Why Branding for Startups is So Important
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there were 30.7 million small businesses in 2019 across the country. Looking from...
But in reality, it is far more than that.
A brand is a company’s entire image, from the online identity to the in-store customer service and beyond.
Every business professional knows how critical a trustworthy brand is to the success of a company. In fact, 77% of B2B marketing leaders state branding is critical to growth.
Yet, companies jump at the chance to rebrand their image without abandon. Rebranding is a serious, expensive, and timely decision.
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Most recently, Slack debuted a new logo to better resemble the company’s current and future offerings. Since Slack’s rebranding announcement was met with some frustration and comedic takes by customers, was it a worthwhile endeavor?
Slack is among the numerous companies who have decided to refresh their brand only to be met with backlash from audiences. (Who could forget the unfortunate 2012 London Olympics brand?) Many of these instances, however, could have easily been avoided if the company only realized rebranding is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.
If you believe your company’s image and brand is in need of some revitalization, a rebrand may be necessary. But before you take the dive, it is key to understand everything involved in a strong brand strategy, common rebranding mistakes, and how to successfully transform your brand for the future.
Did you know 43% of customers spend more money with brands they’re loyal to? To be an accomplished and respected company, your branding strategy must contain six crucial elements—and it’s far more than a logo.
First and foremost, do you know what your brand stands for?
Sure, you could say your brand supports offering superior customer service, premium products, and supports local communities. So does every brand! Instead, think about how your company seeks to unite customers over common values and interests.
While a brand does not need to take a stance on every topic known to man, knowing and sharing your brand values is an advantageous practice. The Harvard Business Review found 64% of consumers cite shared values as the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand. It’s also been reported that 71% of millennials say they prefer brands that drive social and environmental change.
REI, the outdoor supply retailer, made headlines in recent years when it launched the #OptOutside campaign, positioning their brand in line with the shared values of their consumers. On Black Friday, REI closed all of its stores and encouraged shoppers to go explore the great outdoors instead.
The company’s commitment to customers’ wellbeing, along with its dedication to green and sustainable practices, has driven tremendous success for the brand. The #OptOutside campaign alone drove 6.7 billion media impressions and 1.2 billion social impressions during its first year.
When choosing your brand’s purpose, don’t reach for random values and causes. This is disingenuous and customers will see right through it. Instead, take a moment to reflect on your team, your services, your audience, and ways you can help customers as a whole to discover what your brand truly values.
For example, Buffer, the social media scheduling platform, made history with their dedication to transparency and other brand values. The company dedicates an entire section of its website to explaining the team’s values and how it translates to their company culture and products.
Of course, all accomplished brands have a memorable visual identity. This is often referred to as the “face of your company.”
A brand’s identity includes:
Companies tend to spend the most time focused on this element of their brand while skipping over other crucial aspects of their strategy. Don’t make that mistake! For instance, Tropicana redesigned their brand and packaging with a heavy focus on a new image. As a result of the change, sales plummeted by 20% in a single month.
While a brand’s visual identity is vital, it’s not the only element of a successful brand.
Your brand should also have a defined and consistent brand voice. A brand voice is defined as the emotions and personality portrayed through all company communications, from your social media posts to press releases.
When crafting your brand voice, refer back to your values and purpose. From here, work with an experienced copywriter to mold your brand’s voice to reflect these values and goals.
As you craft your brand voice, also think about communicating with key customers and stakeholders. How do you want your brand to sound? What personality traits should your brand voice portray? For instance, brand voices can be:
An excellent way to help devise your brand voice is the “We’re This, Not That” exercise recommended by CoSchedule. Develop statements that define your brand’s nature such as, “We’re witty, not condescending.” or “We’re insightful, not cocky.”
No matter what your brand voice may sound like, it must connect with your brand’s mission as well as customer needs.
When it comes to brand, people often confuse the marketing terms, positioning and competitive advantage.
A brand’s competitive advantage is a tangible or quantifiable benefit you have over the competition such as pricing, location, or inventory. Your brand’s positioning is defined as “the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market”
Essentially, brand positioning strategies work to create associations between your brand and specific emotions or feelings through a variety of experiences, content, and exposure.
For instance, when you see Google’s brand, what comes to mind? What about Nike? Coca-Cola? Are they credible? Reliable? Innovative? Family oriented? Each of these iconic brands has purposefully planted a consistent image in your mind.
As you develop your brand, keep in mind how consumers will perceive your brand and how it will be portrayed beyond a logo and a name. It’s been noted that brands which are consistently presented see an average revenue increase of 23%.
As you understand by now, your branding efforts extend far beyond the visual identity of your company. How you treat your customers is also an imperative part of your overall brand identity.
Consider the Walt Disney Company, for example. Every aspect of their brand is centered around providing a magical experience for customers and theme park guests. No matter if you shop online or stay at one of their resorts, the brand focuses on customer satisfaction every step of the way. As a result, the brand name and image has become synonymous with quality customer service.
As you consider rebranding, think about how this new identity will be represented in a customer’s experience with your company—from the initial purchase to long after. Your brand’s positioning and consistent presentation will help to accomplish this.
To ensure your brand is communicated, displayed, and distributed properly (and in accordance with your brand purpose/mission), you must develop a brand standards guide. A brand standards guide details how a brand’s identity and assets may be used with permission in any media, online, or in-store content.
A brand standards guide should include:
Once created, distribute this guide to everyone in your company. Each member of your team, from customer service to C-Suite executives, should have a thorough knowledge of how to best represent your brand during their day-to-day activities.
Deciding to completely overhaul your brand is a difficult choice and one that should not be taken lightly. However, certain circumstances may require you to rebrand your company.
Common reasons to rebrand include:
As companies grow, so must the brand. This is one of the many reasons why Slack decided to transform their identity.
If your company is expecting to grow in the near future, you may consider updating your brand accordingly. This situation may not require a full rebrand, including brand values and positioning, but perhaps a simple visual identity refresh will do the trick. But, be sure to also review all aspects of your brand to determine where additional changes must be made.
Perhaps your company has chosen to focus on a new sector or launch a new line of products and services. As a result, your brand may need to undergo a rebrand to better suit the new organizational direction.
Consider how the rebranded identity will best reflect this new company focus.
Think about when your brand was created. Was it several decades ago? Does the design still portray your company values, mission, and purpose? Or, does it look dated and behind the times?
If your company uses an old brand identity that doesn’t communicate the business’ current reputation or position, it’s time for a refresher. However, don’t make this decision based on intuition and your personal desire to rebrand.
While you may feel your brand needs an updated appearance, does your customer base agree? Does research confirm your need to rebrand? Consult with stakeholders and customers prior to embarking on a rebranding initiative. Otherwise, you may end up in a Tropicana situation where customers aren’t familiar with or trust the new brand.
In legal circumstances, such as a merger or acquisition or copyright infringement, you may need to rebrand your company to meet new needs. However, before you do rebrand the company, check with your legal counsel to see what criteria your brand may need to meet as the result of legal proceedings.
When your company experiences negative publicity for whatever reason, a rebranding campaign may be able to rectify the error. In such a situation, it is vital to take your time, complete extensive brand research, and create the best possible new identity.
If you do decide rebranding is the right path for your company, you must follow a necessary series of steps for the best outcome. Should you fail to do so, you’ll end up with a new identity that does not connect with customers.
As you begin to rebrand, complete each step thoroughly; never rushing to get to the next. After all, rebranding isn’t a sprint. It’s an ongoing marathon.
Make sure your company follows these rebranding steps diligently:
As we reviewed, there are several reasons to rebrand your business. Once you discover your reason, document it.
Having a documented reason behind rebranding your company will guide the rest of the process. As you complete each step, always refer back to this intention to ensure you are staying on course.
Make sure all parties involved in the rebranding process are able to access this documented reason. Everyone from the accounting team to the contracted branding agency should have an understanding of why you’ve decided to transform the business identity.
While it’s great to know why you want to rebrand, it’s also imperative to understand what you hope to achieve by doing so. For the best success, make sure your goals are SMART, which stands for:
For example, one rebranding goal could be to improve online brand mentions by 20% before the end of Q2. This goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to the company, and has a deadline.
Without rebranding goals, you won’t be able to truly measure the success or failure of your efforts. To set your goals, bring your team together and brainstorm what you’d like to achieve by rebranding. As always, reflect on your reason for rebranding to help shape your goals.
Unfortunately, almost all business decisions—including rebranding—come down to budgeting. Does your business currently have enough capital or the ability to acquire debt to complete a successful rebranding campaign?
Meet with your leadership and financial team to discuss what a reasonable budget would be for your company’s new image. However, be careful not to undercut your rebranding budget, either. After all, the identity of your business is not the place to cut corners.
If you are unable to fund a complete rebrand of your business, look at other ways to improve your company’s image in the meantime, such as a website redesign or PR campaign. Do not begin the process of rebranding if you cannot afford to. You might end up with a rebranding fail!
Research is the backbone of every rebranding strategy. Your company will need to either use in-house resources or hire an independent firm to conduct extensive research on each aspect of your potential rebrand, including:
Gather as much vital data and information as you can before proceeding with any rebranding efforts. After all, you may discover your intent to rebrand would not be well received by customers. Or, you may find the market is too unstable and a rebrand would cause potential losses for your company.
Never commit to a new brand without a wealth of research and data to support your decision. As an organization, you view your company with rose-colored glasses. Meaning, you need to seek outside feedback and information to rely on. Otherwise, you may find yourself going through the rebranding process with blinders on, potentially missing key warning signs along the way.
While conducting research, use this opportunity to also identify new customer needs and wants. From there, determine how your brand could fulfill these needs with the new identity.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to look at competitor brands. What are they doing better than your brand at the moment? Consider how your new brand can improve your company’s position when compared to the competition. It’s also imperative to review competitor brand assets so don’t create a similar brand appearance by mistake.
Now that you’ve got the foundation of your rebranding efforts in place, it’s time to plan out the entire project. Keep in mind, rebranding efforts can take months upon months to complete.
Remember, this is one project you do not want to rush! Hurried rebranding projects end up missing goals and resulting in poor publicity for your company.
Your timeline should include deadlines and details for:
Consult the expertise of experienced project managers when orchestrating your timeline. If possible, hire an external branding agency to help run this part of the process. In addition to assisting you with research and timelines, a branding agency will direct all creative, strategic, and back-office work necessary to develop a prosperous new brand for your company.
While it may be enticing to present your beautiful new brand to the world once finished, take a step back and review it one final time with your team.
Again, recall the purpose for rebranding, review your set budget, and tie up any loose ends with regards to your timeline or identity. Take the time to examine all aspects of your new brand, from the tiniest of pixels to the largest of publicity events. The last thing you want is a mistake or error to occur at the last minute.
As you finish up with your new brand, consider all the legal requirements necessary for rebranding efforts such as copyrights, trademarks, etc. Consult with your legal team before moving forward with the brand launch.
Congratulations! It’s time to show the world your new company brand. Now is also the time to execute your pre-planned marketing and promotional strategy around the new identity.
You should already have press releases, social media posts, internal communications, and other promotional materials ready to roll for the big day. Each of these announcements should reflect your reasoning and excitement for the change.
Take the opportunity to communicate to customers (both current and future) why you decided to rebrand and your goals for the company moving forward. Although you don’t need to dive into specifics as you would for a board meeting, these materials should seek to also excite customers about the refreshed company identity.
And, while you’re at it, celebrate with your team. You’ve earned it!
Although it’s time to celebrate, the work isn’t over just yet.
As word gets out of your new brand, keep a watchful eye on the customer and industry response. Set up social media and Google mention alerts to stay on top of the feedback. If necessary, you may need to alter areas of your brand to meet the concerns of customers.
However, if you completed step four to the fullest extent, you shouldn’t have too much negative buzz to deal with. Keep in mind, everyone will have their opinions. Some of the greatest rebrands in history were met to the negative press at first. After all, not everyone loves change.
Once your brand is out in the wild and the buzz has died down, it’s time to continue implementing your brand strategy. All elements of the new brand should be communicated across your internal and external marketing and communications materials and plans, from social media to video production.
If not already completed as part of your rebranding launch, use this time to also update old marketing content with the new brand assets.
Now that you know the proper steps for rebranding your company, it’s crucial to also comprehend what could possibly go wrong. And, what mistakes you could make along the way.
For a successful rebranding campaign, do your best to avoid these mistakes.
There’s a reason this is titled, “Rebranding Isn’t a Sprint, It’s a Marathon.”
One of the most common mistakes companies make when it comes to rebranding is sprinting through the process. Instead of doing their due diligence at every step, the company wants a fresh identity right away.
This rapid timeline leads to a myriad of mistakes and frustrated employees/contractors due to the quick turnaround time. Naturally, this scenario doesn’t result in a trusted brand with longevity.
Instead of simply developing a new logo and “getting to the rest later,” make sure you thoroughly think through your decision to rebrand and plan accordingly. Allow each aspect of the planning process to take as much time as it needs (within reason) to develop a strong identity.
Confer with project managers about your intentions and goals for the rebrand to best identify reasonable timelines for the entire effort.
Too often, companies only look for internal feedback on their new brand. However, are your employees your target audience? Will they be the ones making purchases from your company on a regular basis?
Instead, you must research what your customers want and need. Failing to do so will result in a new brand that doesn’t resonate with customers. This is how Tropicana lost 20% of sales in the first month of a new brand! Customers couldn’t identify and did not trust the brand’s new image.
Before you begin mocking up logo concepts or crafting a brand voice, do thorough research on everything from what colors customers prefer to what they need from your brand at this point in time.
On top of researching what your customers want from a brand, you can also consult them. Ask loyal customers what they look for in brands they trust, send them sample rebrand mock-ups, or invite them to take part in interviews as part of your overall research.
Not consulting your loyal customers could end in disaster for your brand new company image.
Unfortunately, “design by committee” is a common practice among corporations and organizations looking to rebrand. The problem is, this process doesn’t always reflect what’s best for the company and focuses on opinions rather than facts.
Design by committee involves a design team presenting their concepts, backed by research and strategy, to a client. The client then turns around and sends the brand concepts to a committee, often made up of executives, stakeholders, and other individuals. This committee then debates over the logos, sends their opinions and changes back to the design team, and the process starts all over again.
As you can imagine, this process is problematic for a number of reasons.
First, the committee most likely does not have professional design experience. Meaning, they are basing their edits and feedback on their preconceived perceptions of the company, market, and personal preferences.
For instance, if the design team discovers (via their extensive research) that the target audience responds best to orange logos, they’ll present identity ideas around this fact. But, the company’s Vice President prefers blue. So, he sends that feedback down the chain for the designers to implement, even though the design team knows it won’t resonate well with customers.
While it is helpful to get insight from external teams and individuals, do your best to avoid a “design by committee” situation and instead form a task force that has direct involvement in the entire rebranding process, from research to launch.
Some of the worst rebrands in history are the result of minimal resources and a low budget. When you don’t have the funds to fully rebrand your company, you end up with lackluster results or incomplete campaigns.
Try your best to have the full funds (or means of obtaining said funds) prior to beginning your rebranding process. If you have to hold off a little to procure a robust budget, that’s fine. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to creating a different identity for your business.
All too often, companies only focus on the visual identity of their business. However, if you are rebranding as a result of negative publicity or poor organizational choices, changing the appearance won’t cover up the problems.
Even if you’re rebranding for positive changes such as company growth, it’s not enough to throw together a new logo and color scheme and call it a day. You must review all aspects of your company’s identity as you start this new chapter.
The Best and Worst Rebrands of All Time
To better understand how rebranding can go horribly wrong and wonderfully right, take a look at the best and worst rebranding campaigns in recent years.
When you think of NBC, you see images of the colorful peacock and instantly hear the jingle. When Comcast took over NBC Universal, they butchered the logo. The new identity was a stark purple background with a serif font which didn’t honor the brand’s previous history. And, the iconic peacock was nowhere to be found. Although the NBC website and network still dons the legendary character, the parent company does not.
Since Pepsi’s rebranding efforts were not as drastic as NBC Universal or Tropicana’s, many customers believe the endeavor was a waste of the $1 million budget. The company used an extraordinary amount of funds to slightly alter the logo, a move stakeholders and customers alike deemed truly unnecessary. Although to be fair, the Pepsi logo has gone through several designs over the decades.
Or should we say, AniWal Planet? Animal Planet’s previous logo featuring the elephant was once one of the most recognizable brands in the world. But to stay relevant with the times, the company decided to rebrand. The result? A strange logo wordmark combination with unfortunate typography choices.
During their rebranding process, Airbnb’s hired agency, Design Studio, stayed with 18 different Airbnb hosts in 13 cities across the world. Using this firsthand insight, the team put together a brand representative of Airbnb’s values, customers, and purpose: people, places, and love.
Much of the world has always called Dunkin’ Donuts, simply “Dunkin’.” Knowing this, the company set out to provide a fresher look, drawing inspiration from customer feedback. The company kept the iconic orange and purple color scheme and typography but refreshed the brand to encapsulate the company’s growth into other avenues of the industry such as espresso beverages and additional food items.
In 2016, Mastercard rebranded to a more simplistic, organic design with an entirely new font and typography set. The notable red and yellow Venn diagram logo stayed, this time with a more solid appearance. This evolution of the brand showed customers the company was still trustworthy, but also serious about keeping up with the times.
Are you realizing your brand is in need of a new look and identity? Keep this guide on-hand to successfully navigate the rebranding process.
When you’re in the market for a revitalized new brand and image, contact the team at Crafted. From finding your brand’s voice to documenting your purpose and executing a solid rebranding strategy, the branding experts at Crafted are ready to help.