Creating a brand identity that reflects your business is one of the most important jobs you’ll do at the very beginning of your business, but branding isn’t a static thing that you set up once and then ignore for the rest of your time in business.
Just as your business benefits from continuous learning and improvement over the years, it will also benefit from brand evolution and, just as you schedule in time to look at your processes and procedures regularly, it’s a good idea to plan in time to revisit your branding on a regular basis and see if it’s still reflecting your company and how you want it to be perceived.
Why revisit your brand?
“89% of B2B marketers say brand awareness is the most important goal, followed by sales and lead generation.”
That statistic is direct from the Content Marketing Institution, so it’s clearly important to make sure your branding continues to be on target and creates awareness in the minds of the right people.
Many businesses start off providing one type of service or product, but they don’t necessarily stay that way. They grow and adapt. They add more services, change their business model, decide that perhaps the audience they were once aiming for isn’t who they want to target now. There are many reasons for this, from the owners simply finding that they enjoy providing one service over another and want to focus on that, to economic reasons where it’s obvious that product B is actually far more successful than product A.
Just as your business grows and evolves, so to must your branding, or you could find yourself in a position where your brand identity no longer fits what you do or speaks to your ideal target market.
Far more than just your business can change, though. The industry you are in could change too, or your customers may have come to expect something else from you. Perhaps social change is a factor, or maybe fashion or culture, in that your brand now seems old-fashioned rather than up to the minute and cutting edge like it once was. Technological advances may have had an impact both on what you do and how you are perceived and it’s important to look at if your branding is still relevant – to you and to your audience.
Technological and social changes aren’t instantaneous, and nor is the evolution of your business. Both take time and creep in gradually, until you look back ten years or more and realise just how much has changed. If you’re not regularly looking at your branding to ensure it’s as up to date and highly reflective of you as it ever was, you could find that your company no longer appeals as much to your audience, and that they’ve turned to competitors who have adapted their brand and kept up with the pace of change.
How to look at your branding with fresh eyes
Set up a regular review of your business, including your branding, and take the time to look back at your branding when you started your business and see if it’s still relevant now.
Have you changed what you offer as a business? Have you retired some services but added new more up to date products? Are you still operating in the same industry as you were at the beginning and do you still have the same target market?
Look at your marketing as a whole. Has your marketing changed and adapted to suit the world as it is now, or is your logo rather tired and are you still running campaigns that have begun to seem stale and really don’t fit any more?
Try and look at your branding with outside eyes. If you weren’t involved in your business at all, would you like your branding? Would you be impressed by it? Does it still reflect where your business is now and who you are?
You could even survey your current customers to learn how your business is currently perceived and what they think of your branding.
However you do this exercise, it’s important that you do it on a regular basis and stay aware of how your brand comes across to the outside world.
Why does brand evolution matter?
If you have a strategy in place to regularly evolve your brand to suit changes in your business and in the wider world, it shows that you’re up to date, with current thinking, and that you’re on top of your industry and changes in trends and styles.
“79% of consumers said brands have to actually demonstrate that they understand and care about them before they are going to consider purchasing.” – Wunderman (https://www.cmo.com/features/articles/2017/1/23/wunderman-tlp-wantedness-study.html#gs.c3Kr73Y)
Brand evolution shows potential customers that you’re growing and evolving, you understand who they are and what they want, and it keeps you competitive rather than falling behind and letting your competitors take over.
Why evolve? Why not rebrand?
Depending on your circumstances and how your brand is perceived, you may indeed need to consider a full rebrand to give your company a fresh new look that adapts to your customer base and your industry.
While any change in your branding will cost money and time, with a full rebrand, you do have to be careful to get it right as you don’t want to lose any of the brand recognition and goodwill that you’ve already built up. But with the right branding and marketing agency to help you, rebranding can totally refresh how your company is perceived, boost your business and bring in a whole new audience, so it’s certainly not something to ignore.
If you let your brand grow and evolve over time, however, it can be easier to stay true to your original values and keep more of your original audience, while still changing enough to engage new customers and markets.
You’re not starting from scratch; you’re developing and growing what you’ve got to improve it, keep it relevant and continue to appeal to your audience.
Take your audience with you
If you’ve done your job, you should already have brand recognition and engagement, where your existing audience recognises your logo and understands who you are and what you do. With an evolving brand, it’s easier to keep your existing audience while still reaching out to new people who may not have engaged with your original branding.
Change slowly and correct as you go
Just like with Mother Nature, evolution doesn’t happen overnight. Small, subtle changes that refine your brand and improve it allow you to check your results and correct anything that isn’t working.
Minimise waste and costs
If you opt for a full rebrand, then all of your marketing collateral will need to change. If budget is a consideration, you may not want to do that, and brand evolution could be a better option. If you make subtle changes over time, you can adapt and evolve your brand without breaking the bank.
Keep your community
The very best brands know that they have built more than just a brand – they’ve built a community of like-minded people who love what they do and like to share that love with other people. These people engage, they chat, they have opinions and they stick around. If you’ve reached the point where your brand is highly social with lots of participation, it’s at a fantastic point where it’s created not just by you, but also by your audience, and with either a rebrand or a brand evolution, you need to be careful to keep that community and engagement.
McDonalds was seen for years as a place for cheap, fast, unhealthy food, and that image wasn’t helped at all when the documentary, Super Size Me, came out and pushed the idea even more that too much fast food led to obesity.
If you look at the visual elements of the branding now, not a huge amount has changed. McDonald’s still has its famous golden arches and bright colours, but these days McDonald’s restaurants are more likely to be decorated in muted coffee shop-style browns and creams for a more relaxing interior and a different feel.
They still sell their famous fast food, but they also sell fruit, salads and healthy snack packs that appeal to kids, and they advertise that fact and promote a much healthier approach than they used to.
What they’ve done has very little to do with their logo, their letterhead and what many people think make up the elements of a brand, but even without greatly altering any of that, they’ve still altered how they are perceived and been able to appeal to new audiences.
With a planned, strategic and gradual brand evolution, you’ll have a revitalised brand that lets your customers know you’re listening, learning and keeping up with what they want, and that you’re very much an up to the minute brand that’s fresh and current. You’ll be better positioned in your industry to compete and you certainly won’t be left behind.
Evolving your brand is definitely worthwhile, though it’s not necessarily an easy task. If you’d like some help with moving forward, Socially Grown offer strategic branding workshops to guide you through the next stage of your branding evolution. Get in touch with our friendly team on 01785 850951.