Time For A Brand Refresh?
It’s a tricky question for the typical small business owner — “Is it time for a brand refresh?”
Perhaps it’s due to slipping market share, or shrinking sales projections. It could be due to increased competition in the market. Or maybe it’s just that you started small — most new businesses don’t have big marketing budgets, after all — and never went through a formal brand positioning process.
Even once you start asking yourself the question, it’s easy to find excuses to avoid a brand refresh. More than likely, you have at least some emotional investment in your company. “That’s my name on the sign,” you might say, worried about how a new brand might reflect on you, much less the company. You may have named the business after a favorite team, an adored pet, or something else of value to you personally, and letting go of that attachment can be a big challenge. Perhaps most difficult of all, brand positioning projects can be costly, especially if sales are in a slump. And when business is good, it’s easy to put off. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right?
Your company’s image and reputation are going to be made with or without your guidance, and a brand refresh can be a way to proactively tell your company’s story. It can help identify your company’s values and also what makes it stand out from your competitors.
It’s important to keep in mind that a brand refresh is about more than just a new logo or changing up your color palette. It’s much more than just a graphic design project. What’s the first step?
DISCOVERY AND RESEARCH
Arguably the most important part of the brand refresh process is also one of the most overlooked. Ask yourself or your employees what they think makes the company stand out, while keeping in mind your customers or client’s impressions of your company. Careful discovery and research can identify the traits you want people to identify with you and understand where your perspective overlaps with customers’.
Defining your company’s values and what you offer is only the first step. If you want to stand out from your competitors, it pays to know how they look, how they sound, and how they make their customers feel. You may implicitly know much of this already, but formally quantifying your key differentiators can inform every facet of your brand positioning.
Now it’s time to take that research and start applying it. But before you get to the visuals, you need to set the foundation. Defining key statements — elevator pitches, mission statements, and value propositions to name a few — is critical to not only inform customers but also make an emotional connection with them. You need to speak not only to who you are and what you do, which connect with customers on a rational level, but also to why you do it and how you do it differently — forming an emotional connection and elevating your company in a way that’s harder for competitors to duplicate.
DESIGNING A VISUAL SYSTEM
At long last, we come to the part that most people think of first: the visual design. Do you need a new logo, or just some slight changes to the existing one? Do you need a new color palette? Do you need an entirely new name? These decisions should be made based on data gleaned during the Discovery and Research Phase, with the goal of expressing the values and positions identified in the Brand Positioning Phase. Everything — color palettes, the style and shape of the logo, typography and writing style, even the choice of materials used in tangible marketing materials — should reflect these positions, either directly or indirectly.
Finally! Your new logo has been designed and put into use, your new business cards have been printed, your new website has been launched…but don’t get too comfortable just yet. Even the best laid plans can go awry, so it’s important to reexamine and reevaluate the process once your refreshed brand has had a chance to breathe a little. Ask the same questions over again: Is the new brand connecting with your target audience? How do we stand out? How are we explaining who we are and what we do in a way that makes our customers care?
While it’s doubtful you would need to start over (assuming you’ve stuck to the process), it’s good to know if you need to make any minor course corrections. It’s also a good idea to periodically reevaluate to make sure you’re still communicating to customers in a way that highlights your brand values and goals. Your brand should grow and change as your company does, and by following this process you’ll be in a better position to create a strong, unique brand and a profitable company.
Mark Fight is a Senior Designer at Haneke Design. A Florida-native, Mark spent time after college as a safari guide at Disney’s Magic Kingdom before beginning a career in design. He has worked with clients large and small, including national brands like Disney, AT&T, Toys”R”Us, CVS and Dollar General. When he’s not pushing pixels, Mark can be found spending time with his wife and daughter visiting theme parks, hitting the beaches or checking out the local art scene.