Kathy Schneider, Global Chief Marketing Officer, FD Technologies
FD Technologies, a software and services group, has recently re-branded. As part of that process, it also refreshed the brand identity of its KX software business and launched a completely new brand for its consulting business First Derivative.
Chief Marketing Officer Kathy Schneider led the overall brand strategy program; not a straight forward task when the need to retain brand heritage and value built up over 25 years had to be set against the growth ambitions of the group, ambitions that can only be realized if all business units have a clear identity and vision that set them apart from the Group.
During the project, her team faced all the usual twists, turns, roadblocks and opportunities that these projects throw up, except this time it was x 3! She shares some tips for how to deliver a successful brand launch.
Strike when the time’s right
Before making any changes to their brand, organizations must ensure that the time is right. You should never rebrand for the sake of doing it.
A brand refresh is necessary if, for example, the business is making a pivot or embarking into a new space or sector. Or perhaps the business has assessed the market for competitor messaging, and it’s shown that the brand looks ‘tired’ in the space, particularly if there has been a number of new players emerging in the market. A refresh for this reason can help demonstrate current brand heritage, while also showing the business is not content with standing still, but instead moving forward and staying ahead of the game.
Question your thought process
It is vital to have clear objectives agreed prior to embarking on a refresh. Ask yourself: what is the brand project aiming to achieve? How will effectiveness or success be measured? What problem is it trying to solve for the business?
Tackling these key questions and establishing a system whereby metrics can be documented in answering them is vital. Meanwhile, having a clear understanding of who will provide input and feedback versus who will have approval rights also proves beneficial. One suggestion is to have a steering committee with key executives who will approve decisions on the rebrand at critical stages of the process. Sharing the process up front with employees so they understand how it will be conducted will also help gain that much needed buy-in and drive internal enthusiasm for the project.
Balance the inputs
Getting the balance of change right is vitally important, because leaving brand equity on the table as you make changes is counterproductive. Without a large budget to go through audits and due diligence, having a process that includes key stakeholders who reflect both long-time employees and new joiners is helpful. This is especially beneficial for the discovery phase to ensure a thorough understanding of what is positive and important to retain while exploring new ways to represent the brand.
Diversity of opinion also matters. Firms must have a broad enough group of people to provide input during the discovery phase to ensure a balanced perspective, right from the outset. And differing points of view on factors such as visual identity can help drive better choices as they provide alternative outlooks. Ultimately, in rebranding, organizations must ensure they do not remain stuck in their own echo chambers.
Clarity over complexity
A rebrand is the perfect opportunity to clarify a company’s purpose, vision, and value proposition. These criteria are central to a brand strategy and should be front of mind when considering alterations to visual identity – especially if refreshing an outdated brand image.
Embarking on a rebrand, firms should recognize both where they came from, and where they want to be. In the case of the KX rebrand, we have a strong heritage in financial services yet are expanding rapidly into other sectors with customers in automotive, utilities and telecommunications. To reflect our confidence and strength we updated the logo to use capital block letters that deliver a clear, strong impression. Also, we’re leveraging the angles created between the letters as design elements across all of our assets. We believe this demonstrates our sense of confidence addressing different markets and services while being a unique graphic that is distinct and recognizable from the logo. The brand refresh also encourages those who think they know our organization to take a deeper look and discover more about what we can offer.
In shaping KX’s new brand, an audit of how our competitors spoke about themselves was essential to understand where we sit in the market and find space for us to differentiate the brand. In the case of KX, we are focused on our exceptional performance as well as the business outcomes this delivers. We’re pushing ourselves to speak from the perspective of our clients and demonstrate our understanding of the challenges they face, whether that’s actioning a best trade in microseconds, ensuring electricity keeps flowing, machines stay up and running or telco networks automatically adjust to deal with ever-growing traffic.
The words that we use to position the brand provide a rich source of inspiration for color, imagery and other creative elements. Firms can look to develop and determine the language they use by exploring the current market and cross-comparing their current narratives with their competitors. Otherwise, you can run the risk of all sounding the same.
Stay true to your mission
A brand project is an exciting journey, as well as a big responsibility, especially when the brand has a strong, positive heritage. Whether an organization simply needs a facelift or a completely new brand identity to reflect its evolution, rebranding is instrumental in molding the right perception.
To get it right, marketing and comms teams must stay focused on the purpose and vision of the brand and ensure these are the foundations before jumping to the design elements that often get the attention.