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Three Keys to a Successful Rebrand

Lessons from a 5-week Brand Sprint with Growth Public Schools

Illustration by David Espinosa Alvarez, Logo by Hillary Celebi

Friday Project Team: Elizabeth Cameron (Brand Strategist), Hillary Celebi (Designer), Hannah Lushin (Copywriter)

We’ve all heard the rebrand horror stories: a logo accidentally looking like something obscene, a Board of Directors torpedoing the project at the last minute, an uprising on social media. At Friday, we take pride in having never been the firm behind one of those stories. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t faced our share of rebrand challenges.

A brand represents so much more than just words and colors; it is an expression of an organization’s identity. So it is only natural that making changes to it would result in an identity crisis of sorts. Change requires letting go of past decisions and points of pride; it requires trying on something uncomfortable, even if only because it’s new; and it requires bravery to step into the unknown. None of which is easy for one individual, let alone an entire organization and the people it serves.

For all these reasons and more, rebrand processes are notoriously long, drawn out, costly affairs. At Friday, we’ve been experimenting with how to make high quality branding more financially accessible to our smaller nonprofit clients and concluded that the best way to cut cost would be to cut time.

Enter Growth Public Schools. Growth Public Schools (GPS), a small charter school in the Sacramento area, agreed to be our guinea pig for a 5-week brand sprint that would result in new messaging, a new logo and visual identity, and a new structure for their website. At the end of the 5 weeks, we were thrilled to find that not only were we able to stick to our budget, we were able to produce deliverables that the GPS and Friday teams were equally proud of.

While a 5-week sprint won’t be right for every client, the experience has surfaced three keys to a successful rebrand we now aim to foster in every engagement.

1. A Clear Strategy

We started our work with Growth Public Schools immediately on the heels of a strategic planning process led by Friday’s Annie Crangle and Anthony Rodriguez. Through that process, the GPS team had already wrestled with what aspects of their founding vision needed to shift and had crafted a clear theory of change that defined their mission, their vision, and how their unique model made both possible.As a result, our rebrand work was able to focus not on redefining their identity, but rather on conveying their identity in the most compelling way for their audiences. For the messaging work, this looked like translating internal ways of talking about and organizing what they do into more emotional, audience-centric, and succinct phrases. For the visual work, this looked like finding a new visual language that better reflected the personality their community now embodies and a logo that didn’t position them strictly as a STEM-focused institution.

2. Trusted Decision Makers

Having already engaged staff and community in the strategic planning conversations, GPS was able to select a small group of four who held the respect and knowledge of the rest of the team to participate in the brand process. Within that group, GPS chose one individual–the wise yet humble Somer Lowery–to compile feedback and make final decisions as needed.

The authority granted to Somer, and her ability to wield it judicially, was particularly useful as we worked to land on a final logo design. Through each step of the process, Somer was able to hear the disparate feedback of the group (as is almost always the case when it comes to visual preferences) and translate it into one-voice feedback. Those decisions and guidance helped Friday bring forward the strengths and refine the weaknesses of our work through each iteration.

Step 1 — Moodboard Selection

Step 2— Logo Concepts

Step 3 — Logo Refinement

Step 4 — Logo Finalization

3. An Immovable Timeline

Perhaps the most surprising finding from our work with Growth Public Schools was how the constrained timeline we assumed would be the most difficult part of the project actually unlocked our best creative work. For the Friday team, the quick turnarounds kept us from overthinking our work and drove us to be more bold and unapologetic in our recommendations from the start. Similarly for the GPS team, the quick turnarounds as well as the knowledge that any delays would lead to an unfinished project helped their team focus on making–and sticking to–decisions based on their strategic goals, not their personal emotions.

If you want to avoid your own rebrand horror story, start by assessing the strength of your strategy. Wherever that assessment lands, our team of strategists and creatives can help you map out the right process to clarify your strategy, build the right brand team, and set deadlines to keep you on track.

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Elizabeth Cameron

Elizabeth Cameron

Fueled by a passion for ensuring everyone arrives at Friday fulfilled | Partner @ Friday. www.friday.us