A letter by Elena Nikolova, CMO
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man.”
An overdue why, coming right on time.
Rebranding a company is a long and tiring process that costs a lot of time, money, and not only that. It’s a decision not to be made lightly. Once we give it life though, we shouldn’t allow second thoughts to creep in even for a second. Today, I am ready to allow in a few reflective thoughts, so I can objectively share my experience: lessons learned, takeaways, wins, and failures.
Marketing has a symbiotic relationship with the business development of a company. They benefit from each other by allowing the other to adapt to the changes in the ecosystem to which they both belong. The sooner we accept this fact, the more successful we will be in driving our marketing efforts in the direction that helps our company adapt to the market according to our interests and aspirations. Good marketing almost exclusively requires change. If we are afraid of it because it is an uncharted territory, out of our comfort zone, we impede the growth of our company.
For a long time, I was afraid to take the step of rebranding for such reasons. Could a three-year-old company do that? Weren’t there other priorities: figuring out growth, doubling sales, increasing morale? I thought these were the big questions. I didn’t want to think about the small details. Yes, the brand is important, but there are more important things. Eventually, I realized it was the little things that I ignored that stopped our development, goals, strategies, and campaigns.
I realized I was not asking the right question. It wasn’t “Could we?”, it was “Why should we?”
I recommend that you spare a considerable amount of time on this question. If you have a clear goal, everything comes easier. Discuss with your team, clients, third parties. The answer to this question can give you valuable insight into the upcoming changes; it can win the support of your team; it can reveal an issue you hadn’t thought about. There is not a single, right answer and it doesn’t come from just one source.
Our case: We knew our branding had stopped talking to our target audience. We are a B2B company. We sell to different companies and we meet with C-level executives. However, our visual identity was communicating something different – the logo colors and typeface were simply childish. Refreshed visual identity could refresh our value proposition as well. Additionally, we shifted our focus from design and bespoke solutions for communicating an effective, innovative and simple solution.
Takeaway: You probably won’t have all the answers right away. It’s good to know what you don’t know for smoother sailing. What we went through, for example, got us a step closer to our target audience.
If you set your mind on rebranding, the next important question is choosing the right moment. Again, ask yourselves, “Why now?” The financial investment is considerable, but investment in proper timing is invaluable. Make the decision based on your context: you’re coming out with a new product, entering a new market, optimizing workflows, hiring more employees, planning your budget, etc.
Our case: We chose the end of 2017 so that we could start 2018 with a new brand identity. That exact moment was good for us because we were already in the process of creating new packaging. We had undertaken innovation in the product design of our tray for the paint. We made it entirely out of 100% recyclable paper; first of its kind worldwide. So, the perfect opportunity of changing the design of the paint buckets presented itself to us because we produce thousands at a time.
Takeaway: Do not act just to act. React to your circumstances to stand out.
Make a list of materials that will be affected by the process of rebranding. We’re talking about all marketing materials, print and online: labels (if you have a physical product), website, ads, and so on. Set priorities and deadlines for each task. Look at the big picture when it comes to your brand’s image.
Our case: We rebranded everything: logo, banner, boxes, business cards, lookbook. We started with the labels; they were imperative. After, we switched the logo on our website and social media. We initiated the creation of a manifesto that would create a hype among our target audience. We also produced a portfolio presentation with photos and information that would boost our sales.
Takeaway: Update your old marketing materials and produce your new ones with efficiency in mind.
You, as the marketing director and initiator of the rebranding process, are responsible for its potential success or failure. Next one in line is the designer you’re working with. Whether it’s an in-house designer, an agency or a freelancer, prepare him/her for the upcoming heavy lifting. If it’s one of the latter choices, do your research. Find the best ones on the market. Check out portfolios, require references, send trial assignments, have a chat over the phone and meet up. Take your time because it will save you a lot of stress down the road.
Our case: We briefed several designers and chose the one whose communication style and vision aligned with our own. PROOF AGENCY did our manifesto and we produced our video. We had issues with the new concept for our events roll-up banner. In that case, we were working with a different freelance designer, again, recommended by a colleague.
Takeaway: Find one person that can keep their word. It sounds obvious, but it’s not easy.
The logo is the core of your brands’ visual identity. It is the face of the company. In a best-case scenario, it communicates your vision, mission, and personality. Big brands like Google and Johnnie Walker still periodically change their visual identities.
The rebranding process can affect your logo partially or entirely. It depends on that very important initial question, “Why?” Gather your team and decide the pillars of your message that are to inspire the new logo. What associations do you want to it inspire? Have several drafts made? By all means, do an A/B test with customers. Don’t be afraid to engage your target audience by asking for feedback even on social media.
Our case: From the very beginning, we knew we wanted a partial change in our logo. The name was to stay, but the typeface had to go; the colors too. We kept the color palette (our paint could be tinted according to the RAL color range) because they gave us a competitive advantage, but we made them more saturated. We added a twist in the letter O to put emphasis on our main product – whiteboard paint. On a more deep level, the incomplete circle is associated with our belief that our products transform the space around us and create more dynamics.
Takeaway: When it comes to design, opinions will always be subjective. Don’t lose too much time in overthinking.
BEFORE I LEAVE MY SECOND THOUGHTS BEHIND
Rebranding a company is a difficult, multifaceted process for a young player that has to deal with a plethora of, probably bigger, challenges at the same time. There isn’t one perfect moment for rebranding. There isn’t a predetermined set of skills and knowledge that you can have to ease the process. You will never be completely prepared. Still, I believe that standing up to the unknown challenges and the belief that the journey is more important than the destination leads to a more sustainable growth of a company.
Talking about brand identity is never redundant or in vain. It motivates your team and leads to a faster conflict resolution. It narrows down the core idea and vision of a company. If the initial core idea and vision stop corresponding to the direction and pace development of the business, rebranding is not just advisable, but necessary.
Remember, you’re rebranding not only your company but also your mindset.