The terms brand, branding, and rebranding are thrown around a lot these days and the concepts can be a bit overwhelming and confusing. If you are feeling this, you're not alone!
Learn what is a rebrand and what you need to know before attempting a rebrand
There is a lot of jargon out there that doesn't really explain what rebranding is or what a good rebranding process covers. So, we’ve put together this guide to cut out the unnecessary crap and help you navigate through all that indecipherable advice online and get to the facts you actually need.
Table of Contents
- What is a brand?
- Is branding about logo design and colors?
- What is branding?
- What is rebranding?
- Why should I rebrand our business?
- How do I know it’s time for a rebrand?
- What is the rebranding process?
- Who should I hire for a rebrand?
- What is a brand strategist?
- Core Values at Branding & Beyond
But first, let's start with some definitions.
What is a brand?
The most misused term in marketing.
A brand is the definition people hold in their minds about your company and the products/services it offers. It’s a collection of emotions, senses, and memories. Their idea of who you are and what you do are filed away for future use.
A brand is built in two ways: by what you tell people (or they are told by others) and by what they experience.
Your brand reputation is either created and managed with great intention or it grows organically over time (sometimes not in the direction you want).
The concept of a brand is a bit squishy and intangible but can be incredibly valuable when cultivated and grown to support and align with your business goals.
What position do you hold in the minds of your ideal audience? What do they know about you? What do they think you do and what value do they place on working with you?
If your inner circle is the only group that knows really what you do and how amazing you are at it… you have some work to do.
The word brand is not limited to product branding, it is relevant for service-based businesses. This article is focused on B2B (business to business) service businesses.
Is branding about logo design and colors?
Um, no. It is much deeper than that. Your logo and your color palette are BRAND ASSETS, and that is it. They are important for recognition but they are not your brand. Your brand is your who, what, why, a bit of how and when. It's the answer to “Why should I hire you?”.
<soapbox>Unless you own a ranch and are a cowboy/girl, your logo isn’t your brand. A logo cannot create the perceptions, experiences or impressions a person has about your company. A logo does not communicate who you are, a logo is just a visual identifier and a visual brand asset of your company. </soapbox>
What is branding?
Define Branding (verb – action): Branding is the intentional and strategic shaping of what people think and experience with your company’s products and services.
It is the action of strategically applying your brand personality to everything you do.
It's about taking every opportunity to express who you are, what value you offer, and what makes you unique. Ultimately, when your company name is mentioned, you want to already have a definition of who you are filed away in the mind of the audience.
Once a person interacts with your company or hears about interactions others have had, they form an opinion of who you are and what you provide. Filing that information away in their mental filing cabinet for later use. That perception may be on target or way off base. Either way, to them, that is your brand – what you do for whom and at what expertise/quality level. <– this positioning in their mind ONLY happens if you stood out and were relevant to them in some way.
You can affect their opinion of you through clear consistent messaging and by building your reputation through making promises and delivering value again and again.
Branding should be purposefully integrated into all aspects of your business, from the way the phone is answered to the way you sell and deliver your products and services.
Great brands focus on the little details as much as they do the big ones. If you have ever been to a Disney park or on a Disney cruise, you know the level of detail I'm talking about. It’s impressive.
You don't have to be a huge company to pay attention to branding. They spend billions because their market is HUGE. How big is your target market if you focused on the most ideal customers?
What is rebranding?
Define Rebranding: Rebranding is a healthy realignment process that every successful business will eventually go through. Rebranding is a process you undertake when you have either outgrown or pivoted in a way that your current brand and it's infrastructure no longer fits.
Rebranding is the cure for many ills.
Rebranding should not be thought of as a surface task. It is not tweaking your logo and updating your color palette. Just like repainting your front door is not remodeling your home.
Rebranding is about taking the opportunity to evaluate, research, rethink, and revitalize the foundation of who you are as a business and how you market your company.
More simply put, it is about finding the goodies that live within your company, the who, what, why and how of the value you create for customers. Taking that raw research, polishing it up, wrapping it in words and visuals to create a brand personality, then applying that to everything.
It is about finding and promoting your advantage in the market. And rebuilding brand assets that support your marketing strategy.
Bring clarity and simplicity to your message. Align your team. Revitalize the companies energy… and go kick some butt in the market.
Rebranding is good for you if:
- You have outgrown your current branding – everything is outdated
- You've never had a defined brand identity or personality, and you don't look or sound like the firm you are on the inside.
- You've merged, acquired, and or pivoted recently.
Why should I rebrand our business?
When you start with business goals and then proactively develop and build your business brand, you can attract the right opportunities for the right reasons. When you fully express who you are and what you stand for in this world, the right people show up.
There are so many different reasons to rebrand, including:
- Clean up everything that is outdated
- Get clear on your messaging and why prospects should give a damn
- Having a consistent and remarkable brand makes referrals easier
- Having a strong brand (with clear values and mission) will inspire employees
- It makes business decisions easier – your brand strategy can and should be a filter for decisions (who to hire, where to market, focus for the sales team…)
- You will know the answer to “is this on or off-brand?”
- Good branding can pre-build trust and credibility through your website and online presence
- The most profitable companies, regardless of size, have one thing in common: they have established themselves as a leader in their market by building a strong brand
- … do I really need to go on?
Conversely, if you are unconcerned and ignore your brand, it will deteriorate and you will be known as your category. Just an engineering firm, just another general contractor or even more generic, just a business owner… (insert ominous music).
That is what we call the accidental commodity. Commodities are interchangeable and compete on price.
… psst, your competition wants you to stop reading.
“Don't ever change!”
— Love, Your Competitor
When Should I rebrand?
- You’ve outgrown or outlived the brand (visualize a brand wedgie… sorry, not sorry)
- You are amazing on the inside but from the outside, you look like the firm you were 5-10 years ago
- Your products/services rock but you are blending in with the competition
- You are tired of continually competing on price
- Your brand infrastructure (website, collateral, social media, google rankings…) are all outdated and busted
- Your messaging and product offering descriptions are confusing and inconsistent… or bland and boring
- You are starting to become interchangeable with other vendors… the word “vendor” is used to describe you
- You try to be everything to everyone, making you a generalist and not a specialist
- You've had a big change in product or service offerings but no one knows it
- You have a sales-killing, outdated website that is no longer an asset
- You are embarrassed by your marketing materials and apologizing before you give your web address
- You feel guilty for neglecting your branding and marketing, but you don't know where to start
- A market evolution has left you behind and you need to catch up
The goal is to research & evaluate, create a plan, then take intentional steps to grow and possibly alter your reputation, actively manage and bake branding into everything you do.
When done right, a rebrand can pull your team together, simplify everything and give the business the verbal and visual tools everyone can be proud of.
What is the rebranding process?
- Brand Audit – Evaluate the existing brand from the outside. How do you look and sound to prospects? What is your brand image?
- Discover your business DNA – An internal deep dive, defining issues, finding opportunities and creating a strategy. What is your market share?
- Define your Brand Pillars – Create positioning, messaging, differentiation, visual identity, clarify core values, mission, brand promise, etc.
- Apply your Brand Personality – Take the visual and verbal brand personality to your website and all of your marketing and advertising. Buildout high-priority brand assets that will support your sales and marketing team by applying your brand image to your≠ website, slide decks, proposals, brochures/capability docs, trade show display, etc.
Who should I hire for a rebrand?
- Should I hire a graphic designer? No, they specialize in design and not creating a strategy for your brand to succeed.
- Should I hire a web design firm? No, they specialize in designing and building websites, not defining your brand personality.
- Should I hire an advertising agency? No, they specialize in ad buying and individual campaigns to get the word out, not defining what the word should be or creating a holistic strategy for your company.
- Should I hire a marketing firm? No, they have a broader focus than an ad agency but it is still top layer thinking and not foundation creation. Most firms need to define there base strategy for their brand.
- Should I hire a branding firm? Yes. They specialize in defining and designing brands… not fabricating them. Brand strategists are basically business archaeologists, they dig in and find the brand that already exists within the company. Clean it up, distill it down to the essence, polish it up, wrap words and visuals around it, and define a brand personality for the firm. Brand strategy firms do not fabricate a brand that is inauthentic, they define what exists. During the process, a brand strategy is developed along with an awareness strategy that includes the website plan and high-level marketing plan.
Brand Strategy: The rules and guidelines on how, what, where, when andto whom you should communicate your brand message.
What is a brand strategist?
Good branding involves great design, but it doesn’t start there and design alone does not make a great brand.
Many design/marketing/advertising firms have added branding to their services recently. Being a fantastic designer does not make you a great brand strategist. Designers build – based on plans someone else developed.
A brand strategist starts from scratch. They create the plan and engineer the foundation and structure to support the marketing strategy and meet the needs of the sales team.
A branding firm will help you create the desired perception within the minds of your ideal prospects. They will create your brand strategy, positioning, messaging and all the components of your visual identity. Then bring it all together as they build out your high-profile brand assets like your website and marketing materials.
With a branding firm, you do not need to connect the dots for them. There’s no hand-holding required. Their superpower is seeing connections and bringing clarity to complex situations.
A good strategist will guide you and your team through their process and help connect the dots between offerings and your ideal client’s needs. They will ask a lot of questions, conduct a lot of interviews and provide valuable insight on how to meet your goals.
Some branding firms will create your foundation and then hand you off to a web firm to do that part and a marketing firm to get the word out. Often this causes continuity issues.
We are brand strategists.
We are web designers and website builders.
We are here to help support your sales team.
Our specialty is to work with successful firms in and around the commercial building trades to revitalize their brand so they can be clear, consistent and look & sound credible online and off.
We help clients, starting at the bottom, by developing their brand foundation, creating a visual and verbal brand personality, that is then applied to their website and marketing.
Many clients we work with are at a fulcrum event in their history (this could be a big anniversary, a pivot into a new market, a merger/acquisition, increasing valuation for eventual sale/exit strategy), or simply they are ready to pull branding off the back burner and do the work to make sales easier and marketing more effective.
Is branding just for BIG companies and retail products?
That is a common misconception. When you search for information about branding, retail brand examples are most commonly what you see. Like Apple, Zappos, Amazon, Harley Davidson, Nike… you know them and the examples make sense, but they aren't always relevant to your business and they certainly are not relevant to your budget. There is product business branding and service business branding, then mix that with consumer/retail focus and business focus.
Branding is something that every company should intentionally focus on, unless you are a startup, then your focus should be validating your business model. If you've been around for more than 5 years and have repeat and referral business, that is a good sign that you have something that can be branded (positioned, differentiated, have core messaging, and visual identity).
Branding & Beyond specializes in rebranding B2B firms that have been around a while and are amazing on the inside, but not so amazing and developing and maintaining their brand. From the ouside you look and sound like the firm you were 5-10 years ago.
If any of this resonates with you, let's connect and talk about what is going on and how we can help.
Core Values at Branding & Beyond
Strategy FirstNot sometimes, always. No more random acts of marketing that aren’t tied to business goals.
Lead with EmpathyWe are compassionately-blunt, meet you where you are at without judgment.
Align What MattersPut your best foot forward by being clear, consistent, and looking credible online and off.
High-Level of Give-a-DamnNot sometimes, always.
Infuse Everything with ClarityNo more jargon-filled crap.
Continuous GrowthNo more set it and forget it.
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Tracy O’Shaughnessy Founder / Lead Brand Strategist of Branding & Beyond
Tracy and her team help B2B firms in the construction industry and professional services look and sound credible online and off.
She has been in the industry since the early '90s and is tired of great companies being treated as commodities and competing on price because they don't look and sound as credible as they really are.
You can find Tracy on Linkedin and here on this blog.