Hello, and welcome to another episode of Brand it! Today, I want to respond to a question that was asked over on one of my Instagram posts:
About how often do you find is an average time between upleveling a brand? Or is it less about time and more about something else?
I want to point out before we start that in this episode we’re not talking about a full-on, all the bells and whistles rebrand, but rather about making smaller adjustments to ensure your brand feels up-to-date and relevant. So, for the purposes of this episode, we’ll say you want to change things up a bit, but essentially stay true to the essence of your brand. And we’re talking about the visual side of your brand, not the deep strategic work.
With that in mind, whilst I’d love for there to be an easy answer to this question, like “yes, every three years!” I’m sorry. The answer is: there is no set interval for when you should refresh your brand. If you invest some time getting things right first time round, you should have a brand that serves you well for years to come, one that evolves slowly and incrementally over time rather than you having to start from scratch every so often. What I see time and time again, is that when the strategic foundations are poor (or non-existent), there’s always that constant urge to change things up. Which of course does you no favours when it comes to brand recognition. There are times when a complete rebrand and new direction are called for – strategy, visuals and all – but in those cases it’s generally more about brand misalignment or change in circumstances than it is about following fixed regular intervals. I touch briefly on some of those reasons in episode 2, but I feel like maybe I should elaborate more in another episode? If you’d like that, get in touch and let me know!
There’s never a right or wrong time for a brand refinement. Or a right or wrong reason for doing it. A strong corporate identity can last for a decade or more, and trust me when I say you really should avoid changing your visual brand too often – the only thing you’ll achieve is weakening your brand recognition and familiarity. But on the other hand, letting things go stale isn’t great either. I mean… you don’t want your brand to look dated. (Remember those avocado coloured bathroom suites… I’m guessing you don’t want your brand to be one of those?)
While keeping things fresh and implementing little improvements here and there will help your brand stay relevant, you really want to avoid big changes to your branding too often. If you’re always changing things up, your audience will have to “get to know you” all over again, and again, and again… And that urge to change things up, to tweak that brand, that could potentially be a symptom that something isn’t quite there yet with your brand’s foundations. If you thought I was going to let you off without talking about brand strategy… you were wrong. I always keep coming back to strategy.
A brand strategy is a long-term plan for the development of a brand, in order to achieve specific goals. So you first need to know what you want to achieve with your brand, and then cook up a strategy to help you reach those goals. Typically you’ll look into things like: Your brand’s vision and mission; the reason your brand exists (beyond just making a profit). Your brand values; what your brand stands for. Your brand positioning; what’s your sweet spot in the marketplace? Your brand promise; how you help your clients. Your brand personality; how you show up in the world.
Many of these things are intangible, so if you’re having a hard time understanding what brand strategy is and what specific value it has for your business, I don’t blame you. At. All. I mean… how do you measure how successful you are at getting a certain personality across? Or if you’ve been successful at standing for your brand values? But just because you can’t put a specific ROI on brand strategy, it’s an integral part of any business – and I promise you that it will contribute to your overall success.
At the heart of a successful brand strategy is knowing why your brand exists, what purpose it has in the world, what it stands for, who it serves. Once that is in place, the more tangible parts of your brand, like the logo and the fonts and colours, will fall into place a lot easier. You’ll have a clear sense of direction and clarity, which will help guide every business decision as you move forward.
And that in turn means, that when you have a visual brand identity that is rooted in a solid strategy – you usually won’t need to refresh it as often as you would without that strong foundation. Because when you’ve looked at the bigger picture and the long term goals, and used those to guide the design of your visual branding – chances are it’s going to stand the test of time!
Nonetheless, sometimes you do need a brand refresh. So what determines whether it’s time? Here are a few pointers:
Your brand makes people feel like they’ve travelled back in time. I’ve used a house metaphor before when describing a brand, so you’ll just have to excuse me for continuing on with more of the home renovation references. You know that feeling when you walk into someone’s living room and it hasn’t been redecorated since the late 90s? And all you can think is how horribly dated it looks? Yeah. That feeling. As trends and tastes change, that can affect people’s perceptions of your brand: what was once modern and fashionable, can now just make people see you as stagnant and out of touch. This is one of the main reasons why I advise people to not be too influenced by current trends when they create their brand identity – but rather to lean more towards a look that suits their brand’s personality and brand values. If your brand makes people feel like they’re transported back to Monica’s apartment in Friends, and that wasn’t intentional, you might wanna consider refreshing your brand.
Your visual branding no longer feels representative of who you are. Businesses evolve, and their branding should too. If you’re a few years into your business journey, you’re most likely not in the same place as when you started. Maybe you’ve pivoted, maybe you offer different services, maybe your ideal client has changed or you narrowed down your niche? If you, like so many other new business owners, didn’t have that long term strategy in place when you started out, you may find that your logo and visual branding no longer reflects what you do and who you do it for now. If you’ve outgrown your visual branding and it doesn’t feel like you anymore, it’s time to bring things back in line. A brand refinement can help you achieve that.
In all honesty, and for the sake of keeping things simple, you can just take a good look at your brand, and if your gut feeling tells you that something is “off” – then it probably is, and you should think about making some changes.
And when I say changes, remember this is about adjustments to your visual brand, not a total overhaul. Consider this maintenance work more than a full-on transformation – because if you need a total rebrand then we’re talking a whole different game plan. And we certainly can’t cover it in a short podcast episode!
If you think of some of the bigger brands out there, say… Coca Cola for instance. Everyone knows Coca Cola. Google them and see how their brand has evolved over time, and you’ll find that their first logo and their current one look quite different, but you can still see that it’s Coca Cola. They didn’t just go from their first logo to their current one – they did it gradually, over several decades in fact, and with each logo iteration, something was carried over from the old into the new. And their distinct bright red brand colour, which I believe was introduced in the 1950s, has stayed with them since. This means they’ve been able to maintain brand recognition whilst still staying relevant and fresh.
In most cases, you’re not trying to change your brand entirely – but simply breathe new life into the visuals, so that they’re an accurate representation of your brand. If that’s the case, this “maintenance” approach is the kind of approach I recommend you take with your brand – unless there’s a real and valid cause for a full rebrand. In which case you will need to dig a lot deeper than just refreshing your look.
And what I will say, is that if you do find yourself constantly wanting to tweak things, that is a symptom that you should revisit your brand’s strategic foundations. Sticking to the home renovation analogy; slapping a coat of paint over layers and layers of cracked and peeling wallpaper is not going to give you the result you’re after. In those cases, you’re better off peeling everything right back to the core. And then – once you’ve got a visual identity that looks and feels like a true representation of your brand. and the outside matches what’s on the inside – then you can enter the “brand maintenance mode” I was talking about earlier.
So to go back to the question and sum things up: No, I don’t believe there’s a fixed time interval that dictates whether you need a brand refresh. If you took the time as you were starting out, to create a solid brand identity that is rooted in your overall brand strategy, then that brand identity should last you many many years – unless something exceptional happens that warrants a full change of direction for your brand as a whole.
(An example of such a situation could be how Mars Food was “forced” to change the name and logo of their brand Uncle Ben’s after allegations of racial stereotyping in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent uprise of the #blacklivesmatter movement. I’d argue that this change was long overdue and that Uncle Ben’s – ahem, Ben’s Original – should have been more proactive in their brand management. I got the sense that they were changing things because it was expected of them, it was more damage limitation than something that came from “the heart” of their brand. But that’s a different, important but different, topic.)
Coming back to the topic of today’s episode: Instead of thinking about fixed intervals, keep your finger on the pulse and listen to your gut feeling: if your brand identity starts to feel stagnant and dated, or if it no longer feels representative of your brand. That is when I’d consider tweaking things.
And: if you do feel like it’s time, ask yourself why. Why is it that your gut is telling you to change things up? That way, you can avoid entering a cycle of constantly painting over old wallpaper, and be sure that the changes you make will stand the test of time.
This episode of Brand it! with Petchy was brought to you by… my Brand it! VIP Intensives. These full-day sessions are perfect if you’re ready to bridge the gap between your business strategy and your visual branding, and get that brand strategy right once and for all.
If you’re a purpose-driven business owner who wants to just get things done, so you can get on with building that badass business of yours, but who can never quite seem to find the time or the focus to work on your own brand. If you (like me) keep getting side tracked by all. the. things. and you’re about ready to tear your hair out: this might be just what the brand doctor ordered!
During our day together, I will help you get crystal clear on the very core of your brand. I’ll help you figure out your brand’s purpose; why your brand exists, who you want to be and who you want to impact. Together, we’ll hone in on what makes you you, we’ll connect all the dots and we’ll uncover that unique brand personality that will speak to all the right people.
You will walk away from our session with a solid brand strategy in place, and the confidence to embrace your brand ‘s uniqueness so you can show up consistently as you. Every time!
Booking your VIP Intensive before the end of July 2021 gives you access to a special intro price of €997 – you can read more and book your spot over at petchy.co/vip. And if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me!
Until next time,
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