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, it also informs your brain and body about where you are. Your brand works in the same way. Your brand should be engaging with your business both internally and externally with your audience in deep, meaningful ways.
Here’s what our CEO, Christo, says on the topic.
Everything in a company environment stems from branding – from internal culture to the public face, which is why getting your brand right is so critical. And, because companies change, it’s imperative to regularly revisit your branding. Consider high-profile international rebrands such as Google, Airbnb and Lexmark as examples.
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, even when businesses do have these answers, they are not translated to their clients effectively. This could be a lost opportunity for customers to have an engaged and meaningful relationship with your brand.
Sometimes we’re also too close to our own identity to objectively judge how well our brand represents us. That’s like living in an untidy house: it looks normal to you because you’re used to it, but others see it as messy. In South Africa, we don’t have a legacy of branding as a valuable asset. While in many cases, companies have visual identities in the form of logos and colours that are somewhat distinctive, this does not make a brand.
Let’s look at the difference between a visual identity and a brand.
Visual identity refers to the visual elements that represent a business, like a logo or signage. A brand is a larger expression. It provides more of a narrative that 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.
Eight important reasons why companies need strong brands:
- 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.
- Strong consistent brands stand out and attract the right audiences.
- Brands increase loyalty – customers feel loyal to brands they can identify with emotionally.
- Good brands create perceptions of quality – the single most important contributor to a company’s return on investment.
- A strong brand boosts confidence in the future earnings of a company.
- Price premiums are justified by strong brands.
- A powerful brand creates a halo effect, which motivates people to be more forgiving of inferior service.
- 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 rebrand effectively
The critical make-or-break for a successful rebrand 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. Your 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 a detailed, in-depth analysis.
It’s important that your brand differentiates itself from competitors. It also must be single-minded. The biggest mistake many brands make is to try 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.
We applied these principles to a rebranding exercise for Cape Town Tourism. Check out the case study here.
Knowing when it’s time to rebrand
If you’re unsure about whether or not to rebrand, first do an internal audit. This is a self-analysis process with the management team to see if the current brand is relevant.
Ask some key questions:
- 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’, it’s worth stepping outside the comfort of the company bubble and asking your customers for their input.
Beautiful logos that don’t reflect a company’s strategy are like bad tattoos
If you are still unsure about a rebrand, consult with an experienced agency that can offer professional, strategic advice on aligning your brand with your business strategy, and a credible audit on all aspects of your brand health.
The results of the audit will inform your decision, and you can start the rebranding process with confidence.
Collaboration is key. Rebranding should be an engaging and collaborative process for client and agency. It should have at its core a brand workshop, which will create a space where it’s fun for you to talk about your own business with an engaged creative team. The agency should steer the process gently, rather that impose its own views. Ultimately, it’s your brand, and you should feel complete ownership over it. When you own it, you live it.