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I work with a kitchen remodeling company, Kitchen Magic, that has built a huge business offering something called cabinet refacing. Refacing is half the price of new cabinets because the old cabinet box is kept and a new “face” of wood and doors are attached to the outside.  In an unrelated example, Architectural Record, a venerable consumer and trade magazine, recently underwent a facelift of its own — new design, new cover, new masthead and logo. A rebrand or facelift, as it were.

Rebrands are all about taking something old and updating it. Sometimes it’s cosmetic. Sometimes it’s structural.

In the business of brand strategy, cosmetics and structure are secondary. At least they are at What’s the Idea? The process starts without an endgame in sight.  No architects plans, no site maps. Brand strategy is about as organic and alive as words and idea can be.

Working with a brand, I certainly understand business objectives and sales goals. But what the brand strategy will look like is a complete unknown at the beginning of the project.  The direction and science are not sealed until the paper strategy is complete.

Maybe, that’s why some companies are nervous about brand strategy. And why they prefer facelifts. They want to see what the finished product will look like before they begin.



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I did a little driving this past week and noticed two rebranding efforts in the hospitality sector.  Holiday Inn did their’s a couple of years ago and Best Western more recently.  I wonder what each company paid for their rebrand efforts. If anyone knows, please share with me. It seems a no-brainer that one job was worth its weight in design gold, the other not so much.

Holiday Inn’s logo is contemporary, active, clean and refreshing. It suggests the same approach was taken renovating all the properties.  Though green is not one of my favorite colors, I have to admit the mark, type and name treatment work wonderfully.

The Best Western logo on the other hand, looks like a too-cool-for-type-school designer worked on it and it’s way over our heads, or, it was crafted by the CMO’s daughter who cuts hair in Jersey City.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with beauticians or Jersey City.) The Best Western logo is the opposite of Holiday Inn: Logy, a tad unkempt, colorless and sans any fashion sense. Close your eyes and imagine what the new room designs must look like. That is, if they were done at all.

Logo and style manual design in a rebrand isn’t everything but it’s a HUGE thing.



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Last Christmas I went into a Radio Shack looking to buy a good FM radio. I was trying to get my mother to listen to NPR in her kitchen where she can only get A.M. radio and has had to listen to a station (WOR) targeting the older set with let’s just say less than stimulating programming.  I asked the salesperson where the radios were (at Radio Shack) and the she directs me to two possible areas, one of which was correct. As far from the front door as you could get.

The selection was horrendous. Two brands — none of which I was familiar with. No Sony. No GE.  Pathetic. I left and went to Best Buy and found one Sony model. Don’t buy radio station stock is the moral to this story.

As Radio Shack tries to organize its way out of insolvency, with a hedge fund at the helm, one of the questions posed is “Should we rebrand?” “Should we hold onto the old name?” AT&T used to be America Telephone and Telegraph…someone smart over there decided telegraph was not a technology forward name and opted for change. So the answer to the new guard at Radio Shack is a resounding “yes.”  A new name is in order. And let’s look beyond the dashboard for a name shall we?

I should add a very big good luck. From what I’m reading of some of the partner decisions so far, they’re going to need it. Peace.


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