Rebranding? First things first

Nan Finkenaur | May 30, 2017 | Branding | No Comments

When your company needs rebranding, it’s critical to put first things first. During a conversation at a networking event, I heard, “We started our rebranding with the website. Then we decided to change our name…” I thought, “Oof, what a waste of time and money!”

What should be first? Examine the essence of your brand personality, both as it is and as you would like it to be. What is your vision? Your mission? It must be authentic and trustworthy. Spend some time answering these questions:

How is your company currently perceived?

What do you like and what would you like to change about your brand? Think through: Who are your customers? What are their age, gender, location, and ethnicity? Is your brand positioned correctly to attract your customers? If there is a change in your market or you are entering new markets, it’s the right time to think about rebranding.

As an example of a big shift in branding due to a changing market, Buick comes to mind. A few years ago their customers were aging out of the market. Sales had fallen to 100K vehicles in 2009. They reinvented themselves. Instead of positioning their vehicles as a sofa on wheels, they redesigned their products to aim at a younger audience with sleek design and good performance. 2016 was their best year since 2001, with 1 million vehicles sold worldwide. The TV spot, with the Dad trying unsuccessfully to lull his baby to sleep with a long drive in the car, perfectly targets their new audience.

Who do you admire?

Identify your competitors and think about their strengths and weaknesses. What are your key differences? Is there a company you admire, or maybe one that is eating your lunch? Why is that? Note things about their experience and reputation, their capabilities and products, their marketing campaigns or other competitive aspects that you respect. Then think about what your strengths are in those same terms.

Prior to Instagram rebranding in 2016, their logo/app icon followed the skeuomorphic interface design of old Apple-inspired designs. Apple had updated their icons in 2013, and Instagram studied their progress—what worked and what didn’t. Their new design leverages Apple’s trend to flat logos along with popular gradients. While the new logo carefully retains some of the original outlines, it is memorable for its striking coloration.

Old and new Instagram logos

The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability. — Simon Mainwaring

Consider your company name, logo and tagline

Once you’ve defined your brand personality, these are essential elements that form the basis of your brand. Your name should be memorable and own-able. While naming, keep in mind it is best to have a short URL that ends in ‘.com’.

Names fall into two buckets: Those with meaning imbued by the words (like UHaul, Intel) and those that are empty vessels where the name becomes more meaningful over time (like Yahoo, Pantone, Google). It will be easier to get a good URL with the ‘empty vessels’, but making the name meaningful will take more time and investment.

Once it is established, changing your name will not be simple. Some period of time using both the old and new names will be needed to avoid customer confusion.

Make sure your name does not mean something weird in another language. For example, the Sci Fi channel rebranded as Syfy, thinking that would make them seem cool and hip. Oops! In most of the world, Syfy is slang for syphilis. Being associated with an STD is not a good strategy!

While your logo should stand for something, your logo will gain meaning over time. A classic example is the Nike swoosh, designed in 1971 by a student, Carolyn Davidson. Originally designed to symbolize the wing of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, that meaning is not immediately apparent. Instead the mark has gained meaning over time. The addition of the tagline, “Just Do It” further strengthened the brand personality. Learn more about updating your logo here.

If a company is second rate, the logo will eventually be perceived as second rate. It is foolhardy to believe that a logo will do its job immediately, before an audience has been properly conditioned. — Paul Rand

Taglines can help customers understand more about your brand, and add personality. This is a key representation of your editorial voice. Read more about taglines here.

Next steps to rebranding

Make sure to consider the tone of your copywriting. Communications should reflect your brand personality. Your brand voice must be consistent. For a terrific example of editorial guidelines, check out MailChimp’s online guide.

Tackle 3-10 pieces of marketing communication to explore rebranding. The scope of the desired change and the breadth of the communications should guide the depth of the exploration. Choose both print and digital pieces. Some tips:

  • Be sure to retain brand elements that are working. This will ensure brand continuity.
  • Avoid trendy designs that will quickly look dated. Good branding should last.
  • Keep it simple, and it will cut through the clutter.

Execute a series of pieces with different creative approaches. Each approach should be designed to cohesively explore the rebrand. Vary the color, fonts, and graphics like icons, illustration and photography. Select a direction from the exploration, and fine-tune the pieces. The best solutions will provide flexibility for expansion across your brand.

Create a style guide

Once your branding decisions are made, consider developing a style guide that provides verbal and visual information to help your team create consistent branding communications. The guide should cover your brand essence, editorial tone, logo do’s and don’ts, typography, colors, icons, photography, and grid layouts. Make sure to show some of the refreshed sample communications so everyone using your brand will have concrete examples. The style guide should reflect the brand visually and verbally, while providing easy-to-follow rules for brand consistency.

Pages from a Playskool Heroes style guide for Hasbro

Playskool Heroes style guide captures the fun vibe of the brand

Pages from a Network Health style guide

Network Health’s style guide is warm and approachable

Expand the rebranding

Now is the time to consider your web design and other complex communications. The user experience is so critical to a great website, it should not get lost in an initial rebranding project.

Save room to add web branding to your style guide. With larger sites and many people handling the CMS on some sites, consistency with how design decisions are handled will keep your site looking as it was intended. Make sure to design and indicate button hierarchy (including static, hover, clicked states), web fonts, layout grids, badges and icon styles. Read more about what to include in your brand guide here.

Branding decisions should evolve over time

Today what is cool and contemporary may soon look old-fashioned. Consumers expect brands to stay relevant to their worldview. You must keep up. Leave flexibility for your brand to evolve without a complete redo.

Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful. – Sir Richard Branson

A good time to update your brand is when there is a fundamental change in your business. A branding refresh will signal new intentions and strategy. It will also be necessary when your brand has become disconnected from your customers or the times. Updating your brand is a big job, and worth doing properly. Attack first things first to save time, money and frustration.


Time to refresh your brand? Call Adrenaline Design at 978-525-4800!



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