Every so often, a person or an organization will reach out to us for a consultation with one very specific quest in mind: They want to redesign their “brand”. When we dig a little bit deeper, we uncover that the brand they’re referring to is actually just their logo.
While designing logos happens to be one of our favorite things, the idea of redesigning someone’s logo in an effort to change their brand makes us cringe. Here’s why.
The Definition of a Brand
The marketing definition of the word “brand” is a bit difficult to pin down. Entrepreneur defines branding as your promise to your customer. The American Marketing Association defines it as a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from others. And even still, David Ogilvy, arguably one of the greatest giants in the marketing world, defines it as the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.
The beauty of a brand—and of any creative endeavor, for that matter—is that it can be left up to the interpretation of those experiencing it. Think about it. When you think of Coca Cola, what do you consider its brand to be? Do you immediately think of just the logo? Or does your mind instantly go to the bottle, or even how the product tastes?
All of these aspects are what make up the entirety of Coca Cola’s brand.
With that in mind, we submit to you our own definition of a brand: The way in which you experience a product, service, organization or person.
Defining YOUR Brand
Okay, so we know that the definition of a brand is the way in which you experience a product, service, organization or person, but what about defining your own brand? You can’t possibly dictate how someone experiences your product, service or business, right?
Not so fast. You have more control than you think.
While you have no control over how someone thinks or responds (we can just take a 5 second look at social media threads to understand this), you do have control on what is initially presented to them.
Your Brand Identity
Rather than think of your logo in its own silo when it comes to your brand, consider the brand identity as a whole. A brand identity includes the tangible foundational pieces of your aesthetic: logo, colors, font choices, tagline, mission statement, vision statement, value proposition.
These elements are called foundational pieces for a reason. They lay the groundwork for all other design or aesthetic materials attached to your product, service or organization. That includes:
- Marketing materials
- Building signage
- Product packaging
- Communications strategies
- Paint color and furniture selection
- Office answering machine message
- Email signature
- Promotional materials
You get the idea.
Such a foundational component of your business requires thought, diligence and research, rather than just choosing colors and fonts that work well together. If you’re working to revamp an existing brand, start by asking yourself:
- Why do I feel like I need to change my brand?
- Are the materials outdated?
- Has my organization changed?
- Has leadership or structure changed?
- Am I feeling restless or need change?
- Are my services expanding?
- How have people reacted to my services or organization in the past?
- Are prospective customers confused during the sales pitch?
- Have I had any customer service complaints?
- What do customers note as a strength for our company time and time again?
- How am I playing up that strength in any marketing or communications today?
- When was the last time I revisited my messaging and all design materials?
- How big of an undertaking would a total rebrand be?
- How many different places does my brand identity live today, both inside and outside of the office?
- Do I have the marketing or design budget to support it?
- Will the internal team rally behind a rebrand and help execute the communications?
Start by first understanding the true heart behind wanting a rebrand, and begin considering the logistics and undertaking it would entail. Still convinced it’s important? Then let’s keep going.
Confirm what you think you know
You’ll want to confirm what you think you know and the answers that you asked yourself in the step above. How do customers truly feel about your brand? This is where research comes into play.
Even a task as simple as sitting down with your company’s key stakeholders, as well as at least 10 of your customers, will help guide you down the path of understanding exactly how your company is perceived and experienced. Understanding this will help you alter that experience moving forward.
Ask questions like:
- What do you feel are the organization’s greatest strengths and how are we communicating those today?
- What do you feel is the promise our organization makes to our customers every single day?
- Do we live up to or keep those promises?
- How would you describe the personality of our organization?
Try to develop questions that are very specific to your organization, but not so leading that you pigeon hole the recipients answers.
As you uncover the answers to some of these questions, you’ll naturally hear feedback to your organization that you haven’t already asked about. Put your detective senses to work and dig deeper into those conversations. Did a customer mention a specific employee in your interview with them? Ask them what makes that specific employee stand out to them? Is it their work ethic, the way they respond to emails, a specific communication style?
Even answers as seemingly minimal as those will help you uncover a customer’s priority.
Develop a Profile
Alright, so you’re starting to get a better feel for how customers already feel about you and what some of their priorities are when partnering with an organization like yours. Next, develop a profile on who that person is.
In your conversations, you will have likely developed a pattern without even recognizing it.
Did you interview mostly men? Or women?
Did the customers you interviewed fall within a specific age category?
Did they have similar job titles?
Do they tend to wear a lot of hats in the workplace, or are they more focused?
What did they say was the most difficult part of their job?
Who do they report to?
Who reports to them?
Answers to these questions will guide you down the path of creating a profile of your target customer, or your buyer persona. Treat your buyer persona like you would an actual person. Give them a name, a photo (even if it’s a stock photo), a personality, needs, wants, concerns.
By treating your target customer—even if it’s representative of a large group—like one individual person, you’ll constantly have that person in mind when you’re creating your brand materials and communications. It’s always better to know who you’re talking to rather than shooting blindly.
If it helps, go so far as coordinating with an actor (even from your local theater program) to come in as your buyer persona for a role play sales scenario with your sales, marketing and customer service teams. How do conversations naturally flow with your buyer persona? Are there any hiccups in addressing priorities? As awkward as it may sound, the trial run in low-stakes conversations can help you flesh out your brand and message immensely. Plus, it will help you feel more confident with the real time comes.
Creating the brand
Now comes the good and, arguably, the most difficult, stuff. By this point, you should have a pretty clear picture in your mind of who your target audience is, what they prioritize and how your organization can meet those priorities—not by reaching, but by what you actually offer.
The lessons that you uncovered in your research, internal conversations and customer interviews will naturally equate to brand deliverables.
What you offer becomes your Mission Statement.
What’s special about your organization becomes your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Your personality becomes your typography.
How customers should feel about your organization becomes your color choices.
Your promise to your customers becomes your vision and values.
It’s important to begin fleshing out these components before first ever creating your logo. The reason for this is it begins building an impenetrable foundation that will only be strengthened by a solid logo design. Plus, choices in typography and colors will naturally set a tone for your logo, which will help the person or group responsible for the design.
Test and Iterate Before Launch
When you have the foundational pieces of your brand in place, it’s important to test and iterate as necessary before moving into material development and launch. Test your brand out in different applications—from a small social media icon or digital ad to a full page print ad or billboard. You’ll want to make sure that the brand translates across different mediums and that the true spirit of your organization is communicated visually across platforms.
And don’t keep those designs internal. Assemble your trusted team of stakeholders, customers and mentors—it can even be the same group you interviewed during your research process—and show them the brand foundation you have developed. Review with them the colors, typography, messaging and logo design. Also review with them the designs for the different marketing platforms or materials. Gauge their knee-jerk feedback, as well as their well-articulated feedback once they’ve sat with the designs for a while.
Is there a certain letter in your font choice that makes something difficult to read? Maybe a color that is off putting to them? Or is there something about the overall layout of the print ad or business card that isn’t resonating with them?
It may be difficult to not take the feedback in this stage personally, but it’s important to consider every angle before moving further down the path. At this point in the game, the brand is purely hypothetical and you won’t have spent money on materials or production, so now is the time to make changes.
Build Out the Brand Materials
Once you have your brand foundation at a solid place that resonates with the majority of your stakeholder and customer audience (if you get 100% buy-in, you should buy a lottery ticket because that’s an almost impossible task), move into developing out the rest of your materials.
This is where you’ll revisit your list from your earlier brand identity work. If budget allows, flesh out all of your assets and launch a unified brand at the same time, rather than launching the brand online and working over the next year or two to change out your print pieces or signage. The reason for this is to prevent any confusion six months in to your rebrand, where customers are potentially seeing one version of your brand on some materials, and another on other materials.
Consistency is absolutely crucial in this stage, and for the health of your brand as a whole. Remember, your brand is the way in which people experience your organization. Don’t let confusion be part of that experience.
Get the Team on Board
Lastly, and one of the most important steps, is to ensure your entire team is on board with the brand launch and what it means for your organization. Organize a company-wide launch event, where each and every employee receives new branded materials—business cards, apparel, promotional items, etc.—and also give them the opportunity to start learning the brand messaging.
Give them elevator pitch cards to keep with them for the first few months of relaunch. These cards can be kept in their wallets, beside their computer or even in their car, as a quick reference point for some of your organization’s key message points. This ensures that everyone on your team is “singing off the same sheet of music”, which guarantees your customers and prospective customers are getting consistent messages and interactions.
At the event, make sure everyone on your team knows where to go to access all new branded materials and how to find answers if any questions arise. Ensuring buy-in at this point is key to creating a seamless customer experience after launch.
Always stay in touch
After launch, you’ll want to stay in touch with your brand and your customers to always understand how people are responding to your organization. Stay on top of any customer service, public relations or media confusions that may occur.
It’s important to always keep your customers, your organization and the experience your customers have with your organization, as a top priority and focus.
We hope this serves as a launching point to understanding the importance of a brand and its many elements. If you’re ready to discuss next steps for your own brand, we’re always here to help.