4 Strategic Tips for Evolving Your Brand

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When we think about a brand, what do we picture? Often times a logo is the first thing that pops into our minds, but there is absolutely more to it. When companies make a promise to their customers, the brand is a symbol of that commitment. A cohesive brand includes design, messaging, products, and experiences that support your company’s promise. Building on that idea, a timeless brand is one that evolves to stay relevant in the lives of its customers.

Over time, many factors can affect the perception of a brand. To name a few, this might include advances in technology, new design or product trends, steeper competition, and changing customer needs. To stay relevant and top of mind, we all must evolve.

If you’re considering a re-brand or brand evolution, there are a couple of strategies that can help make the process more effective. And while specific branding challenges will vary, these tried-and-true tactics will help you work toward creating that allusive, timeless brand.

Tip #1: Seek input from your customers and team.

When it comes to branding projects, I tell my customers to start with the end in mind. Think about the ways that your new brand will affect customers, staff, and products. What are the desired outcomes that you want to create? Do you expect any resistance?

As a best practice, I recommend starting any branding project with data gathering. Take the time to discuss the opportunities and impacts that a new brand would have on your sales team, your board, investors, or any other key stakeholders in your organization. Data gathering can take the form of focus groups, one-on-one interviews, online surveys, a casual conversation over a cup of coffee. The important thing is to ask up front. This way, you build cohesion and can start to think about the new brand as a solution for the company.

Tip #2: Small, incremental changes can be more effective than a total overhaul.

Timeless brands like Apple, Mercedes, and Starbucks have proven that a series of fine-tunes beat a total brand redo. The key is to be consistently evolving--both in brand and product--in a way that keeps you relevant with your customers. Evolving the brand in small, bite size pieces allows you to always be advancing toward your mission. At the same time, this can prevent you from having to go in front of your customers and boldly announce, “We are different now!” after a major brand overhaul.

One tactic that I recommend is to create a small, ongoing budget for brand and product evolution. By setting aside these funds, you are prepared to test new ideas and respond to opportunities more effectively. Plus, you won’t have to incur the costs of rolling out major brand changes internally and externally all at once.

Tip #3: Keep the brand equity you’ve worked so hard to build.

If you’ve been in business for a while, your brand likely has equity that you won’t want to give up. For instance, if everyone in town knows you as “the store with the big neon sign,” keep the sign!

As you evolve, it’s important to identify the elements that have made your brand recognizable and memorable. For example, McDonald’s has changed their tagline, mascot, and menu items over time, but those unique golden arches have endured.

Tip #4: Be prepared to educate your customers.

Introducing a new brand has the potential to create customer confusion. When done correctly, however, introducing an updated brand can also be an opportunity to educate your market and leapfrog competition.

For example, I recently worked with the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce on a brand evolution. We realized in our discovery interviews that the name “Santa Rosa” was limiting their ability to add new members outside city limits. In addition, the Chamber’s advocacy and outreach programs extended far beyond just Santa Rosa. After researching similar models nationwide, the team elected to update the name of the organization to the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber.

In our launch campaign, we were able to show how the metropolitan connection actually resonated with a lot of the organization’s regional development goals, and that this naming convention was common in other chamber organizations of our size and scope.

At Tonic, we help guide our clients through the process of evolving their brands. If you're interested in setting up a brainstorm to discuss your specific needs, let's grab a cup of coffee!


Sara Soergel