Great brands are uncovered, not manufactured (or four things you should know if you’re considering a brand refresh).

Brand refresh projects are probably the favourite part of what I do. Probably because at the end you get the opportunity to compare a before and after scenario, and see the real improvements and the value you’ve made to a brand.

There are number of different reasons which can be the catalyst for a brand refresh, like;

  • The brand looks tired, or the application of the visual identity has become inconsistent and incoherent
  • The business is growing and evolving
  • The introduction of a new product or service
  • Merger or acquisition
  • To reposition a brand in the marketplace
  • To consolidate a brand’s current position in the marketplace
  • To inject new energy into a business, reinvigorate and realigning everyone in the organisation through the process

Just as a brand is not a logo, a brand refresh shouldn’t just focus on a new visual identity.

A meaningful brand refresh that can effect real change and enhance business performance begins by pulling the existing brand apart from the inside, and then putting it back together strategically.

If you think your brand might be in need of a refresh, here are four things you should consider.

1. Begin with the end in mind.

Start by first identifying exactly why you need to refresh, and what you’re wanting to achieve.

Once you’re clear on why, it will give you something to measure against later on and will give you some clues as to what will be required.

If you have identified that the application of your visual identity has become inconsistent and incoherent, then a component of your brand refresh process should involve the development of a visual system with a thorough set of brand guidelines so it doesn’t happen again.

On the other hand, if you understand that there is real brand equity in your current corporate identity but you need to inject new energy into your brand and reinvigorate your team so they can achieve your business objectives and performance targets, then along with focussing on realigning everyone in the business around a clear brand strategy that they can take ownership of, you should consider developing a refreshed visual language to compliment your existing logo as part of your brand refresh process.

Every brand is different, but begin with the end in mind.


2. You need to look back before you can look forward.

Where have we come from? Why was this business started in the first place? What is our purpose? (this rarely changes, brands just often forget).

You can’t simply manufacture an authentic brand purpose or strategy, it always comes from inside the organisation.

What makes your brand distinctive, powerful and precious can always be found at the beginning of the story, so you need to look back before you can look forward.

When it’s time to refresh make sure to uncover and reconnect the entire organisation with the authentic purpose behind your brand.

In my experience, there is real value in having a skilled facilitator that understands branding and has a proven process to assist at this point. Many companies think they can undertake this step internally, but the reward for effort can be diminished without the necessary experience.


3. Refresh from the inside first.

Strategy workshops are the key foundation to a successful brand refresh, because they will realign your business and your people with the ingredients that made your brand successful in the first place.

Before you starting thinking about refreshing your visual identity;

  • Revisit the goal & purpose at the heart of your business; then check, refresh and realign your value proposition to bring you authentic purpose to life.
  • Get clear(er) on your values and align these with behaviours that everyone within your organisation can not only understand but
    can BE.
  • Redefine a personality and brand voice that is aligned with your purpose and your values to make real connections with your audience.

You can’t build a brand from the logo down, the same way you can’t build a house without any plans. Well actually you probably can, but it will take longer and be more expensive than you could ever anticipate.

Brand refresh without a strategy is expensive.


4. Strategy = Creative Brief = Filter for all decision making.

If you’ve taken the time and focussed on refreshing the inside of your brand first (Business Objectives, Value Proposition, Values & Behaviours), then you will have all the information you need for a crystal clear brief on how to refresh the outside (the brand’s ‘clothes’ – Corporate Identity, Marketing Material, Websites etc).

By this point, your refreshed strategy should become a filter for all decision making – taking much of the complexity out of the creative process.

Decisions about a new or refreshed logo, typefaces, colours, graphics, and photography can be made in confidence with clearly stated brand brand voice and brand personality.

Even your business goal and purpose will give you some good clues on how you’re going to need to look.

If your brand’s purpose hinges on making life better and simpler for people, then it doesn’t really make sense if have a visual aesthetic that’s overly busy. Likewise if you’re clear about how your financial institution is only interested in clients wanting conservative, long term investment advice then your refreshed visual identity should reflect an aesthetic that is aligned with this purpose (as should the words and the tone of language you use).

A clear strategy takes the subjectiveness out of the creative process, so you can make creative decisions based on what’s right for the brand… rather then what’s fashionable at the moment, or possibly the CEO’s favourite colour.

Don’t laugh, i’ve seen it happen.


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