First of all, congratulations! Deciding—or even thinking about—launching a new brand or rebranding an old one is a big deal. It’s also a huge undertaking to do successfully.
Initiatives of this magnitude require internal buy-in, budget, and strategic direction. Many times, it also means bringing in an external partner—like ddm—to guide you along the way.
We’ve helped many of our clients with brand launches and rebrands over our 30 years in business. The most important thing we’ve learned is that having a plan—and sticking to it—is the single best way to ensure milestones are met and your brand launches exactly how and when you want it to.
While no two brand launches are identical, there are three key elements that we work alongside clients to create and implement: a strategy, a design, and a plan for implementation.
How a brand translates into benefits
Before we walk you through each of those elements, let’s tackle why a well-defined and documented brand is important in the first place.
Your brand influences and impacts the mindset of all who engage with it. To attract and retain loyal customers or clients, you need a brand identity that establishes a believable and differentiated presence. To build a positive public identity and position in the marketplace, there’s nothing more important than getting your brand and messaging right.
A well-developed brand signifies the value of the services provided and projects your organization’s personality. If you’re lucky, over time that value and personality become so engrained and understood you don’t have to explain it anymore. People see your logo or hear your name and the value is inherent.
Starting from scratch, we helped develop the entire Great American Spaces brand – logo, marketing tools, product signage and more
Develop an informed strategy
This is the research part of the process where we dig in to listen and understand your objectives, target audience, and the competitive landscape. And the first step in that process is to conduct a brand audit. Sometimes we recommend formal market research, but an audit can be done through simple interviews and conversations. The goal is to explore your current brand and how it’s perceived internally and externally.
We analyze current brand aesthetics, messaging, and assets. We conduct interviews with internal stakeholders to gather context on the history of your brand and how it has evolved. We often uncover some of our most valuable insights from talking with your actual customers/clients. This can be done through email exchanges, phone calls, or online surveys. We measure general perceptions, gauge perceived benefits, and use the information to influence future messaging and positioning.
Part of the audit process also involves looking at your top competitors. We analyze competitors’ brand messaging, brand aesthetics, applications, and services along with their website and social media presence.
Once our comprehensive analysis is complete, we synthesize our findings and learnings into a creative brief. This illustrates our recommendations, showcases opportunities, and highlights key positioning. This is where we’ll also outline your brand’s value proposition, brand characteristics and voice, as well as audience messaging.
This strategy document acts as a roadmap for the next step in the process.
Construct your brand’s look and feel
Now that we’ve established what the brand is in writing, it’s time to explore what it looks like visually. Your visual brand serves as the frame for your message through graphic design. We develop your logo and build your color and type palettes. All of that is then articulated in a brand guide.
For example, the above image is what the logo section of ddm’s brand guidelines looks like. It talks about the importance of our logo, what it represents, and why it’s structured the way it is. It also outlines appropriate usage, sizes, and variations.
We have similar details with regard to our color palette.
Documenting this level of clarity in all aspects of your brand ensures that every document, piece of collateral, and digital element you create is consistent and on-brand. Without it, your audience may be confused about who you are, and so may your own internal team.
Brand guidelines may also outline our company’s core focus, capabilities, editorial style, verbal identity, values, and history.
Devise a plan for implementation and communication
Without a detailed plan of how you will implement and communicate your new brand—both internally and externally—it will go nowhere. Coordinated execution of your launch plan is key to building momentum for the brand.
It’s important to note that while this is listed as the third stage, the earlier you can start discussing implementation the better. Implementation planning should be going on while you’re developing the strategy and designing assets.
This is why having a partner like ddm by your side can help tremendously. Timelines and budgets can quickly spiral out of control if there’s isn’t someone keeping the process on track and ensuring all stakeholders’ needs are met.
Especially for large, multi-divisional companies, laying out a clear plan for when each element of the new brand will roll out and where employees can find new assets is critical.
Be aware of these key challenges
In our experience, there are challenges that consistently emerge during a brand launch or rebrand if you aren’t prepared. These challenges are usually the result of eliminating steps or attempting to shorten the process to accommodate budget or timelines.
Failure to include internal stakeholders in the process
It is your organization’s leaders and employees who will be responsible for communicating this new brand every day. These same people have the opportunity to become loyal brand ambassadors who are fully aligned with what the brand stands for and why it was developed.
Make sure you’re communicating to your internal teams the vision of what your organization has become and their role in its success. Transparent and authentic communication, from the onset of your rebrand through completion, is key. By involving stakeholders in the process, your end product is far more likely to enjoy wider acceptance as they feel they’ve been part of the process.
Failure to include the voice of the customer
Nothing is as disheartening as building a brand you think customers will love only to find out it doesn’t resonate. Having a thorough understanding of the expectations and needs of the community you serve is an essential part in developing a brand your audiences will embrace.
The loudest voices are not always right
Developing or redeveloping a brand is a collective process. As part of the process, everyone participating must be willing to check their ego at the door and be prepared to let go of their personal sacred cows. Unfortunately, open and fair discussions can be hijacked leading to unproductive communication and less-than-ideal solutions. Honest and respectful discussions will ensure your brand reaches its full potential.
Great ideas become less great when run through the masses
While we encourage you to hear and honor the voices of those who you’ve decided to include in the brand development process, understand that solutions and creative concepts rarely improve when run through the masses for approval. Hearing diverse thoughts and opinions from a variety of stakeholders is important, just resist the urge to expand your circle of approval and stick to a core group. Consider the opinions from larger groups of individuals as just that, individual opinions.
Let the branding begin
Yes, a brand launch or rebrand requires significant planning and collaboration to be successful. It’s something that shouldn’t be initiated on the fly. You must socialize the idea with key stakeholders well in advance of when you plan to launch to avoid risking cost and quality. But don’t let that scare you. Your brand is too important not to get it right. And having an experienced partner by your side will help you execute your brand launch on time and on budget.