Anne Miles, founder of Suits&Sneakers is known as ‘The Marketing Police’ because of her role sitting in the middle to facilitate and supervise projects for marketing, media and advertising. Suits&Sneakers is a global network of over 17,000 pre-approved freelance talent and acts as a mediator and arbitrator between businesses and the creative, strategic and production industry. If Suits&Sneakers identifies any mistakes in the process they intervene before issues become problems, and help both parties follow best practice.
Miles sits at the edge of what large brands and small business owners are looking for in the market for creative services from the wide mix of talent who do re-branding; like design directors, graphic designers, strategy planners, copywriters and even film directors, videographers and photographers. Here are Anne’s top 12 mistakes she sees across the industry when it comes to re-branding:
- Strategy not reviewed: The original brand strategy is often the main reason for business performance waning and many think a superficial refresh will solve their problems. But, if the strategy is not revisited as the core piece of work to drive a rebrand, you will simply refresh a broken approach and waste the money on any new design work and implementation.
- Strategy misunderstood: Some graphic designers can be mistaken about what they consider as strategy and often it is just a visual pun or visual cues that they are looking for. Good strategy for branding starts with solid brand strategy with a clear value proposition and brand promise with respect to the customer needs. From there a strategy that delivers on this strategic framework, with theming, brand archetypes, colour psychology and visual identity approach successfully hangs off this work.
- Work in isolation: Getting these strategic pieces right up front and involving the client also enables smoother client approval processes without surprises as the client team has participated in the process and owns it too. Without this it is almost a guarantee that the client will limit their judgement of the work to just personal and subjective taste.
- Send work by email: Putting a presentation together and emailing it for feedback is a sure-fire way to diminish the value of the thinking or the work quality. Clients will follow your cue and likely mark up the PDF with notations like a school teacher correcting your work. Present in a respectful and professional manner giving your rationale behind the work you do and take client feedback verbally to understand why they have the issues they do and problem solve without taking literal instructions without questioning.
- Assume the work ‘speaks for itself’: There is a fine line between the work being able to communicate what it is meant to do without any rationale, and then on the other hand to be so obscure that good sense can’t be made of it without a complex or abstract rationale too. A happy medium where the work can be understood for what the brand stands for but a deeper layer of thought makes it more sustainable for the long term, and for internal stakeholder buy-in.
- Further embed stereotypes: Many marketers and design teams are on autopilot when it comes to customer segmentation when many (most even) of the demographic profiling segments are no longer the most effective way to segment and also are fuelling unconscious bias and harmful stereotypes. Negative stereotypes are now linked to domestic violence, bullying and mental health problems and we need to really check in with how we segment customer groups. When the opportunity to rebrand comes up it is the perfect time to question those old habits and even question the sales data. Sales that have been achieved with bias in place in the product design, packaging, media buying, creative produced and were designed for a certain segment will falsely report that this segment is the target market, when the potential market could be much wider. Targeting across ages, life stages, gender, race, background, socio-economic factors could be less effective than attitudinal segmentation – about the needs or things the customers care about.
- Brand guidelines limited: Brand guidelines sometimes are an afterthought and only cover fonts and colours. A brand book that includes application of all the brand attributes is crucial. Including the value propositions and other messaging as well as all the personality and customer profiling information are essential for future designers to implement effectively and consistently through the ongoing design work. Writers, art directors, producers, project managers and creative directors need this document too, and not just the graphic designers.
- Research findings stop at the top: A research study that Anne hosted a number of years ago revealed that the client’s market research regularly never made it past the account service department in ad agencies. At best this research might have made it to the senior creative director but the core team working on the business day to day never received these essential insights nor an executive summary. Ensure all parties on the design team sign an NDA and share these findings; even if you do an immersion session where no one can keep the document or share it.
- Rounds of changes out of control: Many clients and even the account teams working on re-branding projects and branding projects seem to think they can have endless rounds of changes and even anticipate the client’s feedback adding to the number of changes requested. The number of rounds of changes should be at the client’s discretion and budgeted for up front to avoid causing the client to have to pay for more at the end. It isn’t the client’s fault that the agency team fiddles about multiple times and putting pressure on the design team to charge for extra changes. Consolidate all feedback and even be transparent with the client by including them in discussions before revision briefing is done.
- Rationalising assets: Without knowing all the possible uses of the rebrand work the issues that come up making designs work across multiple channels will continue to be a problem unless the designer is fully aware of the context and use of the work. This means that the standard approach of vertical, horizontal, black on white, white on black, or multiple colours done with a transparent background may not be enough. Some custom work may be required for video for example where the leading and kerning between font characters may need to be opened up; compared to a tighter spacing suitable for print or digital. Do a full audit and brief the design team on all uses of the re-branding up front.
- Consider all designers the same: Many business owners and marketers think designers are like psychologists where they are qualified with the same University degree; but in reality they really are quite different. Many bring to their work their own values and style and are not right for everyone. We definitely need to be better at matching the culture fit, the strategic direction, category or industry experience with an understanding of the competitor landscape, and source the designer that is best aligned for that brief. Cost can be the deciding factor but not value in this process too. Many in our industry take a referral from a colleague or friend without properly assessing the fit.
- Using marketplace competitions: The allure of cheap design work can be tempting with some big marketplaces offering cheap branding and host competitions for designers (or even unproven crowd sourced talent) to bid to the lowest price.
Using these platforms with unproven talent can mean that the work you’ve paid for could have technical faults with the logo or design assets and using the wrong software that will have a bigger cost impact in the future. Some even use icons and other elements that are not legally compliant. At the other extreme end of the line there are agencies with big workflow processes that waste a lot of the budget on doing nothing too. Using the professional freelance community is the most economical way to access the top talent.
Anne Miles is founder of Suits&Sneakers, a global network of over 17,000 pre approved media, marketing and advertising freelance talent, and facilitates and supervises projects of all media types.