Right now, it seems as if everyone I know is in the middle of a rebrand or a brand refresh.
My friend who’s a personal finance guru for millennial women.
My friend who’s a food & healthy lifestyle blogger.
All three of my clients.
Myself - yep, that’s right. I’m launching my new brand in early 2019 (aiming for March 1!).
Now that 2019 is here, it seems to be the year of change for everyone around me. As such, I’m surrounded by excitement and modernization, sensing hints of newness everywhere.
As the excitement spreads, there’s a lot of work going on under the surface. People are coming up with new strategies, designing new websites, writing the words for their updated About page, and maybe even getting whole new logos created.
So, if you’re among the ranks of those planning to update their image and aren’t sure where to start, then here’s a few things you need to know.
1. What a Brand Is…And What It Isn’t
In the past, saying the word “brand” would simply evoke images of logos and maybe a few core colors. That’s it.
Fortunately, due to the power of content marketing and the Internet, there’s been a lot more education around what a brand is and what it isn’t. But, just in case you’re not exactly sure what it is, here’s my favorite definition:
Your brand isn’t just the logo. It’s what people think of you when you’re not in the room.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
What do you imagine when I say: Apple? You might think of the words: sleek, sophistication, design, creativity
What about Coca Cola? You might envision the words: freedom, happiness, positivity
I’m going to let you in on a little secret I learned while getting my Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Marketing: those words were not placed in your mind by mistake. They were planted there by marketers and brand strategists who knew exactly what they were doing.
So, yes, your brand encompasses the visual elements: the logo, images, colors, typography, all of those things. But it’s more than that. It’s the underlying fundamentals of who your company is and what it stands for; it’s what people think of you when you’re not around.
2. Where To Start
Alright, so now you understand what a brand is. So how do you plant those 3-4 words in your own customers’ minds when you’re not standing right in front of them?
Like everything else in your business, it starts with a strategy. If you go up to a graphic designer and say, “I want a logo with a bird on it,” they will (or should) ask: why? Does the bird mean something special to you? Does it represent something about your brand your customers will resonate with?
If your answer is “no, I just like birds,” and your brand has nothing to do with birds, that’s going to confuse your customers, leading to a loss of sales and maybe even a business that doesn’t succeed in the long term.
Instead, start by thinking about what you want your brand to embody. Consider your overall brand story; the narrative your customer tells him/herself when they’re looking for the solution you offer.
As you do this, examine where your brand is now and where you’d like it to be. What’s the gap? For example, you might be currently attracting a younger audience than you’d like. So what needs to change in order to attract a more mature crowd?
You may find in this exercise you don’t need a complete rebrand, but instead, a brand refresh. Update the logo, clean up the website, and call it a day. Don’t discount the small things which may result in big wins for your overall brand.
3. Where You Want To End Up
…or at least some idea of your overall vision.
Knowing you’re ready for a change is the first step. But before you approach a brand strategist or graphic designer, you want to have at least somewhat of an idea of where you’d like the brand to go.
Trust me when I tell you that the best rebranding experience comes from having a clear vision you want to see come to fruition. As you think about what you want, consider the following:
What are 3-5 brands that you really look up to or want to embody? Why?
How do you want people to feel when they interact with your brand?
What kind of customers do you want to attract?
These are a few great questions to ask yourself as you start thinking about your new brand.
But what if you have no idea where you want to end up? What if you know you need a change - but have no idea which direction you should go?
The best place to start is by looking at other brands. Find people in your space (i.e. if you’re a brand photographer, look at other brand photographers and photographers in general) whose brands are appealing to you and ask yourself: “why do I like this brand?” (see the first question above).
As we discussed above, a brand isn’t just a logo - it’s what people think of you when you’re not in the room. So when you find a few brands with great visuals, look deeper into their websites and social media and try to describe the feeling you get from them. Are they witty, warm, and friendly? Or are they more practical, professional, and to-the-point?
Take note of what appeals to you and what doesn’t. This homework is great whether you’re tackling your rebrand yourself or working with a third party.
4. How to Ask For Help (And Who to Hire)
As entrepreneurs, especially female entrepreneurs, many of us want to do it all. Why hire someone when we can do it ourselves? Sure, we’ll stay up to 2 am doing so, but it’s better than wasting money on someone who doesn’t understand our vision, right?
I just hired a lovely Canadian-based graphic and web designer to help me with my own personal rebrand. I want to handle the brand strategy myself - after all, I am a brand strategist - but I knew I needed to outsource the rest. After all, I just don’t have the time, energy, or expertise to truly do a good job with my vision as a whole.
The thing is, I’m also very much a “do-it-yourself” kind of gal. If I can YouTube a solution, I will. And letting go of even a portion of this project was difficult. One of the reasons I found it to be so hard was due to my fear of not seeing my vision turn into reality unless I do it myself.
But here’s the thing: if I have all the right pieces in place, my vision will turn into reality, and it’ll probably even turn out much better than if I tried to do it myself. And that’s because I had the right pieces in place:
I have a clear vision of what I want the end result to look and feel like
I’m able to convey my brand fundamentals in a clear and distinct manner
I know what kind of person would be up to the task
With all those pieces in place, I turned directly to someone I’ve been able to network with over the past few months and said, “hey, here’s what I want: can you do it and how much is it?”. She sent me an estimate, I paid the deposit, and here we are.
So, if you don’t have someone in place, do your research. You’ll need both a brand strategist and a graphic designer if you want to be successful with your rebrand. Oh, and don’t get too caught up on the visuals; the brand strategy comes before the way it looks.
Finally, make sure you enjoy the journey and celebrate the wins! A rebrand means your company is growing and adapting to current demands and every iteration of your new image is exciting and should be celebrated.
If you’re ready to start thinking about your rebrand, download your brand story worksheet to get started on the right foot.