Your brand is the face of your business. You’re trying to reinvent yourself, all while retaining the same recognition, trust and nostalgia that your old brand possessed. In fact, before even starting down this road, you should evaluate the reasons for a rebrand or refresh and ensure that they are genuine and necessary,
Although a successful rebrand can lead to soaring profits, failure to get this right is one reason that many major rebrands end up reversed. For example, Tropicana’s short-lived rebrand in the mid-2000s that saw their sales drop by a whopping 20% in one month.1
The high stakes involved in a rebrand is undoubtedly why brands get so fixated on the customer-facing half of branding, the fun part — the logos, colour palette, fonts — what the brand actually looks like. However, creating a strong brand and avoiding a flop of a rebrand isn’t the only branding strategy challenge to overcome.
At Brandworkz, we’ve worked with dozens of brands undertaking a rebrand. Although not a branding agency (we work with them too!), these experiences have given us the perspective needed to notice some common trends that crop up time and again to derail a successful project, lead to delays and (best case scenario) rack up unnecessary costs.
To make matters worse, these failures are often caused by simple oversights — things that could have been avoided if the right preparations had been taken. Here, we’re going to go over these commonly overlooked components of a rebrand and help you keep your eye on the right details from the start. Let’s go!
Suggested reading: So much of what will be discussed here comes back to brand consistency. If you want help assessing your current system and improve your ability to remain consistent — rebrand or not — check out our free resource — The Brand Consistency Toolkit.
1. Actually rolling out your rebrand
Your ability to successfully roll out changes is central to making your rebrand a reality and success — second only in importance to making the right rebranding decisions. In fact, a number of points on this list relate back to this very issue. However, the importance of thinking about this from the start is why we’re putting it first, and dedicating a whole section to this point… I’m just gonna say it one more time, you really can’t underestimate the importance of this point.
In my experience, brands that see the highest levels of success typically spend as much as 4-5 times more on rollouts than on actually rebranding, highlighting the importance of a well-planned rollout.
Strategies to help
Rollouts are a balancing act between stamping out your old brand and making sure that every element of your rebrand is in place and ready for launch. As you probably already know, old and popular branded images are really hard to get rid of. Success is about planning, and you should especially consider —
- Designing a communication plan: You need to clearly assign responsibilities over who does what. People need to know when changes occur and where they need to go to find updated branded material. To a large degree, this comes back to updating your brand guidelines, and having brand guidelines that are easy to access and use.
- Detailing a rollout calendar: A big part of communicating your rebrand is setting dates for change. You should have a calendar that details each stage of your rollout in order to make sure that everyone stays on the same page.
- Creating templates: The more you’re able to provide templates of your branded material, the easier it will be to ensure that everyone is using the right thing. Making sure that the right templates are in place and accessible by the time you go live is a critical step in a smooth transition.
- Assessing what stays and what goes: You will need to audit your existing branded material and decide what can be updated and what should be discarded entirely. You then need to clearly assign who should update what and when.
- Purging your old assets: Getting rid of all old branded material is a must. If you have a good DAM (Digital Asset Management) platform, this will be as simple as setting the right permissions and hiding all of your old material from users. If you have a more ad hoc file-folder system, this is going to be a larger task. Don’t forget about assets that users might have stored on their own computers.
Remember, the last thing you want is to undermine your rebrand with a lack of consistency.
2. The difference between abstract design and real-world implementation
When you’re firing ideas around the boardroom, or the breakroom (…or to yourself in the bathroom), it’s easy to build momentum and start thinking every idea looks like ‘the one’. Unfortunately, while that suggestion from Gary in marketing might’ve seemed great in abstract, or even in a mock-up design, a red and pink colour palette might not look so good in your real-world newsletters.
Given that you’re going to want your rebrand to be a one-time and long-lasting thing, you NEED to understand not only what ideas look like in theory, but also how they translate into real life. That means going beyond the drawing board to try things out for real.
Strategies to help
Mockups are a great way to start seeing your relaunched items in the flesh, but they still leave margin for error. You don’t necessarily know how minor colour shades will differ between applications, or how your specific computer monitor settings impact them — along with any of a dozen other variables that are hard to quantify.
For example, it’s hard to see how a website menu actually works until you try and use it. You can’t be sure how your new custom icons scale on mobile until it’s actually live. To get even further into the weeds, a mockup of your new PowerPoint template might not work as well in real life when you realise how many tertiary colours PowerPoint really needs you to assign. Imagine going to all that trouble to make sure external presentations were on-brand just to end up with the completely wrong shade of grey outlining all of the tables used in the document.
Putting things into real-world scenarios is a well-understood part of software application testing prior to go-live — it even has its own acronym, UAT (User Acceptance Testing). Branding should be the same. You need to make sure that everything you’ve cooked up during design actually works and looks good in its real-world context.
3. Looking ahead and finding a brand management system
Making sure that your rebrand stars are aligned (or that all of your brand elements come together) by launch day needs to be a central goal of your planning. In fact, simplifying this process is exactly why we built Brandworkz in the first place — helping resolve the waste we’d see in so many rebrands up to that point. Fundamentally, a brand management system built with brand consistency in mind can make the difference between feeling like you’re herding cats versus herding some other animal that’s actually supposed to be herded… like, cows, or sheep, or goats — you get the point.
Strategies to help
Your brand management system can either be a smattering of ad hoc manual processes and different marketing tools, or streamlined using dedicated brand management software. Ultimately, the more automation you can introduce into your brand management process, the simpler change will be.
When looking for brand management software, you should consider how it helps you unite a number of different and critical components of brand management. Core features to consider include:
- Advanced DAM: Your DAM dictates so much of how you access and distribute branded material. One with advanced metadata, integrated brand guidelines, permission settings and brand reporting software will dramatically improve your brand management capabilities. This will allow you to effectively store new assets, replace old ones, and point people at the right new material.
- Workflow and annotations: Uniting the software that helps you access existing material and create new on-brand assets simplifies workflows and improves creativity. This will help you review old content and assign jobs to update assets, along with ensuring that new content is on-brand for a given period of time post launch.
- Templates: As discussed, the more you can template access to customisable resources, the simpler it is to keep things on-brand. Brand management software can make this easy. Use templates to update more content to the new brand quickly. For example, if you have a load of documents using a similar style, create a template and feed the old content into it to produce finished documents in the new brand.
- Integration: This will make it simple to roll out new brand content to different platforms where it’s needed. For example, you want your branded material to be accessible across the tools that your teams actually use. The right integrations will give you the ability to access images from your DAM directly from PowerPoint. Brand management systems that integrate across your entire marketing stack are a must.
If you choose to take a more manual approach to brand management, planning becomes even more critical. No matter how it’s achieved, you need a system in place that will allow you to distribute branded material and control who can access what.
4. Digital UI components
While UI (user interface) components like favicons and digital buttons might not seem as pressing a priority as visual elements like logo design, these finishing touches really stand to pull your brand together. UI component libraries, especially, help to drive consistency and all-important brand recognition across all online platforms, and should be considered at every stage of your overhaul. If you forget about this until the last moment, it can lead to poor decision making and/or delays to your launch.
Strategies to help
Making sure to focus on UI components is often as simple as making room for them in the brand guidelines. You need to make sure those additions are known company-wide and that access to those icons is ready on launch day.
You also need to decide whether or not to create all custom icons or subscribe to a commercial icon library. The first option is obviously more unique, but far more expensive. If you go with a library, one thing to note is the importance of not overwhelming users. For example, at Brandworkz we subscribe to https://streamlinehq.com/. We’d recommend them, but with over 100k files it would be too much of a good thing if you don’t curate access to only a select number of choices.
5. Tone of voice documents
The fact that many design agencies don’t even offer tone of voice (TOV) documents makes it really easy to forget about this one. In reality, though, while visuals offer rebrand pulling power, a great brand voice is essential for creating conversions and telling brand stories, especially on entirely text-dependent platforms like Google AdWords, some social media or blogs. TOV is a core part of your brand messaging, brand identity and effectively communicating with your target audience.
Strategies to help
In reality, getting TOV right isn’t that different to visual branding, it’s just about words rather than images. You need to think about how you want people to perceive your brand and how you can impart that with the language you use. Ask yourself questions like:
- Why does our company exist?
- What makes us different?
- What are our values?
- What is our personality?
Then, it’s about taking your answers and aligning them with messaging. For example, if you want to be a “fun” and “accessible” brand, you need to use conversational language, colloquialisms and contractions. If you’re “professional” and “serious”, it’s likely the reverse. Produce dedicated documents for —
- Style: This is how the writer writes — diction and sentence structure. For example, the length of sentences, simple vs complex words, first vs second vs third person, along with formatting preferences.
- Tone: This is how the whole piece feels. Effectively, this is how all of the style choices should make you feel, and is often summarised by terms like “conversational”, “authoritative” or “formal”.
- Voice: This is the most subjective of them all and really described the ability of the writer to impart their own character on the writing.
For consistency and simplicity, you should store your TOV documents in the same place as your visual guidelines. Just like your visual guidelines, you need to make your TOV documents easy to access and easy to edit.
Pro tip: Using examples of what good and bad look like is a great way to make it really clear what you want — the exact same goes for visual guidelines.
6. Trademark and legal registration
Legal complications aren’t unusual during the planning stages of a rebrand, and it’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem. You need to make sure that you’re able to trademark a logo before investing too much time in designing it. However, you can only trademark something once it exists. This is why early versions of logos often use the ™ symbol before they are officially registered ®.
Legal entanglements aside, the use of different symbols within different stages of logo design creates consistency problems. It can be hard to then go stamp out those original iterations, and becomes one more thing you need to pay attention to during rollout… like you didn’t have enough to worry about already!
Strategies to help
You should start thinking about legal registration early. Not only does this ensure that you actually are able to get the registration, but also limits the number of designs that use the wrong symbol. Communication is the second best tool to deal with this in-house, with administrative and design teams having to work together to communicate legal progress back and forth, and ultimately ensure that even prototypes don’t go to print until you’ve got the legal go-ahead.
Fundamentally, this all comes back to good communication and ensuring that everyone is aware of what stage of the registration process you are at. Like so much on this list, an effective brand management system will greatly simplify this process. You need the right platforms in place to control access to different assets and then easily review which branded material is being used.
7. Keeping your CEO involved
The CEO should be directly involved in the entire rebrand process. Your brand is central to the identity of the company, your CEO should be championing the new brand and fully behind the reasoning for change. This will help with the rollout and adoption.
However, even if your CEO isn’t actively interested, you shouldn’t assume that they won’t have opinions. We’ve seen firsthand the fallout when a CEO looks through rebrand plans a few days before rollout and just says, “I don’t like it.” It’s essential to not only give your CEO a one-time skeleton sketch of your rebrand, but to also keep them in the loop as ideas develop. That way, you’re positioned to put their comments and preferences into action as your rebrand progresses, enabling you to finalise even minor details with plenty of time to spare.
Strategies to help
Keeping your CEO informed is really all about simplifying communications that allow them to give approval without having to take time out. Your ability to bring their vision to reality is, of course, the easiest way to ensure that. However, the simpler you can make that review process, the easier it will be to provide updates on a regular basis. Fundamentally, this all comes back to being clear and transparent throughout your rebrand process. Keep everyone up to date regarding any issues that come up — specifically the CEO — and clearly communicate timelines and milestones.
Going from theory to reality is all about planning
Short rebrand timelines and poor planning can leave companies with little room to even consider these overlooked elements alongside pressing rebrand priorities like… what will our brand actually look like. By planning early and planning well it’s far simpler to pay attention to the details, plan for rollout and create a new killer brand image.
At Brandworkz, we produce brand management software that’s designed to make branding simple. We integrate your DAM, workflow tools, reporting and more into a single platform that’s able to give you a thousand-foot overview and then dive into the details. It’s easy to control what users can access and provide customisable templates that allow for small creative tweaks while keeping everything on-brand.
The great thing about having a high-quality brand management system is the degree to which it can reduce the challenges of rollout, and help you stay focused on the creative side of branding. However, don’t take our word for it. If you want to see what Brandworkz can do for you, book a demo today.