Branding is central to image management — especially on the Internet. Without a well-defined brand your organization’s online reputation management strategies can only be reactive. Most importantly, your brand is how your organization is introduced to investors, journalists and potential clients and partners. If it no longer reflects your company’s vision, it’s time to rebrand.
Decker Design is a top New York City branding agency. The latest example of their sleek work is a stunning campaign for New York real estate firm Klara Madlin (which follows their rebrand of the firm last year). BlackRock, Mathematica and White & Case are among the many other clients the cutting-edge agency has served.
We interviewed Lynda Decker, CEO of Decker Design, on the state of the industry and what you need to know if you are considering a rebrand.
What are the most common questions companies that are considering a rebrand ask you….and what should they be asking?
It really depends on the experience of the individual that contacts me. Individuals that have a strong background in marketing and have been through a branding exercise before, understand it is a process that takes time. They also understand that over that time insights are revealed, and that the path to creating the visuals involves many iterations. A successful engagement requires a great amount of information (about the company), clear objectives and a brand champion at the highest level. A rebrand will not be successful unless it is fully supported by the chairman, president or other member of the c-suite. There will always be efforts to resist change and change has to be led at the highest level.
Less experienced clients do not view a brand development engagement as a process. They are anxious for a solution—today. They see a new brand as a list of deliverables. This is problematic because they often want to skip the hard part—understanding who they are and how they are different. Whether you are an individual or a corporation, self examination is difficult.
Companies considering a rebrand should be asking themselves the following questions:
Why do you feel a rebrand is necessary?
Who is your competition? Are you and your competitors vying for the same audience?
Who buys your product? What segment is the most profitable?
How are you different? What is your point of view?
If you could give one piece of advice to a company before they begin the rebranding process, what would it be?
You should be looking for a partner. It’s important to find a firm that is a good fit and that has demonstrated insightful thinking. Know your objectives before you start to speak to firms, then ask about process and look at the team’s past work.
Large organizations often start with an RFP process that operates through their purchasing departments. That is a mistake. A brand development or repositioning isn’t a commodity you purchase, like paper. It is intellectual property combined with human interaction.
What mistakes do companies make when they begin a rebrand? How can they avoid them?
I think there is one significant, easily avoidable mistake that is common in the communications field. Clients can feel it is helpful when they offer solutions. I would suggest that it is more effective for clients to focus on providing insight into the problem.
Creative people are creative because they see connections others don’t. It’s a waste of resources to attempt to do their job for them. Instead, a great client provides information and defines the parameters of the challenge. A good creative partner will be a good problem solver. Having a client who provides insight into the problem helps the creative team find a unique solution.
The other error is to think that a “brand” is just a logo—a brand is every single way an organization is presented to the public. That extends beyond the communication program all the way to answering the phone, designing the office and making hiring choices.
How has digital technology impacted the value of rebranding?
I’d like to reframe that question and say that differentiation among brands has never been more important. It’s difficult to stand out when there are so many competitors trying to get our attention. People tune out as much as they tune in.
Just consider this in terms of “television.” Television is Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and YouTube, maybe an HBO app— cable and broadcast are old school. Someone might experience your brand via a huge screen or a phone that fits in the palm of her hand. There are also giant screens that are experienced in public environments. It’s mind boggling how many ways there are to access the content they provide.
On top of all of the potential delivery systems to consider when shaping your brand, competition is fierce. The same technology that has created so many choices has also created low barriers for entry in most business sectors.
Can you rebrand just a portion of a company’s image, such as their website, while keeping their logo the same?
Yes, it happens all the time. Often, logos are tweaked because some aspect has become dated. Sometimes they just need a little Botox. Look at GE and Chase, for example. If you were to do a historical review of their logos, you would see that they are unchanged in principle but tweaked over the decades. The New York Times logo is another great example of this.
Often the expression of a brand is not necessarily in the logo but in a campaign that is built to communicate the organization’s core values. GE is a great example of a brand that represents innovation and has looked at multiple platforms through which to communicate that message. Here’s their positioning: GE imagines things others don’t, builds things others can’t and delivers outcomes that make the world work better.
That is the brand. GE communicates that message better and more consistently than almost any other organization. The “brand” is not just about the logo, although the logo is central to the program—the brand is the corporation’s core values.
GE uses a range of media. But I have to point out something they have done that is new and highly innovative: look at GE’s Instagram campaign. It takes the viewer on a digital snow globe journey. It’s a brilliant way to use social media to reinforce the brand and its core value of innovation.
So to answer your question, branding is not just a logo, it is multiple items that work together to communicate core values.
Lynda Decker is the founder and creative director of Decker Design, a brand communication agency that helps professional service brands differentiate their practices to gain market share. She studied in the Executive Education Program for Design Leaders at Harvard Business School; has a MFA in Design Criticism from School of Visual Arts; a MFA in Communication Design from Syracuse University; a BFA in Graphic Design from CW Post College. She is currently co-chair of the Women Lead Initiative of the AIGA.
This is the second in a series of interviews with experts whose work relates to online reputation management.