Simon Chadwick, the Managing Partner of Cambiar, a management consultancy dedicated to the insights industry, joined me in a discussion to share our experiences and advice for successful branding. Julia Eisenberg, Senior Vice President, of our client Aspen Finn strategy + insight, plus David Paull, CEO of Lillian Labs, and Dana Stanley, COO of GreenBook, went into further detail about the reasons for rebranding and shared aspects of the process.
Start with the “why?”
Julia Eisenberg raised this key question and stressed the vital importance of knowing and owning a differentiated value proposition that is clearly communicated in your branding. Partnering with us here at Keen as Mustard Marketing, Julia and her team created Aspen Finn in order to “deliver a bold, fun, smart experience” for clients. Dana Stanley said that, although GreenBook has been around for decades, it is constantly having to try to differentiate and reinvent itself to ensure that it retains its position as a leading voice in the industry. Working with Keen as Mustard to create a new logo has helped GreenBook stand out.
David Paull expanded on a similar theme in talking about developing his company brand, Lillian Labs, saying that “what led you to your current brand is going to lead you to rebrand” and that “we had to clarify that our decisions were not only right for us and for the brand we were building, but also that they were right for our clients and the market”. In coming up with the name, “we looked through names of pioneers in research, engineering, and innovation, and the name Lillian Gilbraith (inventor of refrigerator shelves amongst other things) jumped out”. And so Lillian Labs was born.
How having a creative brief is the answer
At Keen as Mustard, we always do a great deal of upfront work at the beginning of the branding process to define a company’s position in the market as well as its brand personality, tone of voice, and that all-important value proposition. Many factors go into this strategy phase, one of which is the creative brief. The creative brief sums up the project and focuses on a single overriding message for all subsequent design and implementation. This serves as a guide for everything from the website, to the messaging and PR. To make sure that everyone is singing from the same song sheet, we always ensure that clients sign off on the creative brief before design starts.
Involve the decision-makers from the beginning
I found my head nodding to the following words from Simon Chadwick: “All the people who are going to be involved and have an opinion need to be brought in right at the beginning and they need to be very clear about what you are doing. So they should review and agree with the creative brief. It’s so important to bring all of the decision-makers into the process so that they understand, for instance, why you have chosen the font and what it is about the company and its personality that is reflected in it.”
Why you need a single overriding message
The overriding message is how you will distinguish yourself in the market. You don’t want to look like or sound like your competitors. Being noticed is about having something unique to say and tying it back to the way that you present yourself and, most importantly, what you actually do. As Simon Chadwick commented, many insight company websites are indistinguishable. But by knowing what makes you distinct, you will be able to come up with a design solution that is different and that supports your offer in a very clear way.
Simon Chadwick and his colleagues regularly pitch storytelling with a single unifying theme. When Keen as Mustard Marketing worked on the Aspen Finn brand, we focused on the fact that Aspen Finn does research in a very un-intrusive way, which reveals how people naturally think, feel, and behave. This generated authentic consumer stories and led to the idea of the natural shape of a leaf or bird outline in the logo, and the flowing line art storytelling style for the website and marketing collateral.
Don’t be a follower of fashion
Simon Chadwick talked about how there is a temptation to follow a particular fashion in design and I would certainly agree. Try to avoid fashion and focus on finding the right design that defines the company. It’s easy to search online and find a list of colours or fonts that are in fashion this season. Social media makes it even worse. But we all know fashions change quickly, and we would never want to leave a client with a website or logo that will be out of date visually within a couple of years.
And of course, we must avoid visual clichés which abound within insights. If you want to communicate what makes you different, don’t use the same stock imagery or ideas that everyone else does. Lightbulbs, globes, handshakes, sports metaphors, and mountaineers are all about that. More recently, the Holi Festival of Colour has cropped up over and over. This is why you need an experienced designer with a creative mind and a honed eye to come up with imagery that makes you stand out, not blend in.
Keep sight of the priorities and take your time
We’ve often found that companies have been thinking about rebranding for a year or two, and when the decision is finally made to go ahead, they are eager to do so quickly. But rushing ahead to get it done without taking the time on the initial stage of pinpointing the value proposition and key message will mean you are simply putting lipstick on a gorilla. In other words, it’s just a change of clothes and not a true expression of your brand. As David Paull says, “This is a marathon, not a sprint” – anticipate that issues and challenges will be part of the process.
*The views, opinions, data, and methodologies expressed above are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect or represent the official policies, positions, or beliefs of GreenBook.