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Rebranding: the “Should you / Shouldn’t you” guide

Rebranding can revitalize a company… But should you do it?

 

Have you ever thought about rebranding?

If you’re like many business owners, the answer is a resounding yes.

After all, in the face of stagnant sales, incessant competition and changing markets, the idea of becoming a new, “different” company can be alluring.

But rebranding isn’t a walk in the park—and if you do it wrong, the consequences to your business can be dire.

Should you consider rebranding?

Here are some scenarios where overhauling your brand might make sense.

  • New product. If you’ve recently launched a new product or service that has the potential to confuse your customers, you might think about rebranding that part of the business. We don’t often recommend this approach, though. At BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE, we feel it makes sense most of the time to create one Master Brand and then roll out sub-brands underneath it.
  • New mission. A shift in your most basic reason for being definitely merits a rebranding conversation. For example, if you’ve been providing services to clients and now want to focus exclusively on teaching them, a rebrand is probably in order.
  • New image. If you’ve had a PR disaster—or an actual one—and you’re trying to distance yourself from it, rebranding may help you achieve your goal. This is difficult to do though, especially in a world where the internet can help even the least savvy customers see through your efforts. Witness tobacco giant Philip Morris and their attempt to rebrand as Altria.
  • New customers. If you’ve managed to attract a new market—whether by choice or by accident—rebranding may make sense. In the early 2000s, for example, Andersen Consulting split from its parent because its best clients wanted only consulting services. It then rebranded to Accenture to further distance itself from the accounting giant. (Good thing, too, as Andersen collapsed over its ties to Enron.)
  • New needs from current customers. The Canadian arm of Radio Shack, after being bought out in a consumer electronics deal, initially rebranded as The Source by Circuit City. But when its new owner began to falter, it became simply The Source—a move whose timing couldn’t have been better. Circuits and radios are things of the past, and the new name suggests that no matter where electronics go in the future, The Source will be there to provide that tech to its customers. (And both Circuit City and Radio Shack are now distant memories.)
  • New competition. To say things were different in the 90s than they were in the 50s is an understatement. But through that whole time, Kentucky Fried Chicken had the word “fried” right there in its name. 1991 saw a move to KFC, however, in a move away from that F-word. Too many healthy restaurants were giving the chicken giant a run for its money—so the move made sense. (Unfortunately, they handled the rebranding poorly; rumors persist to this day that they switched to KFC because they were no longer legally allowed to claim their product was “chicken.”)

When shouldn’t you rebrand?

Occasionally, businesses undertake a rebranding for the wrong reasons. Here are three.

  • New management. If all you’ve changed about your company is the management group—and the same problems you’ve always had continue to exist—your rebranding will never work.
  • New whims. Department store Macy’s lost a staggering amount of brand equity when it moved to a “one-brand” policy and renamed iconic brands like Chicago’s Marshall Field’s and Memphis’ Goldsmith’s. At the time, the decision was seen as foolish; Macy’s seemed to have recovered by the beginning of this decade but is struggling again.
  • New internal issues. If you’ve identified that you’re having trouble connecting with your market, is that a branding problem? Or is it because your marketing is horrible, or your customer service is poor, or your services aren’t delivered well? Be careful—not every issue is one that rebranding can solve.

Takeaway

In a perfect world, your competition would never change their strategy, your customers would stay loyal forever, and you’d see exponential growth year after year. This is obviously not the case—and while you don’t want to be too hasty with a rebranding exercise, don’t discount the power of reinventing your brand, either.

 

 

What is Kanye Doing?

Will Kanye West’s brand survive a dramatic message shift?

We’ve talked about branding lessons we can learn from rappers in the past. This seems like the time to talk about messaging and Kanye West’s brand. Specifically, Kanye West’s brand as an example of what can happen on a large scale when your brand goes off-message.

If you don’t follow Kanye’s Twitter, there’s a good chance your life’s a little less stressful than the 28 million who do. Let’s go over the trouble with Kanye West’s brand messaging.

 

Establishing Brand Expectations

West’s core audience had come to expect a message of innovation, creativity, wealth, and West using his platform to boldly right social wrongs. His musical catalog evolved from honest, eager, and relatably imperfect to larger than life.

A moment frequently referenced is the 2005  Hurricane Katrina telethon where, next to a clearly flabbergasted Mike Meyers, West stated “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Through this and through his song lyrics, fans reasonably concluded West’s politics were in line with their own.

 

Conflicting Brand Messaging

But since the 2016, election, things changed. Following a mental health event, West seemed to publicly support Donald Trump, even meeting with him at Trump Tower. West then mostly disappeared from social media, and fans cautiously hoped his Trump praise would die off has his health improved.

Then in April 2018 came what seemed like verification that, in fact, West’s political alignment was far more conservative than expected. Among other tweets, “I love the way Candace Owens thinks” and one stating he and Trump share a “dragon energy” caused fans to recoil in horror. Meanwhile, his core audience began to shift from liberal to conservative.

 

Is This… Strategy?

For some, Kanye West’s brand as an innovative genius is protected by conspiracy theories. For others, there’s speculation that this reversal has killed West’s brand.

And for still others, there’s an argument that West knows exactly what he’s doing—and there might be an example to follow here. After all, his still quite young, Adidas-backed Yeezy brand unexpectedly experienced a boost immediately following this radical shift. He is and has always been an expert force in creating hype on social media so… maybe?

What remains unclear is whether this is all part of a larger strategy, and if so… what is it? And by the time we know, will it matter?

 

Ultimately, what’s even more frustrating to an audience that truly loves you and your brand (and has overlooked past behavior) is being completely and utterly confused by your message. They’re unsure if they approve or disapprove of your message. If you’re a megastar with a decade and a half’s worth of building a loyal following, people want to give you the benefit of the doubt. If you’re brand new? Chrissy Teigen said it best: “kanyeeeeeeeeeeeeee iljeflaejsf’pifgaiw’rgjwregfreogjwrpogjjr”.

 

What I learned about branding from teaching college writing

What do college writing and branding have in common? More than you’d think.

Do you remember sitting in a college writing class and thinking “WHAT is the point, I’m never going to USE this”? That’s ok. Writing isn’t everybody’s thing. But writing and branding have more overlap than you might have thought at the time.

I should probably introduce myself! I’m Liz Maliga, the new Director of Content Marketing at BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE. At times in my career, I have taught college-level writing, and I wanted to share some of the surprisingly relevant things I’ve learned from both perspectives.

 

 You HAVE to know who you’re talking to.

When students write papers, they tend to write as if the teacher is their only audience. In branding, if you don’t define who your audience is, it can be very much the same. As an instructor, I tried to de-center myself as the audience and encourage students to write to a familiar scenario or audience.

At the end of the day, as a small business owner or entrepreneur, you intuitively KNOW the audience you’re speaking to. Sometimes the concern for getting things “right” or being everything to everyone gets in the way of doing what YOU do and know best. Give yourself permission to do this!

 

So you can know how to talk to them.

In classical rhetoric, Aristotle established three means of persuading an audience. You might remember the rhetorical triangle from high school or college writing—ethos, pathos, logos. These are the strategies a speaker uses to inform or persuade an audience or motivate them to action.

Here’s a quick refresher: ethos is an appeal to your credibility. Why should your audience believe you? In branding, we call these proof points—items in your arsenal that will convince your audience you’re trustworthy. Logos, the appeal to logic and reason, relies on facts and rationale as well as their complicated siblinglogical fallacies.

Pathos, an appeal to emotion, is the one most commonly used in advertising. Humans, no matter how rational, are easily and reliably swayed by emotion. For example, in Apple’s iconic 1984 “Think Different” commercial never once mentions the machine’s specs or provides any other baldly logical rationale for buying their product. The commercial gives a powerful emotional narrative, moving the viewer to action almost entirely on emotion. When you really think about that for a second, it’s wild.

Sound familiar? You see these concepts all the time. Being able to identify and name them when you see them helps you to clearly articulate your brand’s position.

 

Telling a story is infinitely more interesting than just checking boxes.

I’ve seen countless first drafts that carefully address each question in a prompt. Great! You passed. What will truly differentiate you from the crowd is simple, compelling, relevant storytelling. Nobody’s going to care if you check every single box if there’s nothing in it for them. Writing and branding have this in common.

 

Simple is a hug from a loved one. Complicated is the reunion you’re dreading.

In the same vein as storytelling, I’ve seen so many situations where the person who needs to communicate is barreling toward their audience with EVERY. POSSIBLE. ANGLE. AND PIECE OF INFORMATION. EVER. What does this accomplish?

In short? Anxiety. It’s just too much to take in. And it’s something I’ve seen both brands and students do. What it doesn’t do is inspire confidence.

Think about the relative metaphor: We’ve all had an event we’re dreading due to that one person who is just Too Much.

But have you ever felt relief at finally understanding something that eluded you for a long time? It’s a favor. And it makes you want to engage more. And that’s the feeling your brand should inspire.

 

I know how to take an audience from unaware to totally engaged.

Have you ever stood up in front of a room full of college freshmen? I have. Numerous times. Which brings me to the last skill my experience gave me: I know how to convert an audience from vaguely knowledgeable to evangelical. If you can get college freshmen to spend time out of class explaining rhetorical appeals to people in their lives, you can convince people who love your brand to tell everyone they know about how amazing you are.

What do you think? Would you have thought writing and branding would overlap back when you were in college?

Are there ways something unique about your background truly set you apart from your peers? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter!

Is Your Brand Proactive—or Reactive?

When we say “proactive” and “reactive”, what does that mean—and what does it mean for your brand’s positioning and longevity? 

When we talk to clients about branding, we talk about a brand’s position—how your brand differentiates itself in its market. No matter what your product or service is, you can be sure you’re not the only one doing what you’re doing. You’re part of a history (even if very short). It’s impossible to exist in a vacuum. But is your brand’s position proactive or reactive?

A proactive brand is, basically, a brand with a plan. It knows itself, it knows its place in the market, and it knows how to occupy that position effectively through what it does—and doesn’t—do. A reactive brand, by contrast, is one that does just that—reacts to whatever is going on around it at the time. With modern consumers ‘trained’ to see organized, cohesive, consistent brands, being more reactive can come off as erratic and alienate your customer base. Equally worrying, being too reactive can rely on consumer awareness of what you’re responding to. Let’s look at a recent example: Pepsi’s entry into the sparkling water market, bubly, vs seltzer juggernaut LaCroix’s long game.

bubly’s parent company, Pepsi, knows their market and their competitor—and they should. Despite the fact that you’ll be hard-pressed to find an article that mentions bubly without mentioning LaCroix, they have managed to differentiate themselves. Here are some key takeaways for your small business:

 

 

Knowing your audience is critical

A quick Google search will tell you that bubly (that ‘b’ is lower-case on purpose) hits the millennial market HARD: cute, all-lowercase messages on the can’s tab, bright colors, simple, clean, minimalist packaging, omitted vowels. Every box is checked and ready for consumption in a market where cans are a significant part of the experience—and your consumer’s identity. Everything is on point, and poised to bring in a projected $100 million.

The trick? Knowing both what you are and what you aren’t as a brand, and a crystal-clear vision of the position your brand occupies in its market.

 

 

“I don’t want to talk about authenticity”

‘Authenticity’ is, notoriously, a moving target. bubly doesn’t try to hide what it is: Pepsi’s well-funded entry into the sparkling water market. Will this turn some people off? Sure. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily (we’ll see if, longer-term, bubly goes the way of Crystal Pepsi).

For a small business, an “authentic” identity can actually prove counterproductive to your goals. That grassroots feeling can be a part of your brand’s identity. But, just like “professional”, “authentic” is not a personality.

 

 

Your brand’s identity only exists in relation to another brand

Reactionary branding is bold—in the short term, this could be a good thing. It could allow for short-term recognition—but longer-term, it’s difficult to sustain and may limit your brand’s ability to develop its own identity. But with growth comes change—and, especially in small business, change without a plan can be disastrous.

Your takeaway? A strong brand identity grows and changes over time. A solid identity is agile—able to seamlessly adapt and respond to current events or changes in its own voice—rather than just responding and making things up as you go.

The bottom line is that your brand needs to be proactive in developing its identity in order to maintain the trust you’ve cultivated with your customers. Big-name brands may look like they’re making things up on the fly, but behind the scenes, there’s a clear plan in place. If any of this sounds familiar, we’re here to help!

UNEXPECTED BENEFITS OF A STRONG BRAND

There’s more to a strong brand than a logo.

“Your brand is your company’s most valuable assets”. You hear it so often it almost feels clichebecause it’s true. However, a strong brand does more than just define your place in the market – there are some surprising benefits to having a strong, clearly defined brand.

When we start working on a branding intensive with a client, we ask what their goals are for the intensive. Answers range from things like “we need a plan, because we’re all over the place” to “we want to increase customer retention” to “this is part of a broader plan to reach $xxx in revenue by the end of 2018”.

Clients’ goals are often customer-facingtargeting the right audience, making you stand out in your market, creating loyalty and buzz, increasing revenue. But having a strong brand has other, equally important benefits that, when done right, further increase your brand’s value.

 

 

GREAT EMPLOYEE ATTRACTION AND RETENTION

Having a brand that’s clear, credible, and loyalty-inspiring is just as important to your past, present, and future employees as it is to your customers. Think about it: If your brand can’t clearly articulate a vision, your employees will struggle in conversations about what it is they do and what the company does. On the other hand, a strong brand is not only easy for them to talk aboutit’s easy for prospective employees to know if your company is a good long-term match for their talents and values, saving you time and effort in the long run. The other caveat? Your company’s brand needs to be more than just a veneer – with sites like Glassdoor giving employees a platform, if your company’s environment doesn’t match their stated values and goals, it becomes a matter of public record much more quickly than it might have even a couple of years ago.

 

 

INSPIRES BRAND CONFIDENCE

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth detailing exactly how this benefits your small business or startup. If you’re a newer, smaller business, you may have to contend with biases toward older, more established businesses. It could be the difference between a client going with your business, or going with an older, more established company. The bottom line? Strong branding helps convey that your business is established, that it takes itself seriously, inspires confidence in your skills or productsall of which helps funnel business your way, when those things might have led them in the other direction.

 

 

CUSTOMER TRUST IN THE EVENT OF CONTROVERSY

We hope to avoid controversy or negative attention as much as possible, but when it does happen, a recognized, likeable brand with a loyal following will fare far better than a brand that comes off as uneven, maybe has a troubled workplace, or comes off as unkind or unlikeable. A strong brand helps create an impression of your company that people want to side with and defend. For instance, back in April 2017, Adidas tweeted “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!”, inadvertently reminding people of the 2013 bombing. They received backlash for this and quickly issued an apology. This incident sank into the background for them, but other brands that dealt with controversy in 2017 haven’t bounced back so easily. Uber has been dealing with one controversy after another. Both Kendall Jenner and Pepsi are still dealing with the fallout from that controversial ad.

 

If you feel a pang of worry reading through this article, it’s worth taking action now to keep your brand’s value intact later. A great place to start this process is with our 7-POINT BRAND AUDIT – find out what’s helping and what could be holding you back.

“Hey, What Do You Think Of My Logo?”

Why A DIY Rebranding Isn’t Worth The Savings

We’ve talked before about signs it may be time to rebrandIf you’re feeling off-track, incohesive, if you’ve had PR problems, or if you’ve outgrown your original brand, you know you need to make some changes – but where to start?

If you’ve seen our founder, Re Perez, speak, you’ve probably heard him say that one of the most common questions he’s asked is “hey, what do you think of my logo?” (and not to ask that).

Knowing Just Enough To Be Dangerous

Maybe you’ve heard of the concept of “knowing just enough to be dangerous”. This 2015 op-ed from the New York Times describes an English-speaking critical care doctor working with a Spanish-speaking patient. The doctor knows just enough Spanish to communicate with the patient, but the conversation lacks nuance, context, cultural positioning – all things that we take for granted speaking in our native language.

“I do not know what I might have missed that night,” the doctor concludes. “And what scares me now, looking back at this and countless other similar stories, is that I will most likely never know.”

Here’s the connection to trying to DIY rebranding: Like the doctor diagnosing the patient with only very basic, decontextualized information, asking a branding agency or professional to ‘diagnose’ your logo with no other information may not kill your brand – but it’s tough to do without nuance, context, and any other information regarding your brand as a whole.

Not Knowing What You Don’t Know

These days, it’s not that difficult to find programs that will generate a logo for you – but as we know, audiences hate change. It can be hard enough to rebrand with a strategy, but downright disastrous without.

Here’s the thing: DIY rebranding may seem cost-effective in the short term, but could cost you big by alienating your target audience, not being clear, being strange, clunky, or incohesive.

Even larger brands can make this very basic mistake. Remember back in 2013, when Yahoo rebranded?

“We need to be really entrepreneurial and our attitude is to be really scrappy, and the way that we did the logo — we kept it in-house, we didn’t have someone, you know, as an external firm or consulting firm, we didn’t spend millions of dollars doing it. We did it in a way that came from a very authentic place,” Marissa Meyer said at the time.

But Mayer’s DIY rebranding approach didn’t quite land.  “Authenticity” isn’t a synonym for “amateur”. When you’re dealing with something as critical as your brand’s identity, there are so many ways you can go wrong if you’re not quite sure what you’re doing – even if you are a CEO.

In Conclusion

Your brand much more than your logo, and trying to rebrand yourself might seem like a good, “authentic” way to go, but it can cost you dearly in the long run. If you’re pretty sure it’s time to rebrand, do it right from the beginning with our 7-POINT BRAND AUDIT.

How To Make Your Brand’s Booth Stand Out

You’ve got the space—but are you making the most of it? We’ve got some veteran tips to help your brand outshine the sea of competition at a conference or trade show.

With Traffic & Conversion coming up this week, we have been thinking about strategies we use to get the most out of our booth space. We’ve all been to trade shows, and we all know what’s usual and normal: safe—almost timid—booths with banners and pens.

Which is fine, but that space isn’t cheap! So why be another basic booth when you can be at your brand’s best?

Let’s talk about what we’ve had success with in the past—making your brand’s booth stand out might be simpler than you expect with some thoughtful tweaks.

 

Be Big, Be Bold

Think of a billboard: It doesn’t have to be complex, but it needs to send a simple, clear, memorable message. Above all, you need a gigantic, legible logo. You want your brand to not only be visible to folks across the room, but memorable as well. A small logo, by contrast, is effective once people have wandered your way, but there’s no beacon leading people your way.

Our logo at BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE, for instance, uses bright colors, a bold font, and effective use of contrast. Your goal should be to entice people over to your booth, but if they don’t make it, you still want your signage to make a memorable impression (especially when people see it again later on swag). If you are using a slogan, keep it simple and direct—something the eye can make sense of within three seconds.

 

Be Inviting

he principle behind this point is simple: don’t block people off – invite them in.

How do you invite people into your trade show booth? The answer is in your planning and design, in terms of both your physical space and your information design.

Visual information in your booth, from your back wall to any literature you provide, should be both honest and simple. Honesty ensures those attendees who come to talk to you are seeking your products and services. Simplicity keeps you from clobbering attendees with too much information—once they’ve decided to visit your booth, your staff can engage with them and give them the information they truly want and need.

 

Be Fun!

Ok, best for last: everybody loves swag. Ahem. Everybody loves COOL swag. Whatever you’re giving away also serves as passive advertising throughout the event —what’s on-brand for you? What’s useful, purposeful, or just fun for the sake of fun? What do people actually want (even if they don’t yet know they want it)?

Some things we’ve done in the past have been MUGS FOR THE PEOPLE, BAGS FOR THE PEOPLE, and CHOCOLATE FOR THE PEOPLE.

This year, be sure to catch Re’s talk to get your LUNCHBOX FOR THE PEOPLE—we’re hosting a lunch, and this is your ticket in!

 

Final Thoughts

If you paused earlier thinking about how your brand might look from across the room, or what kinds of items would be “on-brand” for you, we can help! You can catch Re at Traffic & Conversion, or schedule a complimentary consultation with us.

Branding questions are FREE!

EVERY QUESTION HAS AN ANSWER, SO WHY HAVEN’T YOU ASKED IT YET?

Branding questions: everyone has them, and the answers are FREE!

Are you sitting on a million dollar question? Most of us are. It is that one question that if you just had the answer to, it would change your business. Well folks, go ahead and ask them, we’ve literally heard (and answered) them all!

Our entire community as a vested interest in the answer to your business branding questions, so if you ask it on our Facebook page, you’ll not only help us at BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE increase the engagement on our page, but you’ll be doing your fellow business owners a BIG favor, too!

 

Here are the rules:

No question is too big, or too small, and the answers are FREE as long as you ask it on our Facebook page, right here: CLICK HERE.

 

Wondering which branding questions to ask?  We KNOW you have a ton of them, so here are some examples to get your motor running. Note: if you are referencing a graphic or copy, just make sure to include a link in your post…

  1. What’s wrong with my logo? What do you think of it?
  2. What color should I make the button on my lead page?
  3. How do I convert more visitors on my website to leads?
  4. Should I name my company after myself?
  5. Where is the best place to order a trade-show banner from?
  6. I want more leads, but don’t know if I should I write a blog, do a podcast, speak on stages, run Facebook campaigns, build an affiliate network, or what?
  7. How much does it cost to build a brand?
  8. Should I rebrand now, or wait?
  9. My competitors and I all look the same, how do I stand out?
  10. How do I hire a copywriter that sounds like me? Where do I find them?

 

Ok! If you want to ask any of the above, or come up with your own branding questions, have at it! Just pop on over to the BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE Facebook page and ask it there, so everyone can share in the answers! Here’s the link! CLICK HERE.