So you’re planning to roll out a new visual identity and/or a new name for an existing company or brand. It’s an exciting time, albeit one fraught with risk. Here are a few tips on how to get it right.
1. Test the concept.
All of the following tips flow from this one. Unless you’ve conducted your due diligence and market-tested the new brand at least on an informal level with trusted constituencies (key staff, business partners, valued customers, target prospects, etc.), then you’re diving headfirst into the pool without knowing how deep it is. For example, how much brand equity have you built up with the existing name/identity? Will the new identity alienate or confuse a certain segment of your existing audience? And if so, is that outweighed by the potential benefit of extending your appeal to a new audience?
2. Honor the past but look to the future.
The re-brand effort is an ideal opportunity to reinvent your brand’s visual identity—including logotype and overall typography, visual iconography and color palette—but it’s important to keep some continuity during the transition and to leverage your existing brand equity. A new logo, for example, can pay subtle homage to your old identity, while simultaneously demonstrating that you’re thinking ahead.
3. Develop a Brand Identity Guide.
Even if it’s extremely basic, a Brand Identity Guide establishes guidelines for proper brand usage in communications channels like your website, print and online advertising, trade show materials, corporate ID materials and marketing collateral. This document should be distributed not just to any staffer or business associate who touches your brand communications efforts, but to all staffers. Everyone on your team should be given the tools and knowledge to identity proper use of the brand identity, and to notify you when they spot improper usage.
4. Do a sneak preview.
Before you jump into a formal launch, offer an exclusive sneak peek to a select few stakeholders. The purpose of this “soft launch” is to give your own team a sense of ownership of the new brand, and to make your key partners feel invested in the new brand so they can feel more comfortable about promoting it to others. On the internal side, get your team fired up with a formal presentation of the new brand. On the external side, schedule one-on-one meetings or web conference calls with a handful of trusted clients and associates.
5. Ease the transition.
Call this the “Artist Formerly Known As…” strategy. If you’re going with a name change, add the phrase “Formerly [Old Brand Name Here]” on your website and email signature for the first year of the launch. (You can also do this for business cards, stationery, etc., if you are willing to re-print these items after the first year.) This helps to reinforce the link between the old and new brand identity, minimizing any confusion on the part of your existing audience.
6. Make a big deal out of it.
A full re-brand is a rare opportunity, so make the most of it. Use every available channel to communicate the meaning and purpose behind the new name or identity. Launch activities, if possible, should include events for the media and customers, a full-on PR effort, and e-marketing and social media campaigns.