TLDR: A logo isn’t a magic marketing spell. Having a strong brand takes inner work.
Can I share a pet peeve with you? It’s talking about rebranding. Almost any time someone has talked to me about a rebrand, they’ve meant a logo redesign. Maybe a name change. And that’s the end of the list. Each time, my marketing strategist heart breaks a little more.
“We were called XYZ in purple and now we’re X-Z in red! Rebranded!”
Somewhere along the way, for a lot of people, brand and logo became interchangeable, and for some reason it is really hard to get those folks to think beyond their business cards when branding is on the table. Even more irritating is that I get it! Getting a new look is fun and energizing at first. It’s easy to see the progress you made. You have something to hold in your hand and look at to know you’ve completed the task. It’s a deeply satisfying marketing exercise when so many other tactics are endless and hard to follow.
If you’ve been in business for a while and haven’t ever really thought about your brand other than your logo before, considering anything other than that can be overwhelming. It’s the kind of thread that, once pulled, will very likely unravel most of your sweater. It might be a ratty sweater with that coffee stain you keep pretending just happened, but it’s your sweater, and you’re attached. And the only thing you can imagine is that without it you will be sweaterless.
This is the dark side to thinking branding is something you do as a project and then you are done. It makes the ideas of developing and nurturing brand identity a chilling task (I just can’t let the sweater metaphor go). IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.
Like personal brands, your business or nonprofit has a brand whether you like it or not. It might be a collection of mediocre experiences, or it could be directly tied to the founder or current leader, but it’s there.
Maybe you’re starting to see business slow down or donors fading away and you’re thinking about a little rebrand yourself. Before you start looking for a graphic designer to revamp your logo, consider these steps first.
There’s this thing that happens to people, not all people, but like a lot of people, when they start trying to figure out marketing stuff. They either decide everyone is just like them and so what they like counts as universal. Or, they take their own and everyone else’s humanity out of the equation. An exercise I like to start folks off with in workshops covers both of these reflexes by inviting everyone to remember what it’s like to be a consumer themselves.
Before you dive into any kind of branding conversation, think about some brands, businesses and organizations you love. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you love about them?
- How do they make you feel?
- What are they providing that makes you have those love feelings?
- How do you show that love? Liking their social posts, making them a stop in your weekend routine, buying whatever new thing they come out with?
It’s nice to remember that there are organizations that are actually doing something to make you feel this way. You can do it, too.
Humanize your brand
Anthropomorphize that shit. Then select your vibe. Are you the trusted authority? A compassionate friend? Once you’ve thought about the way other brands make you feel and what that looks like in terms of how you express your love, flip it around and ask yourself this:
- How do you want to make your audience feel?
- What does that feeling look like in action?
The answers to those questions should be the basis for your brand.
Work from the inside out
Still not time to think about that logo, I’m afraid to say, but this next step is the one that changes everything. Before you get started creating and launching your new look, you need to do the inner work. The color palette you have in mind might scream modern trendsetter, but it’s still not going to be the thing that truly evokes the brand feeling you’ve now set as your objective.
The next step is to think about how your audience interacts with your brand in ways other than advertising. These non-exhaustive lists can get you started:
- If you’re a retailer, what’s their purchase experience like? Is it easy to find items and pay? Are the items delivered in a timely manner? What’s the packaging like? Do the quality of your items speak to your brand vibe?
- If you’re a service provider, do you practice what you preach? How accessible are you? What’s your purchasing experience like?
- If you’re a nonprofit how connected are you to the cause you contribute to? Do you have special expertise or knowledge to share? What’s your donor experience like? Does everyone get thanked in a timely manner? Do they understand the impact of their gift?
This work should be ongoing forever. Set and reset regular objectives based on your audience’s experiences with you as an organization. Check in with them to make sure you’re delivering what you think you’re delivering. And keep your eye on how it will feel for your consumer when you make strategic changes. Spot the things that need fixing and can be fixed most easily and tackle them first. Then keep going, always keeping your brand objective in mind — how you want your customers to feel.
Define your brand experience
Once you’ve started to think and act like a brand with a focus, things will change. You’ll get feedback that affirms your direction, ideas on what to do and say next will come more naturally, and patterns will emerge.
You’re almost ready for your rebrand!
Now you can start to really think about the traditional questions in a creative brief.
- What are your goals and objectives for a logo and brand look redesign?
- Who is your audience?
- What are the key elements of your brand?
Understanding not just how you want to make your audience feel but what it takes to get them to feel that way are the details designers dream of having when asked to create a brand look. But more than that, when your logo is complete, you’ll have something else to say besides “here’s our new logo.” You’ll be able to describe how that change reflects who your business is and how you want to relate to the world around you.
Your new look should be the way you parade your amazing actions around in the world. The cherry on top of your new pulled together, focused attitude. Your excuse for reminding people how important you are to their lives in whatever way it is you’re improving them.
Designing a new logo, sending an email about your new logo, then never talking about your brand again isn’t going to solve the challenges you were facing when you first thought about a rebrand. Launching a new look and promising future changes to your brand experience will also fall a little flat. Making sure you are performing as the organization that deserves a thoughtful makeover first allows your audience to connect their experience with your visual change. It shouldn’t be aspirational, it should be real.
Of course, if you never get around to that new logo, and just work on that brand feeling in your day to day, you’ll still be way ahead of the game.
This article originally appeared on LizaDube.com