rebranding

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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.

Peace.

 

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Rebranding.

I met a midsize business owner last year who spent a great deal of time and money refreshing his brand. The catalyst for a rebrand is often a creaky website. When your website looks like a brochure, hasn’t been updated in 3 years and has more stock photos than an art director’s attic, it’s time for a new site. This is often when small marketing companies or agencies try to sell you a new logo and tagline. Voila!

A logo and website — a new set of clothes — make you look sharp. A tagline energizes and organizes you, but after that “Has anything else really changed?” Has your strategy changed? 95% of the time the answer is a resounding no.

In the case of my friend, he worked with some smart people who knew a thing about marketing. The tagline, a de facto brand strategy, was alliterative making it memorable by design and, more importantly, was based upon something customers wanted dearly. But did the company do its part to deliver on the strategy? Did it operationalize the strategy? Did the company work hard to prove the strategy or the claim? Not yet. The story is still to unfold.

Rebranding is not a paint job. It’s a business-building. Brand strategy is an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.  

Peace!

 

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The Altimeter Group just rebranded according to Charlene Li, CEO. I’ve never met Ms. Li, but did do an analysts briefing with her (while she was in China) during my Zude start-up days. Influential doesn’t even begin to describe Ms. Li’s role in the technology business. She’s the Ester Dyson of the new millennium. That said, Ms. Li has fallen into the trap many have when referring to branding, or in this case, rebranding. Brands are not style and make-up. Not logo design and color. Brands are organizing principles anchored to an idea. A customer facing idea.

The Altimeter Group has altered its logo, PPT, newsletter format and, soon, will redesign its web site — but I’m not feeling a brand idea or brand strategy.  Disruption, social leadership and change are three words to describe the sandbox Altimeter plays in. And as for the Is of the Is-Does, they are definitely analysts. But I’m not seeing a strategy.

Ms. Li and team have been leaders in sharing information on social business strategies. And it is thought provoking, smart, transformative work. However, treating branding with color and design and not a strategy component is like saying social business redesign can take place by adding some Twitter, content managers, Yammer and a video production studio.

Hey Altimeter, What’s the Idea?  

Peace.

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Many think of marketing as acquisition. Or lead generation. Business leaders in that mode don’t really understand brand planning. What often drives leaders who think this way towards branding or rebranding are: old logos, mergers and acquisitions, and boredom. Brand planning though, is all about strategy.

At What’s The Idea? a brand plan is defined as one strategic idea (or claim) and the three support planks – planks that prove the claim and organize how business is done. A mark or logo is best if it supports that idea. Salespeople and operations people are optimized if they are guided by an organizing principle.  Those businesses who don’t get branding can’t ask employees to go out and “blue” for the company based on the color palette or “leader” for the company, based on a mission statement.  

A brand plan makes it so that when every employee leaves the building at night they can ask themselves a strategic question about their performance. And that is the litmus test.

I like to say “campaigns come and go, a powerful brand idea is indelible.”  Leads come and go. Customers come and go.  Brands strategy should not. If it’s not about building and maintaining business through strategy, it’s not a brand plan.

Employees come and go too, their understanding of the strategy should not. Executives talk all the time about company culture. At the best companies strategy is enculturated.  Peace.

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Rebranding

I’ve been in touch with a few tech CEOs over the past year and I know it is not easy being them; they are responsible for financing, product development, legal, the code, usability, hiring, business metrics and last but not least strategy. 

 

The true test of a great CEO, though, is what happens after these two words pass through his or her lips “major rebranding.” “Major rebranding” is code for we don’t have a focused strategy. Sadly, most rebranding assignments often yield a PowerPoint deck filled with marko-babble, a logo (nice), tagline (generic), a visual symmetry discourse and bill for some serious money.  Most of the bill, by the way, pays for tactics.

 

Branding is all about strategy. It is forward looking, consumer-facing, fresh, it pushes the culture (business or societal), and all the heavy lifting is done before any visual tactics or art are employed. The precursor of a branding idea is a suit strategy and it should reflect each and every element the CEO cares about (see first paragraph).  When the suit strategy talks to the CEO and makes him/her smile, the rest of the job can begin.

 

If you run into a CEO who when commenting about a rebranding project says “I’ll know it when I see it,” give the check back and run.  

 

 

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