If a Brand falls in the forest, is the answer a Rebrand?
I had a baby on December 13th, 2009 and the whole world shifted on its axis. All of a sudden the answer to simple questions like ‘who am I’ changed. My outlook changed. My style changed. My entire perspective on life changed. My definition of life changed.
I’m not the greatest with change. I love to talk about it, and I love to plan it, but even after the 9 months I had to get used to the inevitable arrival of my beautiful daughter, I was still unprepared. I don’t actually know why I’m writing in the past tense, because nothing much has changed in the last 4 months. I am still unprepared and adapting as quickly as I can, minute to minute, in every aspect of my life, and that includes both my personal and corporate brands.
As people and businesses evolve, so do their brands. This isn’t news. This is infact why one minute we like bobby-socks and crazy straws and tease our bangs, and the next we deny we ever did. (I never did.) Change impacts packaging, and logos, and colours. It makes the Michelin Man lose 50lbs, it makes the tall, gaunt, Alpha Bits wizard into a nasal computer. It takes the Swedish right out of Ikea. You get the picture.
So whether you’re a person or a corporate entity, how do you know when it’s time to implement your own outward change?
REBRAND DEMAND: WHAT TO PONDER BEFORE YOU EMBARK
1. Rebranding may or may not assume that you have a good foundation to start with.
You may only tweak your brand, but you may scrap it all together in favour of something else.
It’s true. I’ve seen people throw the baby out with the bath water (I have baby on the brain). They pitch everything including any brand integrity their communities had left to start from scratch. On the other side of the spectrum, there are those who spend millions on altering a hue by 0.005% or something equally trivial.
To reach a happy medium, I suggest the following. Instead of looking at the logo or imaging as separate from the business or endeavor you think you want to rebrand, look at the project as a whole and ask yourself some questions. Does whatever visual element I am looking at communicate the aspect of my business that I want and need out there? How does or doesn’t it do that? If I could change anything at all about this, what would it be?
I always remind people who say they want to rebrand that they should update their business and marketing plans first, or at least figure out what has changed about their business that is making them crave alignment with a different ‘voice’. A good exercise? Create a basic 3-column chart. In the first column write down your business objectives whether they’re new or old favourites. Then in the next one write down the collateral or branding you have done that expresses or communicates those objectives. In the last column, you will want to write down a brief description of the tone or style of that specific collateral. This will help you find holes in both your brand and your marketing, and most importantly will point you towards what you need to tweak.
2. Rebranding is usually the result of some internal policy implemented by new management.
There is usually some key internal action that triggers an external change, and yes, often when someone new comes in with fresh eyes, or when a new policy or best practice is put into play. For example, let’s say that expensive mistake made in the widget department lowers stocks, and it means a public relations overhaul. All of a sudden, your company has to be positioned as the “NICE” whatsit company. The “CARING” whatsit company. The rebrand hits every employee like a wave of dominos, from email signatures to the new uniforms, to the improved telephone script and friendlier corporate palette. A drastic response, but this stuff happens.
It also happens when a new CEO is introduced, or when internal processes are distilled or downsized. For example, you may have made your living selling 40 colour of wool. (Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full. My daughter finds this part fascinating.) Now due to either a shift in the market or some strange need to specialize, you are only selling yellow wool. Grounds to rebrand? Yes.
And remember too that brand does not have to be that tangible visual output of logo or advert. Changing your policies in turn changes what you are communicating to your clients. And as soon as you catch yourself thinking ‘Hmm.. I should let my customers/clients know about that’ you are adding to, refining, or building your brand. Consciously, you can rebrand from the inside out with such a subtle transition that your community either thinks you’ve ‘always been like that’ or feels that it’s only natural that you update your outside to match what was already inside.
3. In the context of competition, rebranding could be percieved as a form of ‘oneupmanship’.
Change for the sake of change is not something you see everyday when it comes to brand strategy. In the words of the poet: “If it ain’t broke..” That being said, rebranding does readily encapsulate the teeter-totter-like dance of ‘Action/Reaction’ that is known across the board – every industry, and every kind and size of business has learned this awkward gavotte.
Depending on your access to resources of every variety, the nature of your competition, and how badly you want to differentiate yourself, you will alter your brand. Such is the physics behind rebranding, and what I believe to be half the equation to consumerism (but that’s another story). There are those who will read various trends and change first to lead the front. There are others that will wait and see what is working, and what has kicked-off with early adopters, at which point they’ll implement a follower-strategy. Either way, that can be perceived as honing a competitve edge.
Ask yourself if you are reacting, and if you are, examine all the different factors that might be influencing that reaction. Has your competition changed? What have they altered? What vectors did they use? Why? Playing 20 questions with yourself can yield a rough strategy in no time.
4. Rebranding is essential if your logo or collateral is outdated.
Beauty is in the eye of your Target Market.
When you are your business it’s like you become the defining component of its brand. You are the one who decides how things are done, and why, and what elements of your style are going to surface in collateral and corporate identity. There are some things that grow with you, so organically that you don’t notice as they change, like the way you’ve always used periods instead of dashes between the characters of a phone number. There are others like your business card from a few years ago that you suddenly see as, well, stale. The epiphany that something isn’t working for you can be pretty harsh too. From one minute to the next you feel vulnerable; not quite embarrassed, but sort of like you have something caught between your teeth that someone might notice. All of a sudden there’s a hint of hesitation when you are networking, and you notice yourself thinking too much about what others are going to think. That is your big sign to re-evaluate your key communication vectors and how they are being received. As soon as you have feedback to reintegrate, you can safely rebrand transitionally, or depending on your strategic circumstances, unveil with a huge “The Swan” wow factor. Or if you’re a new mom with a business like I am, you can do a little of both.
ME, MYSELF, AND I LTD.
I have a new calling card. She drools, and squeaks, and most definitely leaves her mark. And yes, having a new baby will most certainly impact my corporate direction, and how I brand Spin The Idea and its various projects. For now however, I am taking an organic approach, and whatever grows first -be it my child or my company – will let me know what to design next.
Rebrand or Sub-brand? The art of corporate structure and modular design together at last..