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Madonna vs Meat Loaf: When is it time to rebrand?

If your company is your body, then your brand is your face, both sensing and communicating. Your face not only tells the world who you are, but based on the cues it receives, informs your brain and body as to where you are. It works very much like a brand, which should be engaging both your internal organisation and the public with your business in deep, meaningful ways. So says Christo Maritz of Cape Town design agency INFESTATION.

“Everything in a company environment stems from branding – from internal culture to public face, which is why getting your brand right is so critical. And, because companies (along with the times) change, it’s imperative to regularly revisit your branding,” says Maritz, who notes recent top-of-mind international rebrands such as Google, Airbnb and Lexmark.

“As businesses, we get so locked into what we do and how we do it that we often forget to ask ourselves why we do things and what our purpose is. And in some cases in which businesses have these answers, they are not translated to their clients and opportunities are missed for customers to have an engaged and meaningful relationship with your brand.”

“Sometimes we are also too close to our own identity to aptly judge how well our brand represents us, which is kind of like living in an untidy house: it looks normal to you because you are used to it, but others see it as messy. In South Africa, we don’t have a legacy of brand as a valuable asset. In many cases, companies have visual identities in the form of logos and colours that are somewhat distinctive, but this in itself is not a brand.”

So what is the difference between a visual identity and a brand?
“Visual identity refers to the visual elements that represent a business, like a logo. Brand is a larger expression and is more of a narrative, which tells people what your business stands for. It stands for the promise you make and the personality you convey. Of course, your visual identity needs to speak for your brand, but without the brand, you are presenting a half-baked version of yourself to the world, and even to your own employees. This can be detrimental,” says Maritz.

Maritz lists eight important reasons why companies need strong brands:

1. First and foremost, a brand is an internal rallying point that gives everyone in the organisation a cohesive personality – it says “this is who we are”. This is very powerful, and creates a stronger team.
2. Strong consistent brands stand out and attract the right audiences.
3. Brands increase loyalty – customers become loyal to brands they can identify with emotionally.
4. Good brands create perceptions of quality, the single most important contributor to a company’s return on investment.
5. A strong brand boosts confidence in the future earnings of a company.
6. Price premiums are justified by strong brands.
7. A powerful brand creates a halo effect, which motivates people to be more forgiving of inferior service (i.e. Blackberry).
8. As the world changes, so do perceptions and feelings, and brands need to reflect these changes. Imagine if BP and Shell were still touting ‘petrol’ instead of ‘environment’!

How to Make Sure Rebranding is Effective

The critical make or break for successful rebranding is that it must be approached from a strategic business perspective. “Brand strategy must be in line with business strategy, and if you don’t have a business strategy, that can be conceived before rebranding or as part of the rebranding strategy,” said Maritz, who adds that “brand position must accurately reflect your business values. Part of this process is a comprehensive understanding of your audiences, as well as competition and changing trends within the industry. All this means engaging in proper and in-depth analysis.”
“It’s important that your brand differentiates itself from competitors,” adds Maritz. “It also must be single-minded. The biggest mistake many brands make is in trying to be everything to everybody.”
Once a brand strategy is in place, be prepared to back it up with a strong implementation strategy for corporate communications, marketing and internal communications.

Knowing when it’s time to rebrand

If companies are unsure whether or not a rebrand is necessary, Maritz suggests doing an internal audit – a self-analysis with the management team to see if the current brand is relevant. The questions to ask are:
• Is your brand aligned with your business objectives?
• Do your current communications reflect who you are?
• What do people think of you?
To make sure you’re not suffering from an ‘untidy house syndrome’, Maritz suggests going outside your bubble and asking your customers for their input.
If you are still unsure about a rebrand, consult with an agency that can offer professional brand strategy, and would be able to give you a credible audit on all aspects of your brand health. Once you’ve decided a rebranding is due, your brand agency, which should have extensive experience in aligning brand with business strategy, can begin the rebranding design. “Beautiful logos that don’t reflect a company’s strategy are like bad tattoos,” says Maritz.
The other critical factor is collaboration. “Rebranding should be an engaging and collaborative process for client and agency,” advises Maritz. “It should have at its core a brand workshop, which will create a space where it’s fun for clients to talk about their own business with creatives. The dynamic should be more of a gentle steering by the agency rather than an imposition of its views. For in the end, the client has to own the brand 100% in order for it be effective.”

 

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