Q&A: How to Undertake a Rebrand

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This week Rick Hosmer, Klündt | Hosmer Partner and Chief Marketing Officer, participated in a panel discussion for OneAEC, a regional marketing association for AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) fields.

Screen Shot 2018 11 09 at 9.55.09 AMThe topic of the moderated discussion was when and how to undertake a review of a firm’s or company’s brand image and how to determine if it needs an update or rebranding.

The panelists shared their answers to the moderator’s questions and the attendees gained insight from a combined 100 years of branding experience from the four panelists.

While the group was AEC-focused, Rick’s answers were applicable to any firm or industry. Following are notes from his responses.

Q: How often should my firm or company review our name and logo?

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A: I recommend reviewing your firm’s brand image, name and tagline, printed marketing materials, proposals, website design and other visual representations of your firm every three to five years.

The review is not a huge project and when done correctly, will ensure that you are still on the right path with your branding and marketing, or will reveal shortcomings that need to be corrected.

Competition, new services or offerings, website URL complexity, color trends, font styles, new marketing opportunities, reproduction techniques, all can influence the brand image look or name of a firm and should be part of the review.

AWQ: How should I benchmark my image against the competition?

A: Collect business cards, brochures and website home pages from your competitors and others in the industry. Ask yourself, “without knowing anything about these companies, which brand image seems the most experienced, competent, higher priced, professional..?” Does your brand image come out on top, or is it at the bottom of the ranking?

To confirm your own evaluation, engage with a consulting graphic designer that specializes in brand image development. Buy a few hours of their time for them to do an initial benchmark review. This will give you the information you need to determine if your firm needs an update or redesign.

Q: How can I determine if my current logo is effective?

ZBAA: Does your firm have a mission statement, a brand platform, or defined core values? Do you have traits or attributes that you want your firm to be known for, like professional, casual, friendly, serious, traditional, or innovative? Does your brand image communicate these desired traits and attributes?

If you aren’t sure, ask other people (even your clients) if they think your firm’s logo, website, proposals and other materials portray an accurate representation of your firm.

To confirm your own and your client’s opinion, again, you can consult with a graphic designer specializing in brand image development.

Q: How can I improve the communication of my firm’s brand image for stronger awareness and better positioning?

A: Use the brand image consistently. If it’s effective, use it everywhere. Consider using the mark (logo or wordmark) as a supergraphic in your office. Brand corporate vehicles with it. Create branded apparel for employees and clients. Create specialty giveaways that contain your firm’s brand image. Get it out there.

Most logos today are seen online — website, social media, online marketing. Maximize the technology to incorporate animation in your logo. Make it dynamic. Emphasize what you do and make it memorable.

Digital printing is more common today and prices are lower. Full color logos and corporate identities used to be costly. Not anymore. Consider changes to your firm’s brand image to get away from a one or two-color, out-of-date look. Freshen it up and add energy through use of color and overlapping colors. Graphic design trends can keep your brand looking current and fresh.

Your logomark might still be fine, but an update to the brand font and color can go a long way to generating awareness and improve the communication and positioning of your firm’s brand image.

Consider the addition of a tagline to the brand image. Taglines help convey the purpose and personality of a firm, creating ever-important distinction from your competitors.

The impression given by your firm’s brand image goes far beyond the look of the logo. It is reflected in the experience your clients receive every time the engage with your firm (online, on the phone, in person, and when they see things or read stories representing your firm). Make sure these touchpoints convey an authentic impression of who you are as a firm.

Don’t lock into rigid rules about how your brand image can be used. Use overarching guidelines rather than strict rules. If you want to engage and inspire your clients, be engaging and inspiring with your brand identity. Use it. Play with it. Evolve it. But do it wisely.

Q: Does my firm need a logomark (symbol), or would a wordmark (the firm name in a font) suffice?

A: Visual identities work through familiarity, needing to be seen and learned before they are established. Using a symbol means that an additional element (besides the name) must be learned.

People don’t want to work at becoming familiar with a brand. That advocates for the approach of using wordmarks over logomarks. Learn the name, recognize the company. This works best if the company name is short and memorable. The wide variety of font styles allow designers to select a typeface that conveys personality attributes of the firm without requiring the creation of a custom symbol.

If the company’s name is long, a logomark (symbol) can be an effective way to attract and hold the viewer’s eye while they decipher the line of letters that make up the company name. A symbol can provide visual impact that is unavailable through just the long name in a font.

A symbol can also communicate attributes about the company. Without even knowing what the company does or the services and products it offers, a well-designed symbol can instantly convey that information. It creates a “face” for the company that stands-out in a crowded marketplace. A symbol can also be used without the name, creating a “signature” for the company without the larger size requirements of displaying the firm’s name.

The use of a brand image symbol can help unify different divisions or branches of a firm. By sharing the symbol, different aspects of a firm can be highlighted and identified through name and color treatment.