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How to pull off a rebrand

From clear brand processes, brand strategies to design frameworks, Brand Strategist Dan Dufour gives us his tops tips on how to successfully pull off a rebrand.

There is no greater satisfaction as a Brand Strategist than seeing a brand you have created in the big wide world. But much like giving birth to a baby (not that I’d know) you forget the pain it took to deliver it; until you’re in the midst of the next one!

To pull off a rebrand you need focus, determination, creativity, diplomacy and a thick skin, so here are my top tips.

  1. Have a clear process

Sadly, the success of a successful rebrand is not in the strength of the brand strategy, or the creative output, but in the brand development process. A former boss once told me that “clients won’t buy a process”, but when it comes to a rebrand they certainly need a good one.

Many agencies have three- or four-stage processes with creative names, or ones that start with the same letter. The Team’s is Discover, Define and Design.

Whatever you call your methodology, I would strongly recommend establishing a Brand Steering Group of key stakeholders to guide along the journey, including the Chief Executive and Board or Trustee representation. Give them a good project briefing, so they are clear from the outset and book the appropriate milestones in their diaries early on.

I often find there is the time required to deliver the job, and a whole lot more to educate and inspire people along the way. But projects that have followed this advice have always been the smoothest.

  1. Be clear of your audiences

Successful brands are crafted with a target audience in mind, so it surprises me that many clients send us a branding brief without a clear audience segmentation in place. But there are ways you can integrate an audience segmentation and brand project by aligning research methodologies.

Even if you have broad audiences, it is worth prioritising them for decision-making purposes further along the brand journey, as creative that pleases everyone is more likely to be vanilla.

Parkinson’s UK is a great example. They bravely opted for the most popular creative concept with a younger audience segment for growth purposes, rather than the majority verdict.

  1. Lay the foundations with a clear brand strategy

The foundations of any strong brand are a clear articulation of what you do, how you do it, and why you exist – often called a brand strategy or brand platform or model. Most commonly articulated by a vision, mission and values in the charity sector, whereas future brand leaders are now taught purpose, proposition and personality.

The brand strategy should align with the corporate strategy, and when agreed it should run through everything you do from your products and services to your culture and innovation. It also inspires the brand expression, the visual identity and tone of voice, which are the parts most people associate branding with.

We often create brand strategy hypotheses and bring them to life with mood boards, which are tested with target audiences. Placing research at this stage can help to avoid design by committee.

Believe you me, never underestimate the time and effort it can take in getting this stage right, as people will inevitably question and debate every word.

The foundations of any strong brand are a clear articulation of what you do, how you do it, and why you exist.

  1. Create a design framework

When you are in the Design stage, use the brand strategy as a guiding light and critique concepts against it. This will help to alleviate subjective personal options.

Whilst brand guidelines used to be like an edition of War and Peace, the brand police are now dead. Instead, we prefer to unleash creativity within set parameters, which is why we recommend clearly defining the elements that make up your visual identity digital-first: logo and favicon for social media purposes, typography, colours, photography, graphic devices, illustration and iconography.

Consider your tone of voice (style of language) at the same time by translating your values or personality into writing principles. Then apply the design framework to key touch points and pieces of collateral to prove to your stakeholders the brand can work for your external audiences and internal teams. But don’t forget that a new brand is an opportunity to consider new ways of doing things, rather than just rebranding business as usual.

  1. Activate your brand from the inside out

Many people rush to get a new brand to market. But don’t forget the importance of trust, transparency and authenticity. Take the time to embed your brand – and values – internally first, so everyone can live by and clearly articulate it. Your people are your sales force, and every interaction we have with a brand, whether with a person, a computer or a robot, informs our perception of it.

Get in touch

If you’d like guiding through a rebrand get in touch, whenever evolution or revolution, we know how to take you from start to finish whilst minimising your stress levels.

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