Rebranding might appear to be a relatively new strategy, but the concept has been in existence for centuries, with global leaders fighting to occupy new territories and mould them in their image to represent their cultures and ideologies.
While modern rebranding is much less draconian, the value of your public image has never been so important. With tastes, needs, demand and technology constantly evolving, it is imperative that businesses are able to adapt to their markets to remain attractive.
The need to stay relevant has never been so critical than in today’s digital age. Thanks to the internet, with an increasing number of social media channels, globalisation and round-the-clock connectivity, companies can no longer afford to retain outdated, confusing, mediocre or inconsistent branding.
Manchester businesses, for example, have a long and proud tradition of delivering dynamic, innovative and creative branding concepts. Iconic impresario Tony Wilson’s Factory Records and Hacienda nightclub are some of the most distinctive to surface from the Cottonopolis, and these have heavily influenced the way the corporate world has viewed branding.
However, Manchester’s esteemed legacy is also its burden. As one of the world’s cultural and economic hotspots, pressure on the city’s business community to stay ahead of the competition is immense. Many companies have thrived on this expectation, reaping the benefits of continually rebranding to remain attractive and relevant as the corporate landscape evolves.
Shooting for success
Aside from the city itself, perhaps the most recognisable rebrand is the rebirth of MediaCityUK. Not so long ago a derelict 200-acre reminder of Salford’s shipping heritage, MediaCityUK has been completely revamped to become one of the UK’s most important and attractive corporate hubs, boasting a delicious waterfront, luxury apartment complexes and iconic architecture such as the Lowry theatre and the Imperial War Museum. The bold decision to redevelop and rebrand the once grotty former industrial port led to the BBC relocating much of its operation there from London. It is now home to 250 businesses, including ITV, BUPA, the University of Salford and as of five years ago, Fast Web Media. We realised it was the perfect breeding ground for ambitious digital businesses and have seen it grow over the last few years as more businesses move to the area.
However, the city’s rapid development into the capital of urban chic only tells half the story. A commitment to digital rebranding has ensured it remains at the forefront of the international business arena. A report by the European Digital City Index in December named it among the top 20 European digital cities for the first time, eclipsing Edinburgh, Brussels and Milan to reach 16th.
When rebranding, it is important to consider the impact on the entire business rather than individual ingredients. A successful rebrand creates a unified and consistent identity throughout an entire organisation.
After many years presenting our proposition in the same way, we decided that we needed to reimagine our own identity. Having embarked and completed this process ourselves, we wanted to share some of our learnings to help other organisations navigate the branding journey.
What’s in a Name?
All businesses need a name, that is a given. Whether it’s dictated by personal preference, market trends or even a comical play on words, a company won’t last very long without an identifiable trading name. It is important to select a brand name that is clear, concise and not already in use to avoid trademark infringement. If you choose to rename your company, or opt for an acronym, make sure you engage with your existing customer base to reassure them that you are still running business as usual. Avoid changing trading names after a long time in business; instead opt to adapt your existing name or drop unnecessary straplines.
Creating a Logo Fit for Purpose
Logos are individual to you and while you may take inspiration from other recognisable form factors, it’s important to create something that is distinctly you. Designing a great logo requires a mix of design skills, creative theory and skilful application. Any designer can create a fit-for-purpose logo, but truly mastering all aspects of the craft takes time. Logos should have some meaning; this doesn’t have to be obvious but should be representative and translate both internally and externally. Some of the most famous logos have hidden meanings which makes them all that much stronger.
Before starting on a design concept, market research is vital. Analyse competitor logos, particularly those of successful businesses. What works for one given market will differ from another. Even if you decide to completely eschew market trends, it is important to understand design conventions at the beginning of the process. Brands should also consider embracing an open design process like Mozilla. This transparent method provides a window into the branding process and allows external stakeholders to have an impact on the end result.
Developing an Online Identity
In today’s digital society, your website and social media domains need to reflect a brand name and should not be considered an afterthought. There is little point in having a great brand name and a strong proposition if customers cannot find you online or, even worse, are inadvertently attracted to a competitor. When they do find you online, you must ensure you deliver the best possible experience across any device. For example, someone visiting from a mobile shouldn’t have to zoom in and out or not be capable of filling in a form because you haven’t considered your mobile audience. These things may require some third party consultation but getting your messaging right online will inevitably make you more attractive to prospective customers.
Keeping your Workforce Informed
Communication plays a huge role in a rebrand, both internal and external. Your employees are your biggest advocates and as such need to be kept fully informed when it comes to a brand redesign so that they can embody and represent the brand wherever they go. You don’t want them to be preaching messages you abandoned a decade ago. Educating your workforce about a new company strapline, image and overall identity will improve understanding and help them to adapt to change much easier and feel connected with the brand.
Getting your Message Clear
Perhaps the most important consideration for a company’s external strategy is consistency. The customer’s experience must reflect the new vision every step of the way. Sending documents featuring old letterheads, for example, can appear confusing, outdated, unprofessional and weaken the brand overall. Devise a unified approach for all internal and external communications to ensure you present a clear and concise message across all channels.
Is your shop window a ‘Harrods’ or a virtual scrapyard?
The common link between the success stories and the triumphs is that they have committed to redefining their public image and company messages over time, defiantly refusing to stagnate by refreshing their brand identities to meet the demands of their respective markets. After all, every online channel – whether it’s a corporate website, social media or video - is effectively a virtual shop window to reach and engage customers. Whether a business chooses to present itself – both on and offline – as a Harrods or an outdated scrapyard could be the difference between success and failure.
Thinking your company is due a rebrand overhaul? Get in touch with us to see how we can help...