Brand messages aren't the only things that get stale. Here are five signs it's a good time to give your brand strategy a facelift.
In an earlier article I discussed when it was time to rebrand a company. In this article, I'll focus on when it might be time to refresh your brand strategy.
First thing is to remember a brand is much more than just a logo. It encompasses everything that contributes toward customer experience, including the culture you're building and how you deliver your product or service. Your brand strategy is an essential business tool. If it is not helping you achieve your firm's strategic goals, no matter how attached you are to your brand promise or your current campaigns, it may be time to take a fresh look at the strategy behind them.
Here are five signs that it's time to re-evaluate your brand strategy:
1. Your brand scores are slipping. Akin to regularly servicing an automobile, you need to keep tabs on the health and quality of your brand. If you regularly research your brand's relevance with key audiences and periodically fine tune your messaging, then you will get a lot more miles out of the brand than if you drive it off the showroom floor and never get it serviced. At a minimum, annual brand health surveys with external and internal audiences will keep you from suffering any major brand breakdowns. At best, you can solicit feedback in real-time from your customers, employees and key constituencies so you can respond quickly and efficiently to any contingency.
2. The business strategy changes. Brand strategy always follows business strategy. Perhaps the leadership team has decided that doubling revenues by acquisition is the goal for the next five years. Or maybe an IPO is in the plans for the not-so-distant future. Or the opportunity has arisen to enter a new international market. As a critical tool for rationalizing your portfolio and building market appeal, your brand needs to align with, support and reflect your business strategy. Your brand strategy is the story that holds your business together, and it must be told clearly and consistently to have maximum positive impact.
3. Competitive pressures have increased. Whether there are new entrants in your industry or a competitor has developed a groundbreaking technological advance, when the dynamics of your industry shift, you need to make sure you aren't being left behind. “Clear, relevant, believable and distinct” is the mantra we use to keep us on track when developing a brand positioning. When market dynamics change, so can your ability to stand out from the crowd and be unique. If a “me too” provider pops up with a vociferous awareness campaign, you run the danger of becoming a referential brand: “Yeah, we're just like X only we've been around longer.” You need to retool your messages to stand apart, even if it is as simple as being sure to include your years of expertise in your outreach.
4. Your brand expression looks dated. Ideally your original brand strategy was both cutting edge and sustainable. But sometimes market tastes shift beneath you. Just look at all of the companies out there with the word “cyber” in their name, or, more recently, how many logos have all lowercase, san-serif, colorful fonts. Whether it's an elegant refinement of your current logo or starting from scratch, your brand expression needs to match your cultural personality in tone and manner. You can't credibly claim to be innovative if your logo is stuck in the 1980s.
5. You want to signal change. Sometimes you just need an opportunity to tell a new story. It could be because you have a change in business strategy, or new leadership, or you have identified a sizable shift in your core audiences. Perhaps you have merged with another firm and together have more to offer than the sum of your two parts. A refreshed look and feel, a new tagline - even a new name - may be what you need to attract attention, build awareness and capture the market share you desire.
Whatever the reason is for re-evaluating your brand strategy, whenever possible, existing brand equity should be retained. Always remember when you're building your brand, whatever strategic and tactical plan you take on should be fact-based and built to achieve specific goals. Change should never be made simply for change's sake.
James R. Gregory is chairman of Tenet Partners, a brand innovation and marketing consultant. He has written four books on creating value with brands. Contact him directly at (203) 979-7914 or [email protected]