12 Most Critical Prerequisites of a Brand Refresh
My company recently completed a major brand refresh project. The new brand was unveiled after nearly two years of research, deliberation, ideation, and creative execution. In the end, everything came together successfully, but it was a challenging process at times.
For others contemplating a brand refresh or for the merely curious, here are my 12 most critical prerequisites of a brand refresh.
1. Get leadership on board
Since brand reflects the identity of an organization, competitive and unique differentiation will only occur when leadership is fully engaged and supportive of the process. To the extent possible, enlist leaders to participate in interviews and workshops to share perceptions around brand and business strategy. Make sure leaders are prepared for uncomfortable assessment findings that the brand project will surface and persuade them to stick it out. Finally, educate leaders sufficiently so they will be able to explain in their own words why brand is important for the organization and its employees.
2. Explain brand
Brand is a tricky term. Many people think they know what it means and react to it immediately, and yet they often conflate brand with a logo, marketing, or advertising. If you’re going to go deep on brand, make sure you take the time to help everyone in the organization understand that brand is really about what something stands for, its unique values, and how it makes you feel.
3. Make it about everybody
Brand equity is made up of who, what, and how, with the “who” forming the key identity dimensions, including personality, values, and beliefs. Since so many of these attributes are directly formed and maintained by the people in an organization, ensure that all employees understand that quite literally they are the brand and reinforce or undermine it through their daily actions.
4. Don’t skimp on strategy
Many creative services agencies talk brand but then propose only a few days of strategy before proceeding to designs. Don’t be tempted. There are no shortcuts to deep brand strategy. If you want a brand refresh to reflect current brand associations as well as true customer needs for proposition development, you’ll need to spend ample time on research and customer assessment. Depending on the size of your organization and the number of customers you wish to study, plan for at least 3-6 months for this phase of the project.
5. Get qualitative and quantitative
Brand strategy requires research, and some agencies may suggest that you need to choose between a qualitative or quantitative methodology approach. Instead of picking, consider both. Uncover how customers feel about your brand in one-on-one interviews. Then, complement the qualitative research with larger sample-size surveys to validate the findings.
6. Manage expectations
Like any large, complicated project with many moving parts, it’s prudent to tell people upfront that it will be a long process. This is even more important with a brand project, where it may be many months before stakeholders see anything tangible and even then the deliverables will initially be reports. Stick to your project plan and don’t agree to demands for compressed timelines or deliverables if it will compromise the results.
7. Architecture and sub-brands
Wikipedia defines brand architecture as “the structure of brands within an organizational entity.” Brand architecture is important because when done well it can reduce overlaps, increase alignment, and accelerate purchase decisions, while poor architecture can lead to confusion and lost opportunities. Devote time to brand architecture to assess all the brands in the portfolio. Capture all the brands in a visual framework and indicate the roles and relationships of all brands. Propose architecture change recommendations and list considerations and implications.
8. Targeting and segmentation
Strong brands don’t try to be all things to all people, so make sure to define a target customer persona with a distinct set of high-level needs and motivations. In other words, why do your ideal customers do what they do? What are their attitudes and needs?
9. Keep it simple
The KISS acronym for “Keep it simple, stupid” may be more of a design principle than a brand tenet, but the core meaning that simple is better than complex translates well to brand strategy. Some of the world’s most recognizable brands are immediately recognizable with iconic brandmarks and memorable taglines. Think about Nike’s swoosh and “Just Do It” or Apple’s “Think different.”
10. Nail the creative
Once you have a brand positioning recommendation, exercise due diligence to pick the right creative services partner to bring the new brand to life. The creative and designs should be a reflection and extension of all the brand strategy work that has led up to that point. If you’ve gone deep enough on the strategy, you’ll know the right design when you see it.
Brand strategy is a specialized discipline that involves a lot of research, ideas, and discussion. Because much of this activity isn’t visible to the everyday stakeholder, it’s important to provide regular communication. Provide project reports indicating the status of the project, and milestone outputs, capturing key findings from the assessment, architecture development, positioning, and creative execution phases.
12. Be true
The easy part of brand research is reading the assessment and taking in the information. The difficulty is in staying true, especially in areas that require turning away business or opportunities because they don’t fit your brand and values. In the end, authenticity will forge greater bonds through shared connections between organization and customer. To thine own brand be true.
Brand refreshes allow organizations to reinvent themselves. I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to have worked on a few major brand projects and have enjoyed the challenge and process each time. What are your brand refresh lessons?
Featured image courtesy of kevin dooley licensed via Creative Commons.