We've done a whole lot of brand projects, probably more than a brand manager will do in their career (this is a good thing), and, to be honest, we've been on a few projects that, well, have been self-sabotaged at the start. But, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and so I'm delighted to share with you when your spider-sense should start tingling. Mistakes? I've made a few. But then again, too few to mention.
1. Know why you're doing it.
Any rebrand project should represent an evolution in your vision, mission and values. If people start murmuring that the business needs a rebrand because the logo feels boring, you're going to get into trouble down the line. It may well be that refreshing the visual identity is a good idea, but it's an expensive endeavour when you redo all material, on and offline. And your customers probably won't care. When you tell a customer that you've updated your logo, that customer asks what's changed to do that. When you answer, "Oh, we just felt we needed a change", it's added zero competitive advantage and, frankly, looks wasteful.
A good example of this is Facebook into Meta. The name changed, but their values and culture seems to have remained. The point is that they needed to distract from the shitshow that is Facebook when talking at a corporate level. Ignore the narrative of the business pivoting into the metaverse bullshit. It's a rebrand as a smokescreen, not as a representative of change within the business.
So, be clear on your reasons for entering into this and understand the outcomes. Without this as a guiding star, you're going to be head down in a chicken coup soon enough.
2. Identify the right people to involve and no more.
This is tricky. Get a working group that can make decisions. Ensure that there are senior decision-makers on that group, ideally a C-suite representative. We've worked on projects where we’ve done the client and customer interviews, we’ve defined the approach, produced creative, and received key people's input. , Then we head off for then sign off from the people until it hits the people “upstairs”. Then. Fucked. How do you get around this problem of falling hard at the last hurdle? Get a working group from all areas of the business that has input and oversight on a little and often basis. You need a champion for your project at ideally every level. Then, when you're ready to present the complete recommendation to the wider team, you know the work is heading in the right direction and will have the best chance to survive scrutiny at every level of the business.
3. Working with a common language.
When you start a project, it's a good idea to assume that everyone will have a different definition of what "brand" is. It'll be a logo to some, others will see it as a strapline, and most will think it's a lot of fluffy nonsense. Start everyone on the same page with your interpretation of what "brand" is, how it adds value to the business and examples of some of the outputs you'll expect. Setting these foundational aspects of the journey ahead can clear obstacles down the line.
4. Beware of over branding.
As we've written about many, many times, brand can be full of useless, fashionable nonsense. It adds layers and layers of complexity. Beware of too many phrases starting with "brand". Brand culture, brand purpose, brand vision, brand personality, brand ethos, the list goes on and on. Not that these terms can be without value, but if you suddenly find someone saying that we can chuck in a brand character section when you've already defined your vision, mission and values to cover their point, you're on a rocky road. Months of work will end up with your brand living in a drawer rather than living in the business.
5. Language first, imagery second.
Who doesn't love choosing colours? Or reviewing styles of photography? Or the size of circles? It's great fun. But if you start the rebrand with imagery, then you're focusing on the wrong output. Imagery is evocative, but language is emotional, human. It's what connects. The brand language platform should be at the start and be agreed on internally. This is what's going to be doing the heavy lifting over the lifetime of your business. Colours, photography and the size of circles are all subjective; language can help bind all those brand aspects together.
These are the top five signs. Or at least the five that we have nightmares about. We have others. Oh, do we have others. The important point to remember is that a lot of what can go wrong usually has its roots at the start of the project. Putting your best foot forward will usually result in a smoother, more enjoyable process as it moves on. Good luck. Or give us a call.