Committed To A Rebrand: Where To Begin?

Doug Larson, Chief Marketologist

Rebranding to Stop Fighting the Old and Building the New

We’re Rebranding. Now What?

While your company might be confident in marching forward with a rebrand, sometimes myopic thinking can get us in trouble. So, we encourage companies to start with surveying the situation. Start by surveying key customers, vendors and suppliers and get a gauge for their sense of your brand. Here you will learn valuable lessons about the awareness of your brand, perception of your brand and the “equity” of your brand. Equity is how valuable and known your brand is in the marketplace to those that should care about it. Assuming the indicators still suggest rebranding, you need to take the next step.

The Holy Grail, The Brand Bible

In our world this is developing what we call our Brand Standards and Messaging Document. The BSMD is the “brand bible” for a better description. It includes, initially just in text format, but later in text and design format, what you want your brand to be, communicate, and speak. It tells of the experiences and value that the brand should deliver. And, most of all, it tells what it is we want our customers and prospects to walk away remembering about your company.

The sections of this document include things like:

  • The Brand Background
  • The Brand Story (historic and future)
  • Brand Cornerstones
  • Visual Brand Language
  • Positioning Statement
  • Unique Selling Proposition
  • Single Net Impression
  • Tagline
  • Features and Benefits
  • Keywords and Phrases
  • …among other items

But, most importantly, it includes your “Why.” Why is your company in business to do what it does?

It’s Not How or What, but Why?

Of the above, all are important, but we believe the Why is the most critical. This is the reason you are in business and people would want to do business with you. Being in business to make a profit and provide jobs has some level of nobility. However, do you think your customers care? No. They care about you being in business to make their life so much better they can stop worrying about something that you have solved. Or, they care because you want to have the smallest carbon footprint while making the best widget that helps them in their job and stay true to their green manufacturing. And, the fact that you make a profit and provide jobs is just a byproduct to them.

Cornerstones are Building Blocks

Developing Brand Cornerstones is probably not as glamorous as you think it is. We’d love to document it as some ultra progressive process using bleeding edge technology. But, what it really consists of is a white board and pen (or paper and pencil). Yup, ta-da! (Ok, we are being a bit flippant when we say this). The actual process is white board and pen, but the effort can be Herculean.

The process really starts as a brainstorming process and you put up all the words you can possibly think of that you’d want customers/prospects to think about your company. After the initial effort there are probably 100+ words on the board. And, every one of them sounds great and reflects your company. But, no one can digest over 100 different ideas, let alone have the time to develop that relationship. So, you start to pare them down and this primarily happens with group words into buckets of like meaning. For instance, words like “quality,” “professional,” “skilled,” and “able” might all fall into one group that you’d eventually call “Expert.” You continue this process until you have a set of manageable groups, maybe +/- 10.

Honestly, this process can take days. You spend hours putting ideas onto the board, refine and then walk away. You come back the next day and do the same thing. Over a period of days and hours you refine your Brand Cornerstones down to the 4-5 keywords that truly reflect your desired position.

At this point your BSMD should be about 80-90% complete. The cornerstones are done… as well as a majority of the other messaging components. It’s time to put the Brand Standards and Guidelines Messaging Document on the shelf for a little bit. But, don’t bury it too far. We’ll come back to it later.

He’s Alive. New Identity

With the BSMD on the shelf, we now embark on making the mark… the logo. The logo will initially be applied to business cards, letterhead and envelopes (corporate identity package). It will then be applied to all future marketing materials using the Brand Standards to drive the application. We use the Brand Cornerstones as the foundation for developing the mark. We are going to develop tens of different logos that could be the new logo, but only one will make the cut. And, that one needs to best reflect the cornerstones.

The creative process really starts to take shape here. First you start with what are the “musts” of the logo. In your surveys you might learn certain things about your logo that resonate and create equity. Things like color, fonts and marks might all have a meaning to your audience.

Do you have a current tagline? You’ll want to find out what people think about that, too. You’ll need to consider if the tagline stays, adapts or possibly lives on in the cornerstones.

When developing logos we design them all in black and white. Even though you might know the colors, start with the logo in black. This allows the logo to really stand on its own merits. And, in some future applications there’s going to be time for a one-color, black version of the logo. You have to make sure it works at the basic level before you can grow it.

In all, you may develop 20-30 different marks that reflect the company and its cornerstones. The inspiration for these logos comes from a variety of places and brainstorms. From these 20-30 you can internally pare them down to a couple logos that best represent. You can then distribute them to your influencers for feedback. You will have some further refinement and focus. In essence, you can rinse and repeat this cycle until you have a logo. You can expand the process too to get even greater inputs.

Bringing It Home

The final step is to finish the BSMD. From the exercise above you now have messaging, colors and logo. You need to take these and start applying them to sample collateral. We do this with Brand Experience Boards. The effort here is to take some high impact marketing items (website home page, digital ads, email template, collateral and the like) and build them out together so you have a cohesive plan. You can then go back and apply them to the BSMD so that all future work would have a platform to be developed from. Finally, finish it up and put it on the shelf for a future day, so to speak. It will be a tremendous tool for marching forward.

So, that’s it! That is the rebranding story. Much of it gets condensed, as there is a lot to be done. Hopefully we covered the high impact items. And, best part, our door is always open. If you’d like additional information about our process, or how the process might apply to your company, please give us a ring or drop us an email.

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