14 September, 2011 - 10:34 By News Desk

Rebranding: Time to swap the safety pins for a suit

Getting older is a fact of life. Growing up is optional. Occasionally you come across an unreconstructed punk or hippie, but for most of us our tastes and outlook mature with age, and are reflected in our dress and grooming. Think of Vivienne Westwood, who practically invented the punk look, but who is now a doyenne of haute couture. In business terms, we rebrand ourselves.

And those rebrands generally coincide with major life changes, like leaving home, starting work, settling down and buying a home, whilst at the same time moving in different and ever changing social circles. It follows that rebranding a business should both drive and reflect major internal and external developments, rather than change for change’s sake, or simply because you’ve run out of letterheads!

Mind you, if your letterheads still sport a steel engraving of your factory bracketed by medals of excellence, a visit from a design agency is long overdue. Ditto if your website, complete with dancing typography and other antique features hasn’t been upgraded since your nephew, who is very good at art, put it together for you in the 1990s.

Your business has grown old but not grown up with its market – which has probably long since migrated elsewhere. Upgrading your website is an excellent rebranding opportunity, and one of the main reasons that companies become aware that their brand is in need of a refresh can be its inability to adapt to the developing demands of an online presence. Another occasion for rebranding can be when you come to make the category jump from small but successful local business to a regional or national concern.

This will obviously involve a lot of strategic planning and organisational restructuring, but it could well be spearheaded by a revamped corporate identity to underpin the repositioning. Bear in mind though, that a logo is not just a mark. It is – or should be – a statement of brand (which is to say, company) values, like modernity, efficiency and innovation on the one hand, or friendliness, wholesomeness and trustworthiness on the other. Some companies have even bought others out just for their name and the goodwill that adheres to it. So when you decide on a change of image, be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Like GAP, who had to reinstate their original logo after an online customer hate campaign against their new one, or Abbey National, as was, whose new look – before the company was reborn as Santander – was described disgustedly by one shareholder as ‘the best bit of urban camouflage since World War 2’. Reflect before you rebrand. Take an image audit – internally and externally. Discover where you are and decide where you want to go. Invest a little time and money in it.

Branding is a serious business, and the days of getting a freelancer to knock out a quick logo for you are long gone. Appoint an agency with the resources – creative and administrative – to conduct a little market research, prepare and refine creative proposals in consultation with you and your management, and roll out a consistent corporate identity encompassing everything from business cards to vehicle livery (together with an identity guideline for the reference of the media and other suppliers). It isn’t always easy to get it right. But, as with so much in business, a good plan is a great start!

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