In an era of abundance, organizations must offer something special to outflank the competition. While bleeding-edge innovation or seamless customer service does the trick for some, a great brand experience also can create an advantage, according to recent research from brand equity database BrandZ.
A Harp's Evolution
Working with branding agency Design Bridge, beer company Guinness updated its iconic harp logo in 2016. After creating an initial sketch, Design Bridge used 3-D modeling software to determine the right balance of light and shadow for the new harp. The result is at left.
More than a logo
Instagram's simplified look reflects the brand's efforts to streamline its overall user experience.
When CI Studio worked on a project to consolidate five Irish credit unions that merged under a new name, stakeholders in the largest credit union, Dundrum, were hesitant to let go of the brand's identity. The project team ran a renaming competition with members and customers to prove the value of a new name to the committee members.
Companies with high brand experience scores saw a 166 percent increase in value between 2006 and 2016.
Source: Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2016, BrandZ
Its Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2016 report found that companies with high brand experience scores saw a 166 percent increase in value between 2006 and 2016. Conversely, companies with low brand experience scores shrank in value by 0.4 percent. BrandZ lists several qualities that contribute to a great brand experience, including standing for something unique, meeting user needs, improving people's lives and delivering a better online presence.
When an organization's brand experience needs an upgrade, a rebranding project might be the best way to reboot. Whether it's a complete redesign in response to a merger or a refresh to reflect changing demographics, project teams must keep the audience front and center to deliver the desired results, says Niall Corcoran, managing director of design and brand agency CI Studio, Dublin, Ireland.
“Understanding why you are rebranding is the first and most important step in this process,” he says.
In 2016, for example, beer company Guinness partnered with branding agency Design Bridge to update its iconic harp logo for a new generation of beer drinkers who appreciate products that appear more authentic. After creating an initial sketch, Design Bridge used 3-D modeling software to determine the right balance of light and shadow for the new harp. The result was a textured logo that aims to highlight the beer's historic significance—and distinguish it from younger mass-market competitors.
“Understanding why you are rebranding is the first and most important step in this process.”
—Niall Corcoran, CI Studio, Dublin, Ireland
Instagram moved in the opposite direction when it updated its camera logo in 2016. Its more modern and simplified look reflects the brand's efforts to streamline user experience for its tech-savvy audience. The brand also improved the functionality of its app by putting a greater focus on photos and videos and making navigational elements less distracting.
But even if the shift seems small, rebranding projects touch every piece of an organization's identity, from logos and signage to customer service and product lines. And project managers are often charged with getting people on board, says Emma Bunford, client director for Cato Brand Partners, a brand and identity management agency in Melbourne, Australia.
“If a brand has been in place for a while, it can be hard for people to be objective about letting it go, even if it's flawed.”
—Gavin Byrne, Owens DDB, Dublin, Ireland
“Project management is a very important part of this process,” Ms. Bunford says. “It ensures everyone is working toward the same goals.”
While marketing departments often head up rebranding projects, they require support from across the organization to deliver on deadline. But building buy-in can be tough when people are emotionally attached to the existing brand, says Gavin Byrne, deputy managing director of Owens DDB, a creative agency in Dublin, Ireland.
“If a brand has been in place for a while, it can be hard for people to be objective about letting it go, even if it's flawed,” he says.
Mr. Corcoran encourages clients to create a steering committee that includes members of the C-suite, board of directors and other key leaders from across the organization to drive change and challenge long-held opinions about the brand. When his team worked on a project earlier this year to consolidate five Irish credit unions that merged under a new name, stakeholders in the largest credit union, Dundrum, were hesitant to let go of the brand's identity.
“The very ethos of the credit union is community and local, so the big challenge was to create an identity that somehow unified them,” Mr. Corcoran says. “Without a properly represented steering group that included executive and board members, and a process of engagement, it would have been very difficult to achieve the decisions we made.”
Current design trends offer inspiration for organizations that recast their image to connect with the next generation.
Simple and straightforward
Low-key redesigns are all the rage. In September 2016, U.K. food delivery company Deliveroo replaced its complicated kangaroo logo with a chunky, single-color design. Similarly, MasterCard's 2016 logo redesign eliminated its characteristic comb lines and shadowed lettering, allowing the simple red and yellow circles and brand name to speak for themselves.
Louder than words
Some brands are banking on customers associating a specific color or shape with the brand. For instance, U.S. telecom firm AT&T dropped the acronym in a 2016 rebranding project. The company now relies on its iconic blue and white globe to represent the brand.
U.K. ethical chocolate maker Organic Seed and Bean Co. was able to boost sales with a colorful brand upgrade called Kaleidoscopic Moments of Pleasure. The new design replaced the monocolored backdrop on labels with a rainbow of shades representing each bar's flavors. The rebrand project, completed in 2014, is credited with tripling the sales of the previously struggling company.
The project team ran a renaming competition in October with members and customers to prove the value of a new name to the committee members. The competition also helped set the stage for the coming transformation. “It brought people on board from the beginning,” he says.
Mr. Corcoran's team built the new brand identity around the winning name, Capital Credit Union. But rather than throw away the old logo—a family standing in a pair of hands—they modernized it with new colors and shapes, making it more abstract without losing the original intent.
“Our brand research showed there is a huge amount of goodwill and equity in the logo itself, which a lot of newly merged credit unions were throwing away,” he says.
The new brand was launched in March, supported by a massive signage swap-out, a website redesign and brand campaign rolled out across Dublin. Early project success metrics showed that in the months following the rebranding project, the number of loan applications increased over the previous year.
CLEAR THE AIR
The best rebranding projects devote time to gather feedback on the brand identity and experience from stakeholders, including customers, vendors and industry groups, says Juan Carlos Belloso, director of Future Places brand agency and founder of the International Place Branding Association, Barcelona, Spain. “This research will help stakeholders understand the gap between the current perception of the brand and the future vision,” he says. “When you understand that gap, you can develop a plan to close it.”
Mr. Belloso is working on a program to rebrand the city of Barcelona. The newest phase includes consolidating the positioning of Barcelona as an economic center for innovation and entrepreneurship as well as sustainability and social cohesion. His team is working with a brand coordinator at the City Council to gather stakeholder feedback on the city's best qualities. With that information, the team will define projects and campaigns to help transform the city's reputation.
“They do not just help with defining the brand vision, but in the implementation of the different initiatives defined for the brand,” he says.
Creating a clear brand vision goes hand in hand with building a strategy, personality and value proposition for the new brand, and outlining how project teams will communicate that to the client, Ms. Bunford says.
“The most important thing is having clarity about what you are trying to achieve,” she says. “This ensures there is buy-in throughout the journey and the new brand's success is measured against the agreed-upon brand strategy, not individuals’ opinions,” Ms. Bunford says.
“Project management is a very important part of this process. It ensures everyone is working toward the same goals.”
—Emma Bunford, Cato Brand Partners, Melbourne, Australia
The larger the organization, the more time-consuming rebranding projects can be. Damon McNeil of Provo, Utah, USA learned this as the marketing project manager for Central Utah Clinic. Over several years, the healthcare organization had grown through acquisitions and expansion from a small local clinic to a regional network of more than 100 facilities across the U.S. states of Utah, Nevada and Arizona.
New Day, New Look
Changing the name of a regional health network of more than 100 facilities across the U.S. states of Utah, Nevada and Arizona required a quick rollout so customers wouldn't be confused by the transition. That meant changing the signs at every center across three states on roughly the same day in May 2015— and coordinating the simultaneous airing of TV and radio ads and posting of billboard ads.
“The name no longer made sense, and a lot of physicians didn't feel like they were part of the brand,” he says.
The rebranding initiative, launched in 2014, included changing the name and integrating all of the health centers under a new brand. Mr. McNeil's team began by working with an agency to pick the new name and define brand value proposition.
“They helped us figure out who we are and what our culture stands for, so we could build the brand around it.”
Through interviews with board members, physicians and patients, they discovered that stakeholders wanted a name that was geographically agnostic and focused on the care the organization provides to its patients and members. That led to a new name, Revere Health, and a new logo that alludes to a cochlear implant. “It shows that we revere our patients’ health and that we are listening,” Mr. McNeil says.
Gathering input from stakeholders and surveying customers also helped the team garner support for the new idea when it was ready to present to the organization's executive team and board of directors. It also gave the team the ammo needed to win over board members who had strong loyalty to the old brand. “We showed them the survey data, and once they understood why we needed to change, they got on board,” he says.
Once the new logo was ready to go, Mr. McNeil's team wanted to roll it out quickly so customers wouldn't be confused by the transition. That meant changing the signs at every center across three states on roughly the same day in May 2015.
“That turned out to be more difficult than we anticipated,” he says. The team realized that no single signage vendor could handle the one-day turnaround. And when he got sign samples from multiple vendors, they all interpreted the color requirements differently.
“Eventually we got all of the sign companies to talk to each other. Even though they were competitors, they agreed to share their solutions,” he says.
When Revere Health launched, all billboards, TV and radio ads, and the new signs on every facility went up within a few days—a success Mr. McNeil attributes to sign companies’ willingness to work together on the promise of future business. And when patients and physicians participated in a first-anniversary follow-up interview last year, reviews were very positive.
“We showed [board members] the survey data, and once they understood why we needed to change, they got on board.”
—Damon McNeil, Revere Health, Provo, Utah, USA
“Everyone says the new brand makes more sense, and we have a lot more healthcare groups looking to join our network,” he says.
SET THE PACE
The costs associated with new signage, website design and stakeholder communications can add up quickly. To create an accurate budget estimate, project managers must be realistic about the level of speed, quality and cost-effectiveness a rebranding project requires, says Per Busk Christiansen. He is global brand manager at DNV GL, Oslo, Norway, a global risk management and business assurance company.
When Mr. Christiansen led the rebranding of DNV GL after Det Norske Veritas (DNV) merged with Germanischer Lloyd (GL), his team recognized that going slower would have saved the company money and resources. But the transition would then have taken four years or more to complete, which was unacceptable for the global business.
They settled on an €8 million budget and grouped costs into three buckets: development, implementation and communication activities. The brand development budget was set based on benchmarks from similar projects; the brand implementation budget was based on the brand impact and costs analysis performed by an external agency; and the brand communication activities were incorporated in the marketing budgets, along with additional brand launch campaign funds.
“The brand implementation impact analysis and approval by antitrust bodies determined the schedule,” he says.
This budget allocation led the team to focus on high-impact touchpoints first, including redesigning the website, rebranding high-level marketing material and legal documents, and implementing new signage on all facilities, work wear and vehicles. With the plan and budget in place, the team took four months to develop the new brand strategy and logo, which features three colored lines representing the company's work at sea, land and sky. The rollout, completed in January 2015, occurred in more than 100 countries, engaging 16,000 employees and more than 80,000 customers.
In 2016, a year after the launch, a customer survey showed 91 percent awareness of the new brand and 85 percent favorability ratings. Plus, 74 percent of customers say they trust the brand and the company. “That's a pretty high benchmark,” Mr. Christiansen says.
Internally, the rebranding has been equally successful, bringing employees from both companies together. “We no longer talk about them and us,” he says. “We are now one company.” PM