5 Things to Do Before You Start a Rebrand

August 18, 2019

How to Rebrand

A good rebrand is like making a meal. The more you prep up front, the easier it will be down the road. This is especially true in a rebrand because many people think the “real” part is the design: the fresh logo, the updated website, etc. But design is only one aspect. The most important work happens long before you design. These crucial steps set you up for long-term success—and make your design much more effective. 

If you’re ready to dive into a rebrand, here are five things you should do to save your sanity and achieve your brand goals. 

1) Clarify Your Brand Strategy

Again, a rebrand doesn’t start with a logo; it starts with your brand strategy. Your strategy is the foundation upon which everything is built. It helps you identify who you are, what your brand goals are, and how you plan to achieve them. Elements like your visual identity (aka design, logo, colors, fonts, etc.) and brand messaging are really just tools to help you execute your brand strategy. Therefore, when you tackle a rebrand, the order of priority should be:

Brand strategy (general blueprint

  1. Core identity (purpose, vision, mission, and values)
  2. Internal audit (what works, what doesn’t)
  3. Competitive analysis & market research
  4. Personas (who you’re trying to reach)

Brand messaging

  1. Brand guidelines
  2. Positioning
  3. Value prop
  4. Messaging architecture

Visual identity (design)

  1. Brand guidelines

2) Know Who You Are

Identifying and articulating your core identity is the first step of your brand strategy. Your core identity is the essence of your brand, composed of your purpose, vision, mission, and values. 

  • Purpose: Why do you exist?
  • Vision: What future do you want to help create?
  • Mission: How do you create that future?
  • Values: Who are you? How do you work?

Some brands breeze over this step of brand strategy because they assume they have it covered in some dated, wordy mission statement. But it’s important to take the time to re-evaluate everything, starting with your reasons for existing.

These core principles influence every part of your brand, from the way you talk around the water cooler to your tagline, so they will play a huge role throughout the rebrand process. Gather your leadership to talk through these elements, then articulate them in simple, clear, and concise language. (Make sure they are also distributed—and understood—by your team.) 

3) Research, Research, Research

It’s impossible to be over prepared, especially when it comes to your rebrand. The more you know, the stronger your strategy, and the more effective your creative execution will be. Still, some brands are too overwhelmed (or too lazy) to do research thoroughly. 

Remember that a rebrand is basically about positioning your brand well, understanding your identity, and communicating that identity. As such, you need to gather as much information as you can to see the bigger picture. The main areas of research: 

  1. Your own brand. Take a comprehensive look at your own brand. What  works? What doesn’t? What needs improvement? How do people feel about your brand (both internally and externally)? 
  2. Your customers. Who are they? What do they need? How can you help them get it? Call, chat, email, and survey them to find out. The insights you uncover will help you create personas that help you better vet ideas. 
  3. Your competitors. What is your market position? How do your competitors present themselves? What does their branding communicate? Do as much research as you can to understand exactly who you’re up against. 

Document any and all relevant insights. 

4) Write a Strong Creative Brief

A rebrand can be a complicated project with a lot of moving parts. That’s why clear, communication is crucial to help you save time, money, and energy. When you’re ready to move into design (after having done your research and fleshed out your strategy), a well-written creative brief will make everyone’s life easier—and make your creative output stronger. 

What should your brief include? The relevant information your team needs to 1) understand the problem you’re trying to solve and 2) Execute the best creative solution. This usually includes: 

  • Title
  • Overview
  • Objective/focus
  • Why are you rebranding? 
  • Budget
  • Deadline
  • Audience (Who they are, how this may have changed over the years)
  • Current customers; ideal net new customers
  • Brand perception
  • Brand Goal 
  • Primary message
  • Value proposition
  • Tone/Voice/Personality
  • Success metrics
  • Competitors
  • Important insights from past experiences
  • Relevant references or inspiration

When crafting your brief, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Assume your team knows nothing. In a sense, you are starting from scratch, so take it back to basics. 
  • Highlight the problem you’re trying to solve. A rebrand is a communication challenge. Make sure that’s front and center. 
  • Include the right amount info. You want to provide enough info to help them do their job, but don’t drown them in documents and data. 

5) Get Buy-In at Every Stage

Buy-in is crucial to both help the process go as smoothly as possible, and make sure the work you’re creating is solid. 

There are many stages of a rebrand, each of which builds on the last. You need strategy before messaging, messaging before design, etc. That’s why it’s important to get sign-off at each stage. If any of these elements doesn’t resonate with the people closest to the brand, then it’s unlikely to work with those outside the brand. 

Sign-off also helps save time, energy, and money along the way, as any late-stage changes throw timelines off and soak up more resources. To avoid miscommunications and make sure everything is above board throughout the rebrand process, identify a project point person who: 

  • Creates a comfortable timeline (with built-in approval at each stage). 
  • Knows who needs to sign off on what. 
  • Collects and consolidates feedback.
  • Confirms approval before the project moves on. 

A Few More Tips Before You Rebrand

A rebrand is a stressful but exciting process. There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, so it’s important to keep everyone on the same page. A few extra tips that can help:  

  • Know exactly why you’re rebranding—and make sure everyone else does too. Change for the sake of change—or just because there’s a new CEO, Creative Director, CMO, etc.—isn’t a reason to change. You need to justify exactly why it’s necessary. Was your visual identity created flippantly before, and now you have the time, resources, and focus to approach it in a thoughtful way? That makes sense. Was your visual identity created pre-Internet, and therefore struggles to translate to digital/mobile delivery? That’s good, too. Remember: A rebrand is a business decision; make sure it stays tied to the business.
  • Think about the future. Your goal is to create a brand built to last forever—or at least the next 50 years. Consider ways to future-proof your rebrand in all areas. That means building something flexible enough to adapt to market changes, while still remaining timeless. For example, there are a lot of trends in logo design. Don’t pick something just because you think it looks cool today, or because all of the new millennial brands are doing it. The logos of brands like Nasa, IBM, BMW, Apple, Nike, Patagonia, and The Los Angeles Dodgers haven’t changed in years because they’re timeless. 
  • Test everything. A rebrand isn’t a one and done deal. As much as you research beforehand, you should meticulously test to make sure your work resonates with people and is accurately communicating what you intend it to. Always test internally first. 

Above all, keep your ultimate goal front and center. 

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