Preparing for a strategic brand repositioning and creative rebrand

Ross Haxton

By Ross Haxton, Creative & Brand Services Director

Posted on

Part two in our series on the Successful Management of your Brand during the M&A Process

Recently, we’ve all received a wake-up call. For many of us it was no bad thing, our busy lifestyles gave little opportunity to think too deeply about what really matters to us.

The same can be said for businesses. For some, it’s prompted a welcome necessary gear change and an exciting new lease of life,  “Why didn’t we do this before?”

For others, an inability to adapt rapidly has led to decline.

Either way, many companies are considering merging, acquiring or simply repositioning or rebranding to adapt to life post-COVID-19: remote working, changes to supply and distribution, service provision, customer relationship management, and the acceleration in the adoption of technology.

As governments assess the impact to GDP and the economy, many businesses face volatile markets and anticipate poor sales. Faced with continued uncertainty, now is the time to check the relevance of your existing business and brand strategy.

Rebranding or creating a new brand goes way beyond visual identity, it can help your company to enhance your competitive edge and visibility, drive sales growth and increase your business value over the long term.

 

Discover the most relevant questions to ask to help understand if you're going into a rebrand for the right reasons and, to help you to develop a brand identity that will drive your business success.

The power of brand identity

An iconic visual brand identity is all about standout. It drives customer preference and helps build engagement and equity across the entire customer experience. In developing your visual identity, prepare to satisfy the key criteria of whether the brand achieves visual, emotional, functional and structural objectives, wherever it is appears.

Your brand is ultimately built on reputation and visibility, with your name, logo and strapline being important visual representations of your brand. They’re central to how you’re perceived but how they are managed relative to your entire customer experience is critically important.

Which approach is best – evolution or revolution?

There are different types and degrees of rebranding (evolution to revolution – a light refresh, a full rebrand or a new brand which includes naming).

Defining clear objectives and priorities will help determine what level of rebrand is needed but also provide clarity to your external creative brand consultancy and implementation partner.

See part one in our blog series: Five strategies to manage your brand during a merger or acquisition, to determine which route is best for your brand.

 

 

Six key questions to help you define your brand

1. Offer and positioning

  • What’s your core idea?
  • What makes you unique?
  • What space can your brand authentically own?
  • Why does this engage and connect with your primary audience?
  • What’s the definition and essence of your brand strategy?

2. Marketplace environment

  • Has your marketplace changed over time?
  • Has your desired position in your market changed?
  • Do you need to stand out in an increasingly fragmented market?
  • Do you need to quickly accelerate growth?
  • Are new markets or locations now of a higher priority?
  • What are your desired benchmarks?

3. Competitor landscape

  • Are you losing market share to your competitors?
  • Do you compete with larger and more established brands?
  • Do you need to raise your standards to compete at a higher level?
  • Has the general level of competitive activity increased?
  • Have you experienced low brand or category growth?
  • Are you truly differentiated from your competitive set?

4. Customers and experience

  • Is your key customer base changing – ageing, evolving?
  • Is your brand perceived as outdated or out of touch?
  • Is there a disconnection between your activities and how customers perceive your brand?
  • What defines your customers of the future?
  • Are customers saying that your user experience is inconsistent?

5. Products and services

  • Has the direction of your product offer evolved or changed significantly?
  • Do your latest products fail to relate to your previous portfolio?
  • Are your products too expensive?
  • Has providing added value services become a much higher priority?
  • Is technology and innovation an increasing component of what you are?

6. Culture and history

  • Have you lost a sense of your identity?
  • Does your brand no longer reflect who you are?
  • Have you outgrown your initial mission; do you have a new purpose?
  • Has your brand acquired the wrong image – taken poor advice or taken a wrong turning?
  • Do you need to simplify and focus your message?
  • Do you have a new marketing team with a new philosophy?
  • Is there’s a legal requirement for you to change?
  • What strengths and history of your brand can you build on?

A quick sense-check - is there a genuine business need to rebrand?

The answers to these key questions will lead to a conclusion on whether or not a rebrand is required.

Before you take the final plunge, consider some reasons why you may not need to rebrand:

  • Have you simply become bored with your current brand identity?
  • Are you looking for attention, to satisfy your ego?
  • Do you need to cover up or manage a crisis – a case of ‘Emperors New Clothes’?
  • Have competitors begun to copy your visual identity?

If a rebrand is still the right strategic decision for your business, read on!

Ready to rebrand - getting started

To begin, develop a clear plan and brief for your rebrand, which summarises your responses to as many of the above questions as possible. These drafts should be discussed with your management team and revised as required, so don’t stress too much at this stage about getting every detail perfect – they’re working documents!

Include the following steps, which will not only confirm your plans but add the necessary detail:

  • Secure management approval
  • Build your internal brand team
  • Define your goals, objectives, budget and timeline
  • Audit your existing brand assets (as much as possible, before external input)
  • Find the right creative brand consultancy and implementation partner

Many management executives are too busy to properly manage a rebrand without expert help, with considerable day-to-day responsibilities leaving little space in their diaries. The financial cost implications of the rebrand will be their priority, so establish detailed cost parameters with their input.

Their interest and attention during the full period of the strategic positioning and creative concept development stages can vary, so think carefully about how to maintain their focussed involvement in the process and keep them engaged.

Five key steps in developing your creative brief

There are five key steps in your future brand development plan.  Work through each step with your internal team so that you can reach consensus and thoroughly brief your brand agency.

  1. Research and Discovery – company information, history and insights, brand blueprint and external conditions
  2. Clarify and Articulation – authenticity, personality and narrative
  3. Position and Differentiation – your unique value
  4. Creative Expression – brand identity and creative assets
  5. Application and Extension – brand touchpoints and guidelines to achieve consistency, setting up agile governance

Identify which branded assets you need to consider

In preparing briefing information for your brand agency, it’s also important to consider early collaboration with your brand implementation partner to help audit any existing brand assets that you’re unable to manage internally.

With physical site surveys, online self-surveys and desktop research, this data can be usefully provided to your brand agency from the very start. It gives them a clear picture of the nature and extent of your brand touchpoints, so that they can be more specific with what to quote for and subsequently create. This can save a lot of embarrassment and prevents having to request extra budget later on in the process.

Implementing your future brand can be the most difficult aspect of the relaunch process and many brands opt for a phased programme, due to the volumes and geographical scope. It’s also worth reviewing progress along the way, so that adjustments and fine tuning can be introduced. Experienced brand implementation partners are skilled at the organisation and management of rebranding initiatives; with strategic, financial, vendor management and reporting tools being their core daily activities. The aim is to deliver branded asset change on-time and on-budget to a consistent brand quality that is intended.

Seamless collaboration between your design and implementation teams

Your brand implementation partner should work with your designers and internal resources to remove the stress of detailed operational project management and ensure that all your brand touchpoint assets transition as planned. Both physical and digital elements need consideration – building signage, wayfinding, workplace environments, fleet, workwear, administration templates, marketing collateral and online resources all need appropriate solutions to help decentralised company resources manage the governance process with clear direction and autonomy.

Seamless connection between all stages is essential – Brand Strategy, Brand Engineering and Brand Implementation. These phases require specific talent, expertise and experience in strategic, analytical, and tactical skills.

Top Five Tips

  1. Be absolutely sure that a rebrand is what you need. Rigorously research the market, speak to your customers and pinpoint the issues which have led to the need for change – plan appropriately to addresses them.
  2. Get full management support, with both time and sufficient budget allocation. Select an expert team to support and collaborate with your management team, who are capable of providing justification for your decisions and robust defence of them for the good of the project, if it’s needed.
  3. Think ahead. You’re aiming for a set of visual identity guidelines that will inspire, inform and guide your brand into the future with a flexible creative toolkit for application and extension, to spring it into life and keep it fresh in the future.
  4. Keep it simple, the simplest of ideas are often the best. To make them work requires a determination to stay on course. Increasingly agile governance strategies to allow them flexibility to flourish and resonate across multiple markets and cultures.
  5. Think beyond the creative stages of your project and anticipate the launch and delivery of your brand, how to engineer technical details and material specifications for all of your assets and deliver the rollout within your agreed timeframe.

If your brand can create impact, resonate, subtly refresh and endure the test of time - you’ll look back on your rebrand journey with a deep sense of satisfaction.

 

In our next instalment, we look at ‘Developing detailed touchpoint guidelines and engineering a rollout’