What is a brand?
A brand is much more than a logo on a business card or a front door. It’s about perception – how your existing and potential clients and customers see your firm. What do they think you stand for? What are your strengths? To create a successful brand requires a strategy that goes way beyond typefaces or websites. You need to examine what your clients and customers think about you – and what you want them to think.
Whenever you hand out a business card, have a conversation with a potential customer, advertise, send an email, create a proposal or direct someone to your website, you’re leaving behind an impression of your brand. This positioning of your brand can really influence people’s opinion of your firm. Of course, your company’s previous performance will form a major part of your reputation, but your brand is also key. Do your corporate colours and logo reflect your firm’s ideals? Do they make you stand out from your competitors?
It’s not just about how you are seen, but who can see you. It makes sense – the more people who have heard of you, the more chance you’ll have of securing new business.
A winning brand
The strength of your brand is a combination of your visibility and your reputation – one’s no good without the other. A strong brand will not only give you a public identity but will also help your team understand your corporate vision and the expectations you have of your staff.
To create a strong brand, start with a plan. Think about what makes your firm stand out, what drives your business forward and how this can ensure you attract new customers and the best staff.
Once your vision is in place, the words you use to talk about your company are the next step. Does your message sound authentic? Corporate-speak may look impressive, but if it doesn’t sound like your true voice, what’s the point?
Then you need an identity – logos, typefaces, colours… all these things will attract potential customers if they fit with your overall plan.
Your brand is what sets you apart from your competitors, and potential customers will select a brand they recognise or with a strong identity over something unfamiliar, even if they don’t know much about you (https://medium.com/method-perspectives/if-brand-is-experience-then-what-makes-a-good-one-370f5d319f08)
Your brand, out there in the real world
Another huge reason to re-evaluate your brand is to make sure you’re engaging effectively with your customers. While networking and word of mouth are still useful ways of growing your client base, you can’t ignore the internet: new business could just as easily come from a referral on a social network as a face-to-face recommendation. Your website is really important here: is it easy to navigate? Can customers see your work or read testimonials? Does your website offer your own research and opinion on the latest market trends in your sector? Demonstrating online that you’re experts in your field will reinforce your reputation as the go-to company in your sector. Finally, is your brand consistent across all your internet and social media channels?
While we all know that global communications mean your customers can be located half a world away, as the economy reshapes itself yet again, it’s also vital the play to your local strengths. Your brand can reference your local expertise, making sure you tap into the customer base on your doorstep.
Do you need to rebrand?
We’ve looked at what a brand needs to be, and why it’s important, but is a rebranding exercise the next step for your company? Perhaps start by asking whether any of these apply to you.
Think about when you last changed your brand. What’s happened since? Perhaps the structure of your company has changed, or competitors have entered your marketplace. You may even be losing work or staff to these new arrivals.
Has your firm’s offering changed significantly since you established your brand? Perhaps you’re now able to offer a wider range of services or more specialist expertise. You may have entered a new marketplace. More to the point, has your customer profile changed?
Looking at the business side, are you getting as many leads as in the past and how are growth forecasts looking? Perhaps you are trying to work out how to take the company to the next level.
Finally, take a look at your logo, your colours and your typefaces. Do they look dated? If you’re trying to give the impression that you’re at the cutting edge of your market, you need to look the part.
Making the plan
If you’ve decided to rebrand, it’s tempting to start thinking about new logos and colour schemes straight away, but without a bigger plan you might as well be doodling on a napkin. Start with a plan: research your position in the market, what your current customers think about you and where you’d like your company to be in the next year. Asking your customers is of course obvious, but it may also be worth approaching former clients for feedback. Don’t forget to talk to your team as well – their view of the company’s brand may contrast to that of your clients! If your product engages with social media, this is your chance to approach relevant influencers.
This is where a branding partner comes in – it can be hard to conduct interviews with customers and remain impartial. After all, this is your business and it’s in your interest to see it succeed. You may also discover who your true competitors are.
Once all this research has been collated, your company’s unique selling points will be identifiable – a chance to see what sets you apart from competitors and to identify your position within your market sector. You can also see whether one message is sufficient, or whether you need to create several marketing strands to appeal to different potential client bases (and whether you can use a rebrand to overcome any obstacles to customer interaction).
This is the core of your brand.
Building the brand
With all the information about your objectives, market position and unique selling points, it’s time to create the visual identity that will underpin the rebrand.
To begin with, consider the business name. If your current name comes from a previous incarnation of the company, consider a change. After all, the name is the heart of the business and any marketing strategy.
Following that, the logo and strapline are the next steps, as these will be visible on websites, stationery, vehicles and all your business tools.
Getting the message across
Before revealing your rebrand to your clients, it needs to be presented to your team. Whether this is via a PowerPoint or a chat around the table, it’s really important to convey the reasons behind the new brand and why it’s an exciting, potentially lucrative development. With the whole team on board, it will be much more straightforward to launch your new corporate identity to the marketplace, as they’ll be confident in talking about the new messages you want to get across.
Finally, or course, it’s time to go public, whether through a gradual rollout or a grand launch. Announce your changed identity in the way that best suits your ethos.
Make it easy on yourself
So are you ready to rebrand? Make the process as smooth as possible by choosing a branding partner that will undertake impartial research, formulate a creative visual identity and present a strategy for the brand going forward.
Internally, assign a member of staff or a team to the rebrand and give them the authority to make important decisions, so that the rebranding process is not clouded by many voices.
And of course, choose the right rebranding partner, who will listen to you and create a brand that reflects your ethos, expertise and aspirations.
When you identify a re-branding partner, you’ll also need to nail down your expected time-line and budget. A good branding partner will be able to give you an expected time-line (with room for manoeuvre in case of unforeseen circumstances) as well as an idea of necessary costs.
Timescales depend on both sides – if there’s a lot of research to be undertaken by your branding partner, bear in mind that this may take a while if it’s to be thorough and relevant. If you’re renaming the company, this is a crucial decision that can’t be rushed. Equally, if your internal re-branding team takes a while to deliberate potential a new identity, this may also lengthen the process. Finally, if your company is subject to stringent external regulation, bear in mind that any re-brand may also need to be approved by your regulator or legal advisor.
The overall cost of a rebrand will be influenced by a range of factors, including the size of your firm, how much research is involved, whether there’s a name change and how much internal staff training is required.
Why are we doing this again?
If you’re feeling uncertain about embarking on a rebrand, remember that – handled correctly – it can only benefit your business. A rebrand will give you a fresh edge, and if you’re taking the chance to redesign an out-of-date or disorganised website, you’ll be proud to give out the address, rather than avoiding talking about it.
A rebrand gives your firm the chance to tell the world what makes it stand out – when potential customers and clients can see this clearly, they’ll be more likely to engage with you. You’ll be seen in your market sector, perhaps boosting your reputation and credibility.
A strong, meaningful rebrand will also help to attract staff and boost the morale of your current team. And you never know… increasing your reach and boosting your profile might also mean you can charge more for your services in the long run!
Mashuni is passionate about creating authentic brand identities which truly reflect the voice and aspirations of our clients. So we’ll work closely with you at all stages to make sure your brand represents a genuine, credible identity for your company. We’ve worked with large and small organisations across a variety of market sectors, formulating brands and campaigns that have increased client numbers and corporate reach. We’ll create a portfolio of branding tools, from logos to straplines to websites and regularly updated content, all with the aim of driving your business forward to meet your goals.