How any brand can pull off an effective rebranding project

By Courtney Bowditch is Creative Lead at co:collective,

Innocent Drinks has supported the rebranding of its Super Smoothies range with a humorous video parodying the worst excesses – and common pitfalls – of the process. It features bad designs it claims to have considered before settling on its actual redesign – WordArt, over-the-top colour palettes, Comic Sans and creative blank space, amongst many design clichés. It’s a funny spot but it highlights a larger truth. Bad branding can happen to anyone. By following a few key principles, however, any brand – whatever its product or category – can achieve an effective re-brand without losing face.

An important first step is to enter the process with open eyes by understanding some of the common challenges and pitfalls facing every brand owner at the point at which a decision is made to re-brand.

Avoiding common mistakes

The first risk to avoid is overlooking the equity built into your current brand. An essential starting point is to understand how well known and recognized your brand is already. Then ask yourself the question: what do you want to gain by updating your visual look and feel and, as importantly, will updating the visual look and feel achieve that goal?

Closely allied with this is the risk of embarking on a redesign that strays too far from your brand’s purpose. In essence, brand purpose is a brand’s reason for being, beyond making money. More than a brand promise, which may give a customer an idea of what to expect from a product or service, a brand purpose connects with customers on a more emotional level and often rallies consumers around a brand. It is therefore of significant value to any brand, and it is important that that value is not compromised. At co:collective, we call brands that are purpose-led StoryDoers. Their purpose is evident in everything that they do as a brand (including their identity), not just in the stories they tell as a brand.

Purpose-led, StoryDoing businesses have the potential to gain competitive advantage by forging stronger customer relationships which translate into greater customer loyalty. The reason is simple. In today’s marketing landscape, price, quality and customer experience are table stakes. Increasingly, consumer purchasing decisions are based on what a brand – and the company behind it – stands for.

Another risk to avoid when rebranding is following design trends for trends’ sake. It is important to always remember that design trends come and go and, though some do enjoy a second wind, some don’t age well.

Once a brand owner has a clear-eyed view of the potential pitfalls, there are four further ways in which the potential success of any and every re-branding can be optimized, and the potential negatives minimized.

Rebranding for the right reasons

There are many good reasons to rebrand. Your branding may not have aged well over time and now seems tired. Your company may have acquired other firms and needs a new brand that better reflects this new reality. Or your company may have evolved into new areas, meaning that the existing brand is no longer fit for your new purpose.

For example, global marketing services business LRW Group recently decided to rebrand following the acquisition of nine agencies in four years – a project we were fortunate enough to be involved in which involved uniting the company under a new unifying purpose and name and developing its new visual identity to bring those things to life visually.

The project involved identifying, then layering each of the acquired agencies’ stories to find the common threads in their cultures and their process, and to reveal where they were distinct in order to craft a new combined identity with a purpose and story that was relevant, authentic and compelling.

The new name, Material, was chosen for its layered meaning – material as something of importance and material as foundation from which something is made. Material starts with the raw material of human insight, then brings in the right minds to connect the dots, take them apart and add them back together. The new name and design encapsulates that.

Staying true to your brand story

A visual identity is usually the first thing that a consumer will see about your brand. It is therefore essential to make sure it is telling the story you want to tell. A clear brand purpose serves as your north star for rebranding, your guiding light to make sure you don’t go astray. Ensuring that your rebrand will be as visually differentiated as your positioning.

Standing out from the crowd

Standing out from the crowd means being memorable, and for the right reasons. It is essential, therefore, to make your branding ownable to you and also different from that of your competitors. Certain categories can gravitate towards certain colors and symbols.

All colors have some inherent meaning, like green for life, renewal, nature and energy, so any company that is good for the earth or a natural product might instinctively gravitate towards green. Blue is often associated with stability, trust, wisdom and confidence which is why so many healthcare companies use blue in their branding. Color is only one piece of a rebrand and just because your category uses a lot of blue, doesn’t mean you can’t too, but finding a fresh way to use that color will really help you stand out. For example, Capsule Pharmacy did a great job of differentiating themselves from the healthcare category. Yes they still use blue, but they have mixed that with a fresh approach to complementary colors, as well as graphics and typography that are uncommon for their category.

Leaving room for growth

Markets change fast these days – and consumer wants, needs and preferences, do too. So it is especially important when rebranding not to make your identity so specific it can’t grow with you. Allowing room for growth in any rebranding so that it will be able to accommodate any new products or future expansion into new market segments or other white spaces. Having a clear brand purpose helps see the future of all aspects of your brand more clearly and can help you avoid outgrowing your new identity.

Rebranding is an important part of a company’s growth and future legacy. Making sure your rebranding effort is grounded in a strong brand purpose, one that your company lives, not just a story your company tells, will set you up for success. At the end of the day, your identity is the first impression anyone will have of your brand and first impressions matter.