Fresh eyes

Six steps for getting a rebrand right

Six steps for getting a rebrand right
Gareth Edwards Senior Design Manager

Written by Gareth Edwards,
Head of Design at Freshfield

A question we’re often asked is “how long does it take to do a rebrand?”.

A successful rebrand takes time. In some instances, it can take years when you factor in planning, designing, production, and so on.

The more time you have to work on a project the better the overall outcome will be. But it’s not just the time taken. There are many factors that make a successful rebrand, so here I share with you some of the lessons I have learned over the years for getting a rebrand right.

Start with the strategy and research

Whether you’re dealing with the rebrand of an existing business, product or service, or creating a new brand from scratch, you have to start with the strategy.

In other words, there’s no point rushing into selecting colours, typefaces and styles. First you have to be clear about what your brand stands for, who your target audience is, and how you will convey your brand’s personality to that audience. This will often include research into your audiences and the way they feel about your brand and competitor analysis.

This may sound like the boring part. But you’d be surprised how many rebrands fail because no attention was paid to strategy. In these cases, the end result can be a brand that doesn’t ring true with the mission and values of the business.

Discover your brand values

We have a saying at Freshfield that brand values are discovered, not manufactured. In other words, you can’t tell people you’re one thing, if they see you differently.

For example, in a rebranding job we did for Top 50 UK accountancy firm, Moore and Smalley, we spoke to the firm’s clients to really understand what they valued about their relationship with Moore and Smalley. The message that came through loud and clear was that clients really trusted the advice they received.

The brand strapline that we ultimately implemented was ‘Trusted Thinking’. It was quite a departure from the initial ideas we worked with, but it was met with almost universally positive feedback from clients and contacts. So if you’re embarking on a rebrand and are unsure about what you really want to stand for, speak to your customers and discover what makes you stand out.

The small details matter

One of my favourite examples of a successful rebrand is the most recent incarnation of the Guinness logo, which proved that good things comes to those who wait. (See what I did there?).

Guinness tasked London agency Design Bridge to come up with a new take on the already iconic brand logo which has only changed five times since Guinness was first brewed in 1759.

To bring its vision to life, Design Bridge’s designers worked closely with expert harp makers Niebisch & Tree. This collaboration allowed the team to be fully in control of everything from the harp’s shape and features to the way the shadows were cast onto the neck of the harp.

In a recent Creative Review interview, Tim Vary, creative director, insists that if a 3D model of the final drawing was to be produced, the harp would be fully functioning and in tune. Fascinating.

I appreciate that to the untrained eye, you might not notice a great deal of change in the logo, but the subtle changes that resulted from this painstaking process have made real impact in creating a logo that will continue to stand the test of time.

Strive for timelessness

Following on from that theme, another consideration that goes through a designer’s mind when working on a rebrand is how the new identity will look in five, ten, or even 20 years’ time.

Like the Guinness logo mentioned above, or that other iconic beverage Budweiser, which has also never deviated far from its original logo, a good brand should look timeless.

Of course, we can’t predict the future and there’s a big chance that something that looks great now will look incredibly dated in the future. However, there are many tools in a good designer’s workbench to make a brand relatively future-proof.

Branding must stand up to the multi-channel environment

Another potential pitfall on a rebrand project is having a logo and other brand devices that lack flexibility.

By this I mean they don’t successfully transfer across a range of print mediums and communication channels. For example, you may have a logo that looks good on a letter head, but that doesn’t successfully scale up for a large advertising board. Or it may have small details that get lost when the logo is made smaller to go on a branded pen, for example.

In the age of digital communication, where we have to think about how good a brand identity will look on a wide range of digital devices and communication channels, this has never been more important.

Plan a rebrand like a military operation

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” This is a quote about preparation attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

It’s also a fitting sentiment for the rebranding process. There’s lots to think of, from the merely practical, like ensuring continuity of marketing collateral and stationery stock, to the more strategic, like how you will communicate the rebrand to staff and customers.

Having a launch date in mind, so that you can plan backwards from this date is useful, but be mindful that the process isn’t rushed in a bid to meet the deadline at all costs. Like any effective plan, it should consider all contingencies. Far better to push back the deadline if you are not quite ready to go live.

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