Does your brand need to change? If so, why? And how deep should the change be? A new look or a completely new beginning? Here we help answer these questions – and offer up a few thoughts on how best to manage the process.
First things first, that old chestnut – what is a brand?
Ask 10 people, and you’ll get 10 different definitions. And they’ll probably all be valid. Ours is a simple one, and we find it works for all kinds of branding projects. For us, a brand is an individual, emotional experience with a product, service or organisation. And it’s an experience that develops into a relationship over time.
So it’s subjective, existing in the mind of each customer and potential customer, and varying from one person to another. But if everything about the brand is right, it inspires loyalty, boosts advocacy (by traditional word of mouth and social media) and can lead to bigger sales with better margins. Strong brands are valuable.
How valuable, exactly?
Given our definition above, that’s not an easy one to answer. But even though brand value stems largely from intangible assets, various ways of measuring it are now gaining acceptance – and many of us view with interest league tables such as Forbes’ The World’s Most Valuable Brands. In May 2018, the top five were:
1. Apple $182.8 billion
2. Google $132.1 billion
3. Microsoft $104.9 billion
4. Facebook $94.8 billion
5. Amazon $70.9 billion
These are mind-boggling figures. Most importantly, they show just how valuable brands can become – and why brand owners need to treat their treasured possession with great care. Their customers’ emotional experience of their product or service translates, over time, into significant financial sums.
There’s a lot riding on the outcome, when you change a brand. Which brings us to our big question: if your brand needs to change, is it time for a refresh or a rebrand?
Refresh. Rebrand. What’s the difference?
You often hear the two terms used to describe similar activities, as if they’re interchangeable. Like many words in the marketing world, people tend to use them without thinking what they really mean. But they are two very distinct processes.
A brand refresh is a kind of ‘make-over’ or ‘new look’. Usually, it’s only skin deep. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t significant. It can attract extra attention or even create excitement, encouraging people to reconsider a brand, or look at it with new interest and enthusiasm. Often it’s a visual identity review, involving modifications or updates to a logo, design templates, colour palettes, fonts or packaging. It could also include tweaks to messaging, such as taglines or slogans. But it doesn’t change the fundamentals of a brand, such as positioning, values or name.
Our brand refresh project for Felsted School (above) solved historic brand implementation issues and also included the creation of personalised prospectus brochures – a first in independent school marketing.
A rebrand is much more in-depth. It marks a full stop in the life of a brand, and the start of a whole new story. It’s a comprehensive review of all the essentials, including purpose, values, personality, name and visual identity systems. The effects can be far-reaching, often influencing product or service design and organisational structure. If a brand refresh is a lick of paint on your house, a rebrand is a completely new building.
Our rebrand for the global lighting solutions company Feilo Sylvania streamlined the creation of their brand marketing, with a new visual identity enabling consistent, worldwide implementation across all brand assets. Defined purpose and values helped Sylvania refocus on a customer centric brand strategy.
Both options require careful consideration. But why do either?
You need compelling reasons to do them. Any kind of brand change has to be based on a sound business strategy that addresses a pressing need or needs. In other words, you refresh or rebrand because you can’t afford not to.
Reasons to refresh include:
- Changes in your market create the need to remain ‘current’ or relevant.
- Increased or new competition means you have to work harder to stand out.
- A change in your products or services demands a change in the look of your brand.
- You want to attract a new group of customers, or expand into a new market, where your current brand identity doesn’t appeal as it should.
- Your visual identity has become overly complex or unwieldy over time. Or it simply looks out of date.
A rebrand is on the cards when:
- A change in ownership, or a merger or acquisition, sets a new direction for your organisation.
- New leadership puts your business on a different path.
- A legal, copyright or publicity issue creates the need for reinvention.
- What your business offers – or your whole business strategy – changes fundamentally.
- You need to reverse a serious downturn in sales.
You’ve chosen between refresh and rebrand. Now what?
Whatever type of brand change you commit to, you’re now embarking on a multi-step process – largely because today’s customers experience brands through a wide range of physical and digital touch points, which all need to be consistent and cohesive.
The detail of how you achieve this varies from brand to brand, but broadly it’s a five-step process:
1. Set your strategy
You need to be totally confident of your reasons for change, be sure of what you want it to achieve, and know how much it’s going to cost.
2. Decide who’s going to do what
Do you have an in-house team with the necessary skills and experience, or will you get better results by working with an external agency? The former should have an intimate understanding of your brand, but the latter could bring a fresh, outsider’s perspective.
3. Agree measurable goals
How will you know if the project is a success? Will you conduct before-and-after market or customer research? Will you measure emotional or financial changes, or both? A good starting point is to set three clear, measurable goals – such as increasing market share, increasing revenue or profit, or boosting brand awareness.
4. Create the experience
If it’s a rebrand, this step’s a big one. It will probably start with a review of your brand purpose, values and personality, and might involve developing a new name. All of your brand assets will need reviewing – from your logo, fonts and colour palettes to tone of voice and messaging templates. With a refresh, you’ll most likely be focusing on the visual elements. For both options you’ll need to create guidelines to ensure consistency.
5. Roll out the change
Timing the introduction of your brand change can be critical. What do you show to whom, and when? In most cases, the first audience is employees – internal understanding and buy-in are essential to external success. And then, do you have a ‘big reveal’ launch, or drip-feed the new brand elements to give people time to become familiar with the change? Whatever approach you take, the end result should be the same: wherever your customers are, your new or refreshed brand should be there too.
One final thought.
Once you’ve decided to refresh or rebrand, and you’ve carried out the above five-steps, be prepared to be patient. Don’t think of the launch as a diving competition, where you rate the ‘splash’. Instead, take a longer-term view, and appreciate the ‘ripples’. The true test of a brand change is time.
If you’d like us to think about your brand, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01279 797 250 and ask for Lawrence or Anthony.