For years now, I’ve been asked a familiar question. Once a company has created a new brand identity, is it better to roll out applications gradually, as budget allows, or should management bite the bullet and implement the new identity across all customer touch points simultaneously? The answer is: Do everything at once. That’s always the answer. That’s always going to be the answer. The only way you roll things out gradually is if you’re forced by circumstances to go slow. Those circumstances are usually budgetary in nature. I can understand the inclination to move incrementally. Some identity applications are easy, like stationery ensembles (if anybody uses them anymore). Putting a logo on a tote bag is always fun. And it’s easy enough to put the new logo in the top left corner of your website. But some applications are very difficult (expensive) to change. Signage at the top of a skyscraper, for instance, or the livery on fleets of vehicles. And yet the benefits of the all-at-once approach far outweigh any expense involved. And there are dangers in the gradual approach that can negate your investment in the new look, and even leave you worse off than before.
Every market is made up of constituencies. A constituency is any group whose perception of the brand is important to its future. So, of course, customers or clients are the most important constituency of all. Or are they? Virgin’s Richard Branson would say employees are the most important constituency in any market. Didn’t he once say, “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your customers.”? There are other constituencies that need to have a positive perception of the brand as well: vendors, suppliers, financiers, competitors, the press, regulatory agencies, etc. And of course there is that all-important constituency of one: the boss. And if that boss happens to be the founder of the business, you have someone with encyclopedic knowledge of, and unparalleled influence over, the brand. Unfortunately, that can sometimes be a bad thing. Because even though the founder’s perception of the brand is extremely important to its future, its also the most isolated point of view. Literally no one else sees the brand the way the founder does. No one else can possibly experience it the way they do. So when founders or bosses insist on relying on their own judgement, without the input of customers and employees, the brand can suffer.
You’ve done it. You bit the bullet and took the leap. You’ve formalized your brand platform. It’s an exhilarating feeling because, in the past, you had an idea you were marketing your business correctly. But you were never really 100 percent sure. Now, you have absolute clarity. You know what you were doing right, previously, and you changed what had to change. Today is a new day and you see a clear path toward success. You understand now precisely what emotional benefit your market expects from your business. You know your mission is to fulfill that benefit. You know exactly what your brand promise is. You know how to make that brand promise so that people will believe you. And you know how to deliver on that brand promise. But what if you’re wrong? Once you put your brand strategy into action, how do you know it’s paying off? How do you measure ROI? As the old saying goes, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” So how much time should you give a new brand strategy to work and how will you know if it’s working? Over the years, Boardwalk has identified eight key performance indicators (KPIs).
One of the articles in today’s sidebar posits that data can’t tell every story. The author, Bastien Frediani, claims we need good, old-fashioned human intuition to move people with bold ideas and spur them to action. The author further claims that decisions based solely on data often turn out to be bad ones. But my experience tells me the opposite is also true. Decisions based on no information at all frequently turn out to be disastrous. You’d be wise to proceed with caution when encountering people who say they make their decisions, “From the gut.” Truth is, and I think Frediani would agree, to make wise marketing or branding decisions, we need both data and creativity. Of course, we need the intuition to be bold and craft the kind of messaging that cuts through the clutter and engages target markets in positive ways. But we also need enough good information about those target markets that we can trust the ideas we intuit. It’s how I think about the creative leap for a commercial purpose. First, you must do your preparation. Then comes the creative leap, that mysterious idea-generating “something” that no one can explain. Finally, follow through.
The times change. Your market changes with the times. That means you have to change too. You have to change with your market or you risk weakening your brand relationship with it. Your brand will be diminished and become less valuable. One of the most effective ways of maintaining that close relationship with your market – and protect brand value – is to make sure you brand’s visual identity is aligned with current tastes and aesthetics. After all, that’s what your market sees of you. If your brand looks stale and behind the times, it’s not likely your customers or clients will invite you into their lives. After all, they’re not old and stale, are they? They’ll start looking for a replacement for you. Yet, sadly, too many businesses invest in a logo and then just ignore it for the next 30-40 years. These businesses, no matter how profitable they may be, will never be market leaders. They just don’t care enough about their markets to want to appear relevant to them. Believe me, the markets notice. If you want to have a shot at phenomenal success, you have to “refresh” your brand identity from time to time. That doesn’t mean you need a whole, new, start-from-scratch logo. But it does mean your logo needs periodic adjustments to still seem modern and meaningful to your market. Look at the market leaders in every sector.
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Best Branding Reads
Week of October 19, 2020
The wild history of ballot designs—and what they say about our democracy
This is a brief but fascinating glimpse into our past. It used to be much worse.
The Harmful Effects Of Business Growth
Growth is change. And change is the enemy of the brand. Proceed with care.
Everything I Know About Naming I Learned From 'The Simpsons'
Actually, a pretty good article. Pretty funny too.
Exclusive Interview with Philip Kotler, Distinguished Prof. of International Marketing
I bought his book “Marketing Professional Services” back in the 1980s. It’s still on my bookshelf.
Medium reveals (another) new logo – and it's a head-scratcher
Third rebrand in five years. What’s going on?
Smucker unveils new corporate identity
My guess is this is a corporate brand change only and won’t appear on their packaging. Or will it?
A Simple Definition of Brand Positioning
The author quotes Philip Kotler.