My company recently completed a branding overhaul. The new brand was unveiled after nearly two years of research, deliberation, and creative execution. In
the end, everything came together, but it was a challenging process.
For others contemplating such a change or for the merely curious, here are my 12 most crucial prerequisites of a brand overhaul.
1. Get leadership on board
Because a brand reflects the identity of an organization, competitive and unique differentiation will occur only when leadership is fully engaged and
supportive of the process. To the greatest extent possible, enlist leaders to participate in interviews and workshops and share perceptions around branding
and business strategy. Make sure leaders are prepared for uncomfortable assessments, and persuade them to stick it out. Finally, educate leaders so they
will be able to explain in their own words why the brand is important for the organization and its employees.
2. Explain brand
“Brand” is a tricky term. Many people think they know what it means and react to it immediately, and yet they often conflate “brand” with a logo,
marketing, or advertising. If you’re going to go deep on branding , make sure you take the time to help everyone in the organization understand that
branding is really about what something stands for, its unique values, and how it makes you feel.
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3. Make it about everybody
Brand equity is made up of who, what, and how, with the “who” forming the key identity dimensions, including personality, values, and beliefs. Because so
many of these attributes are formed and maintained by the people in an organization, ensure that all employees understand that they are the brand
and that they reinforce or undermine it through their daily actions.
4. Don’t skimp on strategy
Many creative services agencies talk about branding but then propose only a few days of strategy before proceeding to designs. Don’t be tempted. There are
no shortcuts to a deep branding strategy. If you want a branding revamp to reflect current brand associations as well as true customer needs for
proposition development, you’ll need to spend ample time on research and customer assessment. Depending on the size of your organization and the number of
customers you wish to study, plan at least three months for this phase.
5. Get qualitative and quantitative
Brand strategy requires research, and some agencies may suggest that you choose between a qualitative or quantitative methodology approach. Instead of
picking, consider both. Uncover how customers feel about your brand in one-on-one interviews. Then, complement the qualitative research with larger
sample-size surveys to validate the findings.
6. Manage expectations
Like any large, complicated project with many moving parts, it’s prudent to tell people upfront that it will be a long process. This is even more important
with a branding project, as it may be many months before stakeholders see anything tangible, and even then the deliverables will initially be reports.
Stick to your project plan, and don’t agree to demands for compressed timelines or deliverables if it will compromise the results.
7. Architecture and sub-brands
Wikipedia defines brand architecture as “the structure of brands within an organizational entity.” Done well, brand architecture can reduce overlaps,
increase alignment, and accelerate purchasing decisions; poor architecture can lead to confusion and lost opportunities. Devote time to brand architecture
to assess all the brands in the portfolio. Capture all the brands in a visual framework, and indicate the roles and relationships of all brands. Propose
architecture change recommendations, and list all considerations and implications.
8. Targeting and segmentation
Strong brands don’t try to be all things to all people, so make sure to define a target customer persona with distinct, high-level needs and motivations.
In other words, why do your ideal customers do what they do? What are their attitudes and needs?
9. Keep it simple
The KISS acronym for “Keep it simple, stupid” may be more of a design principle, but the core meaning translates well to brand strategy. Some high-profile
brands are immediately recognizable with iconic brand marks and memorable taglines. Think about Nike’s swoosh and “Just Do It” or Apple’s “Think
10. Nail the creative
Once you have a brand positioning recommendation, exercise due diligence to pick the right creative services partner to bring the new brand to life. The
creative and design elements should be a reflection and extension of all the brand strategy work up to that point. If you’ve gone deep enough on strategy,
you’ll know the right design when you see it.
Brand strategy is a specialized discipline that involves a lot of research, ideas, and discussion. Because much of this activity isn’t visible to the
everyday stakeholder, it’s important to provide regular communication. Provide project reports indicating the status of the project, and milestone outputs,
capturing key findings from the assessment, architecture development, positioning, and creative execution phases.
12. Be true
The easy part of brand research is reading the assessment and taking in the information. The difficulty is in staying true, especially in areas that
require turning away business or opportunities because they don’t fit your brand and values. In the end, authenticity will forge greater bonds through
shared connections between organization and customer. To thine own brand be true.
Branding overhauls help organizations to reinvent themselves. I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to have worked on a few major branding projects and
have enjoyed the challenge and process each time. What are your branding overhaul lessons?
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