Let’s have a casual conversation about rebranding.
Let me start off by defining what I mean by a “rebrand.” I often find myself switching “branding” and “visual identity” back and forth. Which, to be honest, they’re often used synonymously and simultaneously. Anyways, in this case, I’ll refer to logos and colors as “visual identity” and “branding” as your organization’s personality.
I’ll just state the facts. A new logo slapped onto your organization’s letterhead won’t save or help it. Just like my mother used to say, “Looks aren’t everything, dear”; you can apply that same concept to your brand. Don’t go into your rebrand with a mindset that pretty colors and great typography = profit. You will end up wasting precious marketing dollaroos if you think visual attractiveness is everything. You need to dig deep, set goals, and have great personality (extra points if you’re funny).
What is Branding?
In short, it’s how people perceive you. I read an article where someone spoke to the importance of messaging and tone. He was absolutely correct. I think of branding as something living and breathing. Rigid enough to be its own identifiable person, yet fluid enough to be adaptable and evolve. Yes, brand guidelines exist for a reason, but I think it’s totally acceptable (and reasonable) to re-evaluate them occasionally. Have any services or additional touch points been added? Is there a new audience? Is our message clear and are we differentiating ourselves? Your brand should empower your organization, audience, and especially your employees.
Here’s a quick sidebar about your brand and your own team — Your brand should not leave your internal structure untouched. Your team members are one of the first people to “touch” your brand. How is your work culture? Is it encouraging? Does it frame the customer as the hero? Can your brand resonate with your team? And in what way(s) is there room for them to make it their own / for them to leave part of themselves within it?
When do you rebrand?
The most common reasons are when there’s a new company or product, name change, the need for consistency, revitalization (aka a face lift), when companies merge, etc. These are all perfect points to start the process. If you can sense the winds of change, it might be about time. (Okay, but don’t start rEbRaNdInG every 6 months, that’s not what I’m saying.) Trust your instincts.
What is the first step in rebranding?
I believe that every designer and agency starts their process differently. After all, it’s a journey, right? And there are many different ways to start and end. For me, it’s to conduct research and to align brand strategy with your business strategy. We (remember that this is a team effort) will explore your organization’s history, mission, vision, values, sales goals, future product offerings, etc. I like to know where you have been and where you would like to go. What are your hopes and dreams? For example, while almost every home builder is a “locally owned family business,” not every vision is the same. Different organizations have different DNA, which will inevitably result in different solutions.
As Plato once said, “Know thyself.” You should take a look within yourself and sprinkle in some competitor analysis. I am particularly sensitive and competitive. Nothing is more embarrassing than rebranding and looking just like your competitor down the street. If you do, then something went terribly wrong.
It is important to ask stakeholders who they think their competitors are, then do additional research as an outsider (since this is most likely how your audience will also travel to find you). In this analysis, I like to see what is and isn’t working, what their brand is saying, their visual system, signage, touch points, data presentation — everything, but the kitchen sink (okay… well, maybe that too). In what ways is your competitor succeeding or failing? How can we position ourselves as the leader of the pack?
Probably most important of all is to clarify your message. Take what you’ve learned in your research to appeal to the masses. What’s your elevator speech? It definitely shouldn’t be a paragraph long. Let’s strip it down to make it as clear and concise as possible. We should be deliberate (and authentic) in creating change.
Oh, and don’t forget to look at brands you love. Being well-rounded means being exposed to a plethora of solutions and creates room to cultivate innovation. Choose a designer or agency with experience in other industries (retail, real estate, education, etc.). College made you take a ton of electives for good reason; apply that to yourself and open your eyes. Side note: I took Latin, a totally dead language, and it was a huge mistake. The only time I use it is for placeholder text.
Branding is why, marketing is how.
Branding defines trajectory, marketing defines tactics.
Branding is the being, marketing is the doing. — Designing Brand Identity
Your marketing, advertising, talk, walk, signage, social media, snarky replies to bad reviews, is all a part of your brand. To truly be successful, you need to partner it with intentional and strategic marketing and advertising. Marketing is an opportunity to use the whole shebang as a tool to reach your audience.
Resources I’d recommend
I’m definitely not an expert on branding/rebranding. So this was just my take on it and I definitely may have oversimplified this beast we call “Branding.” I recommend reading “Building a Story Brand,” “Designing Brand Identity,” “When,” and “The Pout Pout Fish.” That last one was for all you new parents out there.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what “branding” means to you — if there’s branding vs Branding (which is probably a whole other confusing topic.)