Whether you’re contemplating a complete brand transformation, a visual facelift, or a fresh look for your marketing graphics, it’s important to first understand the nuances of when to rebrand. Then, you can can make your right decision that’s aligned with your business goals.
Let’s set the scene.
You’ve been in business for an extended length of time – perhaps six months, one year or five years. Clients are coming in the proverbial door and you’re seeing consistency in terms of revenue. You’re showing up regularly for your community and you’ve started to establish a brand presence.
Except every time you go to create a new social media graphic, you feel like you’re starting from square one. And you’re a little embarrassed to send people to your website because it doesn’t accurately reflect the true value that you deliver to clients. And speaking of clients, you’ve shifted who you’re working with since you began offering services. And your logo? You bought it as a template way back in the day and have seen a few other businesses in your industry with something that looks oddly similar to yours.
My friend, if any of this sounds familiar, you may be ready for a rebrand.
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Rebrand, refresh, brand update… what the heck is the difference?
A full rebrand means updating both the internal and external brand. This includes the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the brand – the mission, vision, values, position, differentiator, message, personality. And, the forward-facing brand – the logo, color palette, typography, website, collateral.
A full rebrand is a great option if you’re needing a complete transformation because the heart and soul of the organization is upgrading or is changing direction. This could mean changing the name, changing the mission or vision, changing the key stakeholders. A lot of components within your brand are not working well and you’re ready to start new.
The Brand Refresh
I define a brand refresh as doing an update to the external visual identity. The behind-the-scenes brand doesn’t change but the outward facing stuff gets a new look. This could mean updating the full visual brand suite or maybe just updating the elements that support the logo like colors and typography. What’s remaining constant is the brand’s strategy – the mission, vision, purpose, personality, message and positioning.
This is a great option if the overall structure of your business is staying the same but the visual aesthetic is no longer serving you well. You’re feeling constraints because of your visual identity.
The Brand Update
A brand update is when both the strategy and identity stay the same, but the application gets a fresh look. Think new social templates, presentation slides or business cards. We’re using what’s already in existence and giving it a makeover.
An update is a great option if you’re just needing to breathe new life into your existing brand. Your internal structure is staying the same and you’re just wanting to bring a little new energy into your existing identity.
But maybe your business just has a marketing problem?
Because we’re all about getting on the same page before we dive in deeper, let’s define marketing (taken from marketing hero, Seth Godin): Marketing is persuading someone to take action.
As a service-based business, this generally means that you market to persuade someone to purchase a 1:1 service or offering.
Your brand, then, is what helps that person or company want stick around and stay engaged; it’s what moves them from one-time engager to life-long advocate.
Sometimes, we can think that we have a brand problem when in actuality, marketing efforts need the extra love.
While this is a bigger question that deserves some dedicated investigation, here’s a quick litmus test to determine where you may need support:
It’s likely a marketing problem if someone isn’t even aware that you exist or how to work with you. I.e., they don’t know you exist.
It’s likely a branding problem if they have engaged with your brand once or twice, but then move on (unsubscribe, unfollow, etc.). I.e., they know you exist but they don’t want to hang out.
Let’s circle back to rebrands: Why are they even a thing? Isn’t your brand supposed to be forever?
The biggest fallacy we fall into when it comes to our brand is that once we create it, it’s done. We can check it off the list and then move on.
Our brand is not a ‘set it and forget it’ element of our business. But rather, think about it as a living, breathing entity that evolves right alongside your business. As your business changes and grows, so too does your brand.
Because your brand is the perception of your business – how people think, feel and act – it’s only natural for that perception to adjust over time.
This is especially true for service-based business owners because you’re selling your expertise, and that expertise evolves with every client.
When you’re just getting started, your knowledge and skills related to your service is at one level. And with every client that you work with, that expertise and skillset grows. So, it’s only a matter of time before key elements of your brand, like ideal client and positioning and message, evolve as well.
There’s nothing “wrong” with your business when this happens – it’s the natural evolution of a business. And from my perspective, it’s a healthy sign of growth.
Rebrands sound like a big job and you’re already teetering on overwhelm. Why make the decision to go through it?
To answer this question, we first need to understand why we have a brand in the first place.
But let’s back up even further – Your business is selling a service that you believe is valuable, that you believe will solve a problem for someone. So, in order to sell that service, the purchaser needs to trust you, at least a little, in order to make that investment.
Your brand is the catalyst for creating that trust.
Because your brand provides an experience and tells a story. And every touch point someone has with your business either enhances that storyline or detracts from it.
Every time your brand falls into that ‘enhance’ category, you build even more trust with the visitor, viewer, community member.
So, this means that we maximize trust-building by providing a consistent and cohesive experience.
Which brings us to the original question: what can a rebrand do for your business?
Well, if your brand experience is full of inconsistencies, a rebrand can have a dramatic effect on your business. By going through the branding process and getting clear on your strategy (the plan for communicating your brand) and then bringing that plan to life through consistent visuals, you not only will help your audience better understand what you do and how you can help them, but you’ll also get back on track from a behind-the-scenes perspective.
In the simplest terms, a rebrand will help you get all your ducks in a row so that you can consistently and cohesively communicate your brand to the right people, at the right time.
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Okay, okay. So how do you know if your business needs a rebrand?
After nearly seven years of working with branding clients, I’ve come to the realization that there are five main reasons why a business would want to embark on the rebranding adventure.
Reason #1: You’re serving a new audience
When I first started my brand studio, Witt and Company, I went all-in on targeting bloggers. Having had our blog North Country Nest for nearly two years at the time, it seemed like a no-brainer ideal client. Fast forward about a year in and I decided to make the switch to service providers. I knew that the way I communicated to this new niche was going to change the overall look and feel of my brand, so I went through my own rebranding process.
Similar to pivoting an offer, changing up who you serve can significantly affect how your brand is experienced. You’re going after a new market filled with people who have different desires, outcomes, versions of success, problems and challenges. Meaning, the way you communicate your brand may be very different and the overall experience should be aligned with that new niche, ideal client, market, category, etc.
Reason #2: The visual brand doesn’t effectively or accurately communicate the brand experience
Whether you hired out the visual brand design or did it yourself, you’ve come to realize that how you want people to think, feel and act when they experience your brand isn’t being reiterated through the visuals.
Perhaps they’re filled with muted colors, soft script fonts and pretty floral patterns, which would be great if you wanted the brand experience to be elegant, romantic and sophisticated. Except, after working in your business for some time, you now realize that you want a loud, excitable and fun brand experience.
Here’s the thing: your brand is meant to enhance how you want people to think, to feel and to act about your business. Whether it’s on social media, on your website or in an email, every brand touch point is intended to embody the overall personality of your business. If there’s a disconnect, you end up confusing your audience. And, spoiler alert: you never want someone to be confused by your brand.
Reason #3: You’ve DIY’d everything to this point and your brand lacks a consistent style and elevated aesthetic
This is the most common reason I hear from clients (and for good reason) – when you start your business, you’re on a budget, you’re learning all the things and the goal is to sell your stuff. So, you piecemeal everything together as you need it. After all, that’s the path of least resistance, so why not?
There’s no shame in the DIY game, especially as a new business owner.
However, there will come a time when everything gets so jumbled together that you end up with no consistency and an overall aesthetic that ties everything together. This usually leads to confusion among your audience and as stated above, confusion is never a good thing when it comes to building connection.
Reason #4: You’re pivoting what you offer and how you serve
As a service-based business, a significant portion of your brand perception is tied to the services you provide.
For example, let’s say you’re a social media manager and work primarily in Instagram and TikTok but decide to shift your offerings to content management with a focus on email marketing. While it’s not a complete night-and-day difference or change, it might be time to stop and consider how your brand experience will be shifting with that update in services. Will you be communicating the same way? Will you want people to feel the same way when they experience your brand? More than likely, the answer is a hard and fast, “No.” Which means it’s probably a great time to freshen up your brand.
Reason #5: You’re changing your business name
This one may be the most obvious. If you’re going through a major overhaul of your business and changing the name, it’s also a great time to go through the rebranding process.
The name of your business ties to a specific identity and when that identity changes, so too can the entire plan for communicating your brand. In addition, you can use this change as an opportunity to reevaluate how your brand is being experienced and update accordingly.
Perhaps you’re changing from a business name to a personal brand, so now would be a great time to bring more of YOUR personality into the entire brand experience. Or, maybe it’s just the opposite – you were a personal brand and now you’re shifting to a more business-focused brand. Either way, a name change is a great catalyst for rebranding.
You’re on board and think a rebrand is the way to go. What next?
Yes, it’s true in that making the decision that *now* is your right time to go through a rebrand, it’s not the only consideration that needs to be taken into account.
Because the whole point of a rebrand is to change the overall identity of your business, the process isn’t about getting a new logo off Fiver or 99Designs and calling it good. Which brings us to the first consideration: whether or not you have the time and energy to go through the update.
Yes, when done right, the rebranding process can completely transform the way you show up. However, if it’s half-assed because you aren’t able to devote the time, energy or resources, then you might not get the results you’re envisioning or hoping for.
The second consideration: Are you wanting to go through the rebranding process yourself (and/or with team) or are you wanting to hire support?
Capacity and resources are the primary reasons for choosing one or the other.
Some brands have more capacity but limited budget, so they choose to DIY. Others have limited capacity but more budget, so they bring in a brand partner. There’s no right or wrong here but rather a determination of what makes the most sense for your business based on your specific needs.
If you’re only needing a brand update, perhaps it makes more sense to do the work internally. Versus, if you’re wanting a complete overhaul, it’s generally best to bring in outside support because a full rebrand is a lengthy and time-intensive process. Additionally, there is so much benefit to bringing in fresh eyes when making significant changes to a business’s brand.
And this leads quite nicely to the last consideration – have a clear understanding of why you’re wanting to rebrand and set clear objectives that you need the new brand to meet. This allows you to stay on track throughout the entire process and ensure you get the outcome you’re after.
While there may be a lot of questions floating around when it comes to the possibility of a rebrand, it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming or all-consuming process. Bringing in a trusted brand partner is a great way to ensure the project moves smoothly and all the necessary bases are covered.
And shameless plug, if you decide that your next right step is to get rebranding support, I’d love to collaborate with you on this journey! Click here to learn more.
All my best,
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