Brand management: It doesn’t always have to be a rebranding

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William Bachmann

Change is the only constant, they say in marketing. The paradoxical phrase tries to convince us that there is no rest for brands and companies in their external presentation.

This endeavor is also the reason why a complete rebranding is a rather rare event in the history of a brand. The risk of confusing loyal fans and maybe losing them should not be underestimated. That is why many companies decide to make minimally invasive course corrections: facelifts, a new visual language … But company color, logo and house font are taboo.

How resilient is the identity of my brand? There is no quick answer to this question. Each brand has to go its own way. The good news: With small changes you can give ailing brands new strength and move them back in the direction of “timeless”.

Stand on quicksand

In the past, a rebranding was usually associated with a groundbreaking corporate decision. It could be influenced from outside, for example with the invention of television in 1931 – but it could also be internal, for example through the introduction of a new product or the ironing out of a scandal. Such triggers were obvious, and the resulting changes were predictable. And they took a leisurely pace.

But those times are over. New devices and apps are constantly emerging , and social media platforms are constantly introducing new features. And as these channels evolve and attract new users, consumer expectations are constantly changing. Brands are exposed to a flood of trends, where it is not clear which ones will last and which ones won’t. How do you find your center with all this noise?

Rebrand? Refresh? What is the difference?

A brand refresh is more about a brand update. The cornerstones of the brand – brand loyalty, image, social media engagement, reaction to newsletters as well as sales – are basically healthy.

However, certain aspects of visual identity appear outdated or have proven to be difficult. Colors, imagery and fonts may work excellently in print, but they no longer represent the brand consistently in the digital channels. In these areas, improvements must then be made so that the brand remains relevant for young buyers and the future. Successful brands are constantly refreshing their visual identity. They stay true to their classic brand identity, but add fresh elements.

The rebrand, on the other hand, is a complete renewal. It is based either on a new perspective, message or product series. A new testimonial may come into play or the brand may have been taken over by a new company. It is not uncommon for a new startup to stir up the market or a brand to lose customers because a competitor is aggressively poaching them.

From easy to difficult

Getting started with a brand update can be daunting. It is therefore helpful to focus on the basic elements first instead of completely rebuilding the brand. Since these form the basis of the brand building, any change will affect the entire visual identity.

logo

When realigning the logo is rarely completely changed. The existing trademark is much more often the basis for an updated further development. Corrections to the look and feel, the brand colors or the font work in the background, but the logo should always be recognizable for loyal customers. Even if you opt for a comprehensive rebranding, for many customers the logo will be the bridge to the qualities that they associate with the brand.

The corporate language

The brand refresh is an ideal opportunity to update or sharpen the brand message. Language is constantly evolving, so you have to carefully examine its role.

Design system – color, fonts and more

The design system includes all the components of a brand that give it life and personality: color, fonts, symbols, images, sounds and the rules for the interaction of the elements. Design trends tend to develop in a cyclical manner, with earlier styles often revived. Does the design system reflect who the company is and what the brand is aiming for? Does the look match the ideas customers have nowadays? Brands evolve. With this in mind, one should consciously look to the future in order to be flexible for adjustments and improvements that will inevitably follow.

documentation

The ongoing consistency of all marketing measures depends on the rules defined in the style guide. It should therefore be ensured that it really contains everything that has been newly developed and contains precise instructions on how to use each element sensibly and precisely in accordance with the respective brand standards.

Don’t just question, set goals!

Probably the biggest challenge with a brand update – regardless of whether it is small or large – is to remain true to your own goals and visions. Along the way, there will be many decisions and endless questions and constant scrutiny at all levels of the company. It’s a natural part of the process because after all, everyone wants to participate and understand everything. It is therefore helpful to agree on specific goals and to demand commitment to these goals. You are the benchmark for results.

And what’s next now?

The honest answer: there is no silver bullet. Every brand manager has to find out for himself. But there are some milestones along the way that may now be a little clearer.

Perhaps talking to brand stakeholders is a good idea to learn from their perspective and offer your own. One of the most important aspects of any brand update is backing. Everyone needs to pull together and work towards the same purpose and result – listening is the first step.

After that everyone has to go their own way. But with an open view of the visual identity and with the will to try new possibilities, every brand can be breathed new life. And keep customers engaged, loyal, and enthusiastic, full of curiosity about what’s next.

Follow the consumer

Many companies make the mistake of managing their brand from their own perspective. That means: as long as you are in harmony with your brand, the brand is also healthy. And when a competitor uses new technologies, you do it yourself. A typical inside-out approach, purely reactive, based on mere guesswork.

Today, a brand’s reputation no longer belongs to the owner, it belongs to the customer. As a brand leader, one should therefore closely monitor how customers see, talk about and react to the brand.

If you are new to this perspective, you should find out the opinion of your customers through surveys and observations on social networks: How is the brand thought here? What is the meaning of the logo and what is the reputation of the brand? How strong is brand loyalty? When the responses suggest that the brand is no longer in line with your own point of view, the need for change emerges. Or worse: a radical change is about to take place.

When brands enter a serious dialogue with consumers, they will pretty much tell you what needs to be improved. The answers might surprise you.

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