When is it time to re-brand?

We often work with start-ups and small businesses who have a great product or idea but have pieced together a brand quickly. It might be by themselves or with little or no budget. They’ll be relying on this first phase of the brand — their beta brand — to test an idea, get it off the ground and in front of retailers, investors and to an early audience. At this stage there might be a name, a logo and a product but the key questions haven’t been addressed. There isn’t yet a sense of who they really are or what their identity is.

We want to find out what really makes them tick… What are their ambitions? Where do they want to be in one, two and five years? Who will be their audience along the way? What does the market look like and how are they going to shake it up? Are they unique in that setting or do they need to find a way to stand apart from everyone else? Lots more questions like these need to be answered in order to find a strong position and build a real brand identity, so in a way it’s time to re-brand very early in their life span.

We see this as more of an evolution or development of what they have, rather than a re-brand though. It’s important to work closely with the people behind the business — to develop something that feels authentic to the consumer as well as natural for the people living the brand. Even then this may be an identity that needs to evolve further, to mature over time or have flexibility… In the case of many start-ups or FMCG brands they might be operating in a world which is moving so quickly that the goal posts keep shifting and they need to be able to adapt.

In this way I think the ‘re-brand’ in a traditional sense is partly dying out. It was something an agency would produce with a big reveal, a 200 page presentation and brand bible, “tadaa”. Things generally now need to be more staged, more flexible and more collaborative. Budgets are smaller, deadlines are shorter and the world moves much faster. A brand used to be created for a client and it was quite final. A large part of design today is building relationships as well as strategy, developing brands with clients and with their audiences, then allowing them to be agile.

First published in Courier Magazine, Feb 2017