Business 101 Cover Stories May 2015

9 Keys To Rebranding

Written By: Albey Coronel

There is far more to branding than visuals, as branding delves into the overall experience everyone has with your company. Branding involves the five senses and sometimes a bit more if you consider memories and what’s left for your imagination. We may think of branding as what we provide to represent us, but it’s also the experience we leave behind — out of sight, but not out of mind.

Let’s say your company has invested a decent amount of time and money on branding, but your efforts are not returning the projected objectives or goals. The word “rebranding” starts coming up, but what does it mean? Essentially, rebranding is crafting a new identity based on very specific objectives or simply changing or editing the message, visual identity, voice, and overall nature of the experience you desire customers or clients to experience when they interact with you. Rebranding is basically a makeover.

In my experience, I’ve seen businesses have a shift in identity with many shapes and forms. Sometimes, it’s for the best; sometimes, it’s a complete tragedy.

Take for instance the Ayds diet candy in the early ‘80s: While the worldwide AIDS epidemic took off, it took the company nearly a decade to consider rebranding, and eventually it went out of business in the late ‘80s. Taking a lesson from history and a drop in sales of about 3 million euros within a year, a Belgian chocolate maker changed its name from ISIS Chocolates to Libeert in late 2014. As these examples may seem obvious, your need to rebrand may be a bit more subtle. Here’s a checklist I compiled as a guideline to rebranding.

1. Is there a reason?
Here are some examples: You inherit something hideous and meaningless, and nobody knows where it came from. The company is selling or wants to sell something different than it did 10 years ago. A new partnership or merger occurs. The vision and direction has changed. The current identity is misleading, hard to read, or is associated with a negative connotation in the industry, current events or in general. Define your goals. It may be to grow sales, have more people sign up to a group, change your company’s positioning, etc. Whatever the goal, make sure it’s clear and specific. For instance, to grow sales of item X to parents of college students during spring by 20 percent. The more specific, the more information you can collect for your objective, the better.

2. Do your research
What’s the brand equity value? This is a very important step because the task is not just to define how much it’s going to cost to create a new brand identity but to know the cost to implement such change. For some businesses, the cost could be a small fortune — for instance, if you are a restaurant with 30 locations, the cost of exterior signage alone may be a reason to defer to a different solution. Then, add training materials, interiors, digital media, uniforms, vehicles, etc. Or your logo may have very little tangibility and equity, and you can just change it like a pair of socks. Brand recognition is also part of brand equity, but this is a tough area to allocate a number to. Either way, know the actual costs in advance.

3. Analyze
What’s the value of priority? Once you have a clear objective, compare your goals to your current brand for that specific product, service organization as a whole. Then, develop a rationale and a statement on the pros and cons of rebranding versus not, including all costs to design and develop plus the brand equity and opportunity costs. Gauge the bottom line on both sides, and make your decision.

4. Know your options
A total rebrand is not the only option and may not be right for you. Other options include a cross fade, which will help introduce a new idea on top of an existing one; a revision, which can redefine colors or slightly edit or modernize a mark; or an addendum, which may also include a key element like an icon or the introduction or shift in message or slogan.

5. Put together a Star Brand Team (SBT)
Should you decide to rebrand in any capacity, put a branding team together. This may include internal designers and marketing, key employees or partners, hiring an agency or a combination. Your SBT should include the following: the voice of a visionary, the researcher, the analyst, the creative(s) and most importantly, the voice of the consumer (see No. 8).

6. Hiring the right agency
I could write a list for this step alone, but in the meantime, I’ll share a few tips: Pick an agency that has the strength to complement or complete your SBT. Conduct an interview process and work with a team you are comfortable with, as it’s going to become a key part of your SBT. Get low, middle and high budget estimates for the project so you can make better decisions without surprises. Get references, track records and case studies that are comparable to your project. Consider an industry-focused agency. Be a big client to a small agency, not a small client to a big agency — the results will work to your favor.

7. Skip the fluff
Have you ever read a huge paragraph of marketing copy for a new product or service, and at the end, you still don’t know what it is or does? This is fluff, and the same can be done for branding. Keep it simple. If you are developing a new logo and visual identity, you should not need to read 10 paragraphs of copy to justify it. Avoid the fluff for two reasons: One, nobody wants to read it. Two, nobody wants to read it. Did I mention nobody wants to read it? Take for instance the underwhelming multi-million dollar rebranding effort by Pepsi. The “breathtaking” 27-page document for the rebranding has been referred to as “corporate bulls**t at it’s finest.”

8. Avoid asking for opinions, seriously!
Once you are on your way to approve a new identity, avoid asking for the opinions of unqualified people, as it may just make things more confusing for yourself. You do not need Debbie in HR or your neighbor’s nephew who likes art weighing in on such a discussion.

If you are serious about opinions and the voice of the consumer, take some time to build a focus group with qualified input into the project.

9. Have fun
Honestly, no matter what anybody says, this is not rocket science. Unlike art, design is not subjective, and function and clarity are key elements. However, branding can still be as unique as an individual. Trust your vision, judgment, gut feeling and your SBT.

I hope this helps on your quest for excellence in visual communication. In the meantime, check out my top- 10 rebrand wins and tragedies of all time here:

ALBEY CORONEL, creative director of Neutral7 and Hue&I Creative Collective, has over 17 years of experience in the development and production of graphic services and products. From design and art direction to business development, Albey has gathered a wide spectrum of skills that produce an efficient and effective approach to problem solving, in both creative and technical situations.

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