I drew this picture.

4 Things to Consider When Rebranding

A great logo can say so much with so little. I think all of us would agree that one of the holy grails in our craft would be to have created an iconic brand identity. One that becomes instantly recognizable, and helps forge a strong, unforgettable love connection with an audience to that brand.

It’s very rare however that even a once ‘epic in its time’ logo can remain timeless. Only a few legendary brands have been able to live this dream.

So much changes in culture and design trends that affect what audiences respond to visually. It’s a full-time job for many organizations to remain relevant in their branding efforts.

Just as we probably wouldn’t dare consider wearing many of the same clothes we wore when we were in grade school (though I do miss my Big Bird T-shirt), the same company’s logo may not be serving them as well today as it did perhaps when Bob Ross was painting ‘happy trees’.

Now That’s Better

Wendy’s is a great example of this. They recently rebranded their iconic Wendy’s girl character after 30 years.

Illustrator “Von Glitchka” did a great job of keeping the important details of what made the Wendy symbol iconic, while modernizing it in his exploration work for the symbol refresh.

When I asked Von what his inspiration and goals were, he had this to say:

“The creative brief had two pages debating pony tails and piggie tails. They asked me to explore more contemporary approaches. I styled mine off my daughter actually. I was inspired by Wendy’s founder who named his restaurant after his daughter.”

I love his use of storytelling (more on storytelling in 2.) within his exploration work for this enduring fast-food brand.

Talk about life imitating art, imitating life, imitating…er, yeah!

A much less effective fast-food rebrand example: “The Colonel is breakdancing!! I can’t get behind that!

That said, most companies will eventually come to a place where rebranding is an imminent undertaking if they desire to stay relevant/fresh in the marketplace.

Here are four things I’ve learned in my own experience that may help in this no doubt arduous, yet extremely important and potentially hugely rewarding experience.

1. Understand Why

Before taking on such a time-consuming project & process, it’s important to understand exactly why something as monumental as a rebrand effort is even taking place:

  • Was the logo type created with Comic Papyrus? Definitely a worthy reason!
  • Did the CEO notice a major competitors rebrand and decide it was time to follow suit? Maybe not such a great reason.
  • Does your company excel now in an digital space where it used to in an analog one?

Well then, in the immortal words of J. Vernon McGhee:

“If the barn needs paintin’, paint it!”

Whatever the reason, understand the why and craft a compelling story that supports and reinforces this (more on story next).

2. Tell the Story

Everyone loves stories. When a moving story connects to a powerful visual, our sensory cortex lights up and we open ourselves up to new thoughts and emotions (which is why film and cinema is still one of the most powerful mediums of storytelling).

Speaking of cinema, the company I work for (NCM) just launched our rebrand effort after six years.

The former logo was great and all, but was starting to feel a little dated in the marketplace. We also wanted a new way to communicate our position of authority in cinema, and as a serous contender to digital cable and online media ad networks.

Since we sell ads that project on the biggest screens around, we were able to narrow down (through many various concepts/iterations) our finalist…the projection concept.

The Backstory

There’s a childhood nostalgia that can occur when one peers behind to see the projection beams. Something that can harken you back to that first unforgettable movie theater experience. Waltzing into the beautiful lobby, being enraptured by the aroma of fresh buttered popcorn and sitting down with family to experience an immersive and profoundly moving story.

The projection beam starts from a tiny lens, and scales up to a larger-than-life experience which beckons our captive audiences to engage in a brand’s desired action.

3. Establish a Flexible Brand System

Something that looks great on a billboard may scale down horribly to one of the many (and counting) smaller mobile device screens. Conversely, something that was designed smaller may not scale up well either.

To assure you have created a flexible system, be sure to test the identity in all relevant:

  • Scales
  • Orientations
  • Mediums
  • On white & reversed out

Colors & Shapes as Secondary Brand Elements

Another thing to consider after a solid design direction is established is how can certain colors and/or other related visual elements be introduced to give distinction to other areas of the company and company initiatives.

For example, our designers came up with a primary and secondary color palette that all work in concert within our new rebrand identity.

We have a movie planning app, and social video review product which are distinct product offerings under our umbrella. Could those products benefit from incorporating those secondary color palettes into their identities within our system? Possibly. Will we do that? Maybe, maybe not. But, the rebrand effort and flexible system established would certainly allow for that.

And Action!

Another great exploration of the brand system that our talented design team established is using the beam shapes as a mask for brand-specific images in sales presentations.

4. Don’t Settle

Start analog and use the greatest design tools available to you: Your brain, a pencil and paper. With so many design tools (and so little time) at our disposal, the temptation can be strong to begin digitally laying down type and shapes.

It can be done, but there are a few problems with this direction:

  1. Our computers can’t think for us
  2. We will most often design ourselves into a corner
  3. If it doesn’t work in black and white, it won’t work in color either
Use the greatest design tools still available to you: Your brain, a pencil and paper.

I’m so glad I didn’t settle when I was recently designing my coffee roasting brand identity. I would’ve never truly fallen in love with the most important visual aspect of my company otherwise. If I don’t love my brand, how can I expect others to?

If I had settled we would’ve ended up with this:

Instead of this:

I’m thankful for my awesome wife who kept pushing me to not settle and keep exploring. We both LOVE the final result (so do our customers)!

Conclusion

Always remember the timeless words of legendary brand identity designer Saul Bass:

“Work? It’s just serious play.”

Research, play, experiment, collaborate and most of all…have fun!

Rebranding can be an incredibly challenging, yet hugely rewarding and satisfying effort when done well.

I hope you’ve found these insights helpful, and I hope you can apply them to your next fun and exciting rebrand initiative!

Have you rebranded yours or another company’s identity recently? Would love to hear from you in the comments how that process was for you as well as any lifts the company has seen since the rebrand.

This article was originally published on jasonogle.com


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