During moments of transition, research and subsequent strategy are essential to ensuring a smoother road. Which of your established brand equities should you maintain in order to prevent loss of revenue, but ultimately modify to make sense in the new entity? Can your origin story drive a blended mission & vision? Which cultural attributes and processes make sense to carry forward and which need retooling? How can change happen without creating animosity, confusion, or a feeling of duplicity from within (cannibalization and no clear purpose) or without (lack of differentiation with competitors, either inside the industry or from within a different consideration set.)
All of these questions ladder up to brand architecture: the definition of how a master brand and its subsidiary brands—sub-brands or co-brands—interact with and support each other. Contact us today to ensure that your vision and brand strategy is aligned.
When a new captain takes the helm, the perception of the entire ship changes; certainly the perception from the public changes, and expectations for how fast, far, and smooth the sailing will be.
During these times, brand management may be more subtle than overt, but discipline and rigor are key. New management will always have a new vision, and with a new vision will come new ways of executing. All of these require communication skills that profoundly impact the brand, sometimes changing its character.
In the event that a leader enacts vision change, they must think deeply as to whether the brand that led the company to this moment provides a rosy future context. In the early years of a company, brands are developed by two forces: deliberate and emergent.
Deliberate strategy is calculated, emergent strategy is developed through interaction with customers and the marketplace. A brand is the result of a business’s original experience in the market and through its owners original dreams and goals. This phenomenon is the origin story.
If a brand departs from its origin story, a rebrand is necessary to steer towards balmier weather.
Just as one or a handful of people at the top may affect brand representation to the public, its customers, or its shareholders, the same could hold true for a mass influx or mass exodus. When the balance of energy is changed due to the volume of staff, the brand may be in for an inevitable change in the way it looks and speaks about itself.
In most cases, every attempt will be made to bolster the existing brand and to show that it’s impervious to certain factors or strengthened by others. However, the potential for change needs to be strategically evaluated during these times, so that execution, if needed, doesn’t lag behind.
Think about the situation above wherein a company’s brand reflects its origin story, and if it was well crafted, the brand should reflect its resources, processes, and position. A flight of human resources can deeply impact the veracity of the brand particularly if your company deals in intellectual property.
When you look back on your baby pictures, your high school portraits, your marriage photos, you’re likely to see three very different people. The same is true for companies and brands.
“Grow or die,” as the old maxim says. The goal of every organization isn’t just to keep the lights on, it’s to get more and brighter lights (unless you are this 1020 year-old business in Kyoto, Japan). All this to say, the brand definition you launched will eventually not reflect where you’re going. You have to rebrand to tell your current story, defining your future aspirations, and revealing your strongest strengths.
Grossly oversimplified, your organization’s mission is what you do. But your vision is why you do it. Every organization has wrestled with expressing why they do what they do. Working this story out is part of why it’s exciting to be part of a thriving organization. However, when the vision change is so profound that it requires a change in the behavior, output, and personality of the organization, a rebrand certainly may be in order.
There are also a few negative drivers for branding change:
Over-complicated or murky — Have you added multiple social channels without proper editorial rigor? Have you introduced so many new products in a short span of time that your sales literature is inconsistent? Are customers able to understand why all of your products exist in your basket? Growth is wonderful, but unmanaged growth can choke progress and cause weakening.
Lack of differentiation — Keeping up with the competition can go one of two ways: it can breed innovation, or it can breed sameness. If the latter winds up becoming the lion’s share of your business, you’ll need to do something to shake things up if your customers can’t tell the difference between you and the competition. Commoditization happens when companies pursue operational efficiency or benchmarking as an end in itself. This flurry of terminology means: you’re giving away profit and setting yourself up for a short shelf life.
Bad press, negative experiences, BIG HEADACHES — We all hope to avoid the big trainwrecks that we read about in the press: internal behavioral scandals, financial impropriety, outdated or tone deaf messaging. But in our wildly connected world, a simple misstep could be conflated into a negative equity-shattering event, and if shared amongst the right (or wrong) groups, you have a brand problem that has to be dealt with.
Rebranding is one way to escape such negativity. It is not the only way, but it could be part of your company’s redemption story—which must be lived and embodied as much as crafted and designed.
At BS LLC, we dislike the phrase, “brand refresh.” Why? Because you can’t just do a little “nip-tuck” with a color here and a font there and move a brand forward in a mindful way.
When we work with existing brands, we always start with the intent that the brand will evolve. Assuming the brand is successful, we want to keep as much of its hard-earned work and reputation intact as possible, and to do so in a way that allows us to build upon it, productively. “Carrying the brand essence forward” is one way to look at it, but it will always take research, time devoted to understanding market forces, and then a creative exploration to see what stays and what goes.
However, when market forces are very powerful (i.e. an important new player enters, regional economics are troubled, etc.) a new brand may be an inevitable consequence. And there of course, is the rub: market forces are telling you a change is necessary — but, how much change? An evolution or a true rebrand?
This is where working with a business-focused, strategy-driven agency can do much, much more for your brand and your business health than you may have realized. An agency with a strategy and growth mindset will deliver insights on your industry and customers that will evolve your brands in way that far exceed mere cosmetics.