Data first: why rebranding process must be data driven
Beginning to Rebrand: It’s all about the Data
There are lots of reasons that companies fail to sustainably grow. Successful companies are dynamic―if something isn’t working they change it up and are constantly and carefully testing new approaches against current practice. When brainstorming and strategizing your company’s successes and areas of improvement, you always need to consider your branding. If lack of recognition or a weak brand identity is at fault, rebranding may be a crucial step to getting back on track.
That being said, Rebranding is a difficult process, with additional complications to the initial branding your company may have received way back when. It requires serious soul-searching and the willingness to really examine not only what you do but why you do it. Unlike your original branding, it also forces to you ask yourself if your current branding is effectively representing your passion and vision to your audience in a meaningful way. You might also be forced to discard cherished ideas, images, and feelings that first made your company a success (or not). Rebranding isn’t an event, it’s a process, and despite the difficulty, it can significantly enhance your company’s ability to reach out and touch your target audiences.
There are many reasons companies might choose to rebrand, and the scope of a rebrand varies widely. Sometimes a company simply wants a fresh look and feel with an updated logo and messaging. Other times, substantial changes across the board are required for a company to reposition itself, upmarket, or alter its value or service proposition. A rebranding needs to be in line with the persona(s) of your company’s target market. If you want to be successful, people need to identify your company: what it stands for, why it does what it does, and, crucially, the emotional association people make with it.
What Makes a Strong Brand?
There is virtually no difference between the phrase “strong company” and “strong brand”. Successful companies have successful branding, and successful brands are strong companies. Any powerful brand’s visual and textual expression needs to reflect, in the most simple way possible, the unique value or selling proposition to the correct audience in a meaningful way. Branding doesn’t only differentiate a company from the competition. It also creates a distinctive identity ―the thoughts and feelings that people associate with a brand. Whether it’s Coca-Cola, Fedex, or Google Android, there’s a distinctive identity that anyone, anywhere (amongst the relevant target audience), can recognize and associate with the brand. In many cases, you don’t even need to see the actual logo as even just the fonts and colors are enough.
What’s more elusive, however, is HOW to achieve an effective brand identity. There are many powerful and unique brands out in the world. While a strong brand is, by definition, unique, there are three qualities that all strong brands share:
- A resonating core premise ― not WHAT we do but WHY we do it
- A distinctive and unified identity
- The willingness to constantly renew and refresh over time
Rebranding is especially hard because it forces you to re-examine and alter your existing messaging, colors, logos, and language. Here are some powerful insights I’ve gained about how this works.
Leading a rebranding process is challenging enough, but to lead this process in-house is significantly more complex. Rebranding is a sensitive process. The following are some complications that often occur when a company attempts an internal rebrand:
- Decision makers are blindly attached to current branding (without perhaps the data to back that decision up)
- Staff may hesitate to provide candid feedback in order avoid the appearance of personal criticism
- Leadership can’t differentiate between the product and the brand values
- The soul-searching required is emotionally sensitive and can open a potentially morale-crushing pandora’s box of problems
- The founders see themselves as the target audience
As an insider we are always biased. All of us. Since we already know what we want our brand to express, we often assume that that message is clearly communicated and expressed, even when it isn’t. Our familiarity with and emotional attachment to our own brand make us the worst people to rebrand it. A rebrand requires objectivity, data, and a fresh perspective. A external specialist in this field can help you with both.
Data is Key
Rebranding is like any other executive business decision. Undertaking the process should be based on one thing and one thing only. Data. You can’t objectively gauge impact without a data-driven approach. After all, the reason you’ve decided to rebrand is that your current branding is not effective enough — which is itself (hopefully) a data-driven decision. To understand what’s missing in an existing brand, we need to gather the data, analyze it, and come to an informed decision about how to proceed.
Methodology―Asking the Right Questions
Start with learning what problems might exist with your current branding. Begin by talking to the founders or leadership and make sure everyone is getting up in the morning for the same reason, that you’re all on the same page. It will help you define the “WHY” of the brand, which is more important than WHAT we do or HOW we do it. You need to understand your product’s or service’s real value to the end user, and HOW, the customers perceive it. Only then can you move on to seeing how well your brand mission statement is both communicated and received.
That is my favorite part of the process. I mentioned earlier that we need to ask the right questions, but what are the right questions? The answer depends on what information pertaining to target and customer behavior will help you to project a brand identity which will effectively communicate that you will fulfill their needs, speak their language and provide an ideal solution for their pain points. This part is fundamental, and I recommend significant brainstorming go into this. Write down all the questions you would want to ask. Think hard about who the best people to ask would be too.
Perform a survey based on those questions. Make sure you keep it clear and simple. For example, instead of asking “where is the pain?” we might want to ask “does X give a solution for a problem you have faced?”. Likewise, instead of “what is the greatest value for you?” we will ask “in which way do you feel that this service made your life easier”.
Each survey should include about ten questions each. Word 8–9 of these questions as closed, with up to 4 possible answers to choose from. This allows for effective data aggregation. However, allow for 1 or more open questions too, as these empower the respondent to offer you valuable insights based on their own experience.
In my experience, it’s most effective to create three different surveys targeting the following different groups:
Founders and Employees ― ask about the current branding, mission, and product/service.
Customer Service and Sales―this survey will include the most fundamental questions pertaining to brand perception by the target audience and the communicated values of the product. Essentially, you need to understand what (the right) people really think about you. Why they may leave you, and what you can do better.
Existing Customers and Business Partners―This can be B2C or B2B, and use one for each if needed. Again, what are the essential responses to your brand? What sets you apart and how well do you address their needs?
Former Customers ― This is your chance to test your assumptions with end user insights and cross check.. You will be surprised how cooperative former customers can be when taking the right approach with direct and honest dialogue.
Tip: Try to follow the survey’s questions so you can generate quantifiable reporting. However, try not to sound like you’re reading a survey, instead try to keep the tone conversational as opposed to an interrogation (which you obviously don’t want). At the same time, keep an open mind to responses that go outside the box. Some of the most meaningful insights I have ever had in my experience floated into these conversations without being directly related to the questions I asked.
Posing the right questions to the right audience is definitely one of the the easiest and most effective ways to begin a data-driven rebranding process. Don’t hesitate to ask the hard questions, regardless of the response. It’s always better to get honest feedback to the questions that matter. The process of rebranding is an opportunity to collect data, communicate, and grow as a company.
Gilad Shamri is a rebranding and growth specialist who has helped dozens of startups grow and currently consulting companies in Silicon Valley