well – will be a galvanising activity, helping towards building an engaged and unified culture.
“We were a mess and Sue and the team sorted us out. They took the time to understand what we wanted and built the correct team who could focus our branding and our customer offering.”— Simon Scott, Owner, Push Entertainment
5. We want to make a big investment in our marketing and communications assets, we can’t afford to redo this if it doesn’t deliver on our plans
You’re about to embark on a major overhaul of key touchpoints, maybe you’re about to commission a new website and begin implementing a new marketing plan. The outputs have to be a sufficient step change from what you have now. You’re not sure if the marketing plan truly reflects your vision, values, purpose and position. In short, you don’t have an up to date top-level brand strategy; it all feels tactical rather than strategic.
Given the costs involved in producing these new assets, let’s look at why you should avoid a rebrand at all costs…
Woah, stop! Don’t do it, because:
1. We recently rebranded and I haven’t seen the results yet [also reads: I love shiny new things]
Have you given it long enough to see the impact of the new brand identity? Rebrands aren’t necessarily quick fixes – you have to throw enough water at people before they get wet. What’s familiar to you is still building recognition in the marketplace. Assuming none of the points above resonates with you, stay firm for a little longer and conduct a structured review at a point to be agreed upon soon.
2. We have a community of advocates and active followers, we get referred all the time
In brand-speak: you have great brand equity. Your audience understands who you are and why you’re special, don’t mess with this. This is gold dust. But don’t become complacent, keep assessing this, brands are not fixed in time and space, they’re affected by external factors too (see point 3 above).
If you’re still unsure, ask your existing clients and your target audience – an independent consultant will ask the right questions to reveal if your brand identity resonates.
3. We have big plans but we can’t reveal them yet
You’re planning radical changes that will impact your value proposition. Stop. Don’t do anything yet. By all means, scope out the impact of those changes with a brand design consultant, but don’t launch into a full rebranding process until you are clear on what that vision will look like. If you don’t heed this warning you’ll end up doing it twice, forget the costs, more damaging will be the confusion this will bring to your team, partners, suppliers, prospects and existing client base.
You’re ready to start, what next?
You’ve weighed it up and on balance you feel you are ready to make the change, you’re not sure if this is a light touch refresh or a full rebrand, where to start…
Who to engage
As we’re redoing our website, we can double up and get the web designers to do it, right?
Wrong. Digital agencies are specialists, experts at what they do. They create smooth user journeys through complex content, beautiful interactions, and user-friendly interfaces. They understand advances in technology like no one else can, but that doesn’t make them brand strategists or brand identity designers.
Our marketing team know their way around Photoshop…
It’s the same argument, and to quote a leading authority in the creative and digital space, David C Baker:
“You don’t see kidney specialists secretly hoping a heart transplant candidate accidentally comes to her office so that she can nail that first surgery she’s always wanted to do.”— David C Baker, Recourses Inc
Okay, design isn’t the fourth emergency service but you get my point. Over time we pick up expertise, see patterns that bring you tested and proven solutions, and we certainly shouldn’t be learning on your time.
Start by bringing in an independent brand design consultant, they’ll step back, they won’t jump in with both feet, they’ll review and make recommendations on your position, your purpose, your differentiators, what I like to call your brand’s essence.
Where should they start?
The consultant will work on a strategy with you to find your ownable space and define your character. They will look at the structure and architecture of the business and make sub-branding recommendations if needed. They’ll focus on producing a creative brand idea – something the designers and copywriters can hang their hat on before reaching for the sketchpad. In our case, we’ve developed a process that is based on discovery and co-creation. Branding is not something that should be done ‘to you’ it should be a collaborative and inclusive activity.
They should be skilled at working with different experts: copywriters, web designers, photographers, video makers, marketers and so on. Providing creative direction to ensure that essence and creative idea isn’t lost during application.
How will they work?
Here is a starter for 10, a list of what your consultant needs to deliver in a typical branding project – it, of course, varies depending on the complexity of the challenges you face:
- 1. Scope the project in a 1:1 meeting. Branding is ‘white of the eyes’ stuff, it’s personal for founders and CEOs and you need to be sure that they are involved from the get-go.
- 2. Review customer research, either carried out by the consultant or if it already exists, handed over for them to glean insights.
- 3. Audit the visual and verbal: current brand identity, your competitors and your category.
- 4. Facilitate team discovery sessions to unpack cornerstone brand pillars, your brand: purpose, vision, character, value proposition and reasons to believe.
- 5. Write a strategy for review and approval before embarking on the next creative steps.
- 6. Lead co-creation sessions – looking at aspiration, inspiration, themes and concept development with key team members.
- 7. Package together a brand identity design brief including visual reference and a summary of the brand strategy.
- 8. Direct the creative design: logo, colour palette, visual motifs, image style and typography.
- 9. Create brand guidelines incorporating tone of voice and examples of application – large format, digital and print.
- 10. Hand over the final assets and initial application suggestions to your partners (web designers, content writers etc), staying on board to review the final result.
It sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t have to take a long time or cost a small fortune. We can move at pace, checking in regularly and keeping everything moving.
An authentic and compelling brand identity is an asset worth investing in, it builds pride and trust as well as a healthy business.
– Sue Bush, Brand Design Consultant and Creative Director