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So you're thinking about refreshing your brand...

That means either: a) you've grown to understand the importance of a truly compelling brand and your current one doesn’t fit the bill or b) you're just tired of it. In either case, most brands can benefit from a light refresh--if not a complete overhaul--every once in a while. Here are the whys and hows.

Does Branding Even Matter?

I can’t believe I have to say this, but yes, yes...a thousand times YES. Branding matters.

Until a customer is able to form some kind of emotional bond with your company, their relationship with you is purely transactional. (Yawn) Excellent branding transforms a boring, sterile relationship into an emotional one by imbuing your company with personal qualities not normally attributed to inanimate objects (which is what your company is until it has a brand.)

By the way -- logos and colors and fonts do not a brand make. Those are expressions of your brand. A brand itself is a collection of qualities and personality traits that -- listen up, this is the important part -- resonates with your target audience.

Why Branding Matters

Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?

It doesn’t matter how well-defined and compelling your brand is; if it’s not something your target audience can relate to, it’s useless. 

How well do you actually know that audience? When was the last time you evaluated it? Pivots happen in business all the time. Maybe you started your company selling X Y and Z, and down the line pivoted to focus on only Y. If your business pivots, chances are your brand might need to as well. Your target audience may have changed, even if only slightly. You’ll need to speak to them in a different way. 

The most important thing your brand can do is appeal to the people you want to buy things from you. (Groundbreaking, I know.) This means that you can’t be everything to everyone. 

Be Not Afraid

The process of refreshing your brand will present an avalanche of decisions. Being hyper clear on your niche and your audience will make it a million times easier to make those decisions.

Whenever I see a company waffling endlessly on a decision during the rebranding process, or generally refusing to get specific about its niche, it tells me one thing: they are afraid. 

Appealing to everyone is appealing to greed. Companies who won’t bravely own their brand identity are afraid that by telling the world “This is us!” they’ll close the door to revenue and other audiences. 

Fine! Let ‘em stay closed. My (and, by extension, Tako’s) approach to customer relationship-building is focused on quality over quantity. It’s better to have a small group of highly engaged and emotionally connected customers than a large pool of “meh.”

Trying to be everything to everyone results in a vague, boring brand that, at the end of the day, no one relates to. Instead, focus on defining very specifically who you want to be and how that identity is going to interact with your audience. Lean all the way into it, and the finished product is sure to resonate much more authentically with your customers.  

TL;DR, solidify your identity and then own it.

Brand Identity

Does Your Brand Need a Refresh?

Let’s find out! There are a few reasons the answer could be “yes”:

    • Has your brand been exactly the same for a long time? Maybe it’s gone a bit stale and needs to be updated to “get with the times.” Personally, I think most brands can benefit from a review every 5-6 years at minimum.

      (It’s sort of like getting microdoses of Botox over a 20 year period so you can “age gracefully” instead of waiting until you’re 65 and sprinting to the surgeon’s office, only to walk out looking like a different person...who has been sandblasted. Possibly near a jet engine.)
    • Have you had to make a pivot in your business and sell something new? Are you now serving a different audience as a result? Yep, your brand needs to pivot too. Case in point: Dunkin’ Donuts expanded their menu well beyond those simple breakfast delights, and rebranded in 2019 to just Dunkin’.
      Dunkin Before and After
    • Has there been a structural change behind the scenes? If Dunning & Moore have recently completed a bitter divorce, does it really need to stay Dunning & Moore? What about Dunning & Co. instead?

    • Have you just...outgrown it? Maybe you MVP’d this shit to get it out the door and, with time and experience, you’re finding out that the first iteration isn’t so hot.

If any of that is sounding familiar, it's time for a change. Here's how to give your brand a refresh.

Yup, I’m Gonna Talk About Target Audiences Again

Let’s get one thing straight: I am NOT suggesting you sit down and learn everything you can about your target audience and then, in a vacuum, artificially reverse-engineer a brand you think they’ll like. Most modern consumers can smell a lack of authenticity from a mile away. 

You do need to think about your audience, obviously, because you’ll be speaking to them. The key is balancing and adapting the brand you want to be with the audience you’re trying to engage and delight.

There are tons of resources out there to help you figure out who your target audience is. “Customer personas” is a popular approach that, tbh, drives me nuts. I agree that there is some utility in it, but why spend so much time inventing and analyzing fake people if you can just go...talk to the real thing? Focus groups, interviews, and small group surveys are a much better way of getting to know your customers one-on-one.

If you’re not a member of your target audience, find a way to get to know them. Understand their struggles on a personal level and think about how you can fix them.

Decide How Much You Want to Change

Are you looking for a total overhaul or just a light refresh? If you're married to a certain color or logo, identify that. It’s okay to keep things; in fact, I recommend it! Retaining elements of an old brand as you transition into a new one can prevent consumer confusion and serve as a nod to your past while embracing the present.

That said, keep an open mind. The team you work with might make incredible suggestions and if you’ve got your blinders on too firmly, you could miss out on something great.

Team Collaboration

Arm Yourself

Please, I beg you, do NOT proceed to Step 4 until you have thoroughly completed this one, which is: arm yourself with ideas, inspiration, and the language to express your thoughts accurately.

Start looking around for inspiration, and jot down your own ideas. Look up brands that you admire, respect, and enjoy as a consumer yourself. Try to figure out why you’ve bonded with them.

Expose yourself to different sources of creativity and be open to new things. Dribbble.com is a resource I highly recommend. Just hop on there and start adding things to your Favorites list. Don’t overthink it; just add whatever appeals to you. Later you can go back and identify patterns or themes that come up repeatedly.

Lastly -- and I say this on behalf of creative departments everywhere -- use specific language wherever possible. Saying “I want it to have pizzazz” could mean a million things and will only inspire your team to jump headlong into a river. Vagaries set you up for failure because your team won’t even know how to hit the nail on the head. They’re working in a dark room with blindfolds on.

Get Help

You can probably do a rebrand yourself...maybe...but why would you try to tackle a big project alone? Hiring an A+ creative squad brings new blood and fresh ideas to the table. It avoids the “fishbowl effect” of being so involved in your own business that you lose objective perspective. 

In my experience, having talented designers and artists on your team always takes the project to the next level. It doesn’t matter how creative I am or how many years of branding experience I have; when I sit down to work with our designers and illustrators, I always walk out of the room with something better than what I arrived with. Creativity at this level is a collaborative effort.

Growth Machine

^ A recent Team Tako collab

Be open to suggestions from your team. You hired great people (right?), so let them do what they do best.

March To The Clang of Your Own Cowbell

Sometimes you can get too wrapped up in Step 3. Looking externally to find sites, fonts, and color palettes we like -- especially those of other brands in a similar space -- leaves us vulnerable to merely mimicking others.  

Don't be afraid to be unlike your competitors. Over the last 10 years I’ve seen a rash of Millennial-focused/founded brands pop up that, to me, are virtually indiscernible. Hims and Bite come immediately to mind: pastel colors, serif font, even their favicons are similar.

Hims and Bite

Be authentic. Stand out.

Marinate On It

The last step before releasing a new brand is marinating on it. Sometimes you have to sit with a new idea for several weeks in order to really feel it in your bones and know that it's right. 

Ask for feedback. Show it to your personal and professional networks and get honest feedback. That's not to say that you have to change things based on someone else's opinions, but the validation or rejection you encounter can be telling. 

Validation = Yay! We’re on the right path! 

Rejection = Did I pursue this brand identity for a personal/internal reason that doesn’t make sense in the same way to others? 

Better to spend a couple of weeks marinating and making small changes as necessary, instead of going full speed ahead and having to change things (with greater hassle and expense) later.

I Know of What I Speak

We just went through a rebrand at Tako, and it followed every step I outlined above. Our reason was this one:

    • Have you just...outgrown it? Maybe you MVP’d this shit to get it out the door, and with time and experience you’re finding out that the first iteration isn’t so hot.

The artworks on our previous website were stock illustrations from a pack anyone could buy. As a result, I kept seeing them pop up in social media ads and on other websites and I realized, “You know what? We’ve grown past this now. It’s time for something unique.” 

I got to skip Step 1 by virtue of -- well, I do this day in day out. We know who our peeps are. 

In Step 2, we decided to hang on to the original logo (because it’s funky and different) and the cornerstone “Tako orange.” Everything else was up for debate.

Step 3 involved lots of scrolling through Dribbble and following my own advice, mashing the “Favorite” button on anything I liked for any reason. When I went back to start identifying themes, I realized that my wishlist featured several pieces from the same artist: Yogatella (AKA Denisa). I found myself continually going back to her page and admiring her work.

When it came time to Step 4, I roped her onto my team and we got to work. After 2 months we had collaborated on nearly 35 completely unique illustrations, which you can now see all over our site.

Denisa became a key player in our rebrand because she understood who we wanted to be as an agency: playful and fun; creative and approachable. Her work was so impactful that it triggered a series of other changes in line with the vision she provided.

First, Hazel (a Takito designer) updated our color palette and fonts to match the new vibe. Our previous visual aesthetic leaned heavily on the bright Tako orange accented by purple, white, and gray. 

Tako Colors Old

This being a little bit too Halloweeny, Hazel pulled together a palette that was anchored by the same orange (see? continuity) but featuring other bold players. The result is fresh, sophisticated, and...happy. 

Tako Colors New

Hazel went on to design our new homepage and blog pages, Ekrem came in swinging on the Migrations page, and Caleb transformed the About page. 

In the 2.5 years I’ve been at Tako, we’ve overhauled our website 3 times. This is the best iteration yet, and I’m convinced it’s because this was truly a team effort. 

After the new site was unveiled, a newly onboarded client gave me the best compliment I could’ve asked for: utterly unprompted, she said she chose us over other agencies because of the design of our site. She could tell we are creative, down-to-earth people who don’t take ourselves too seriously. 

(Emma’s title is literally Ops Wizard and we send new clients Tako Takeout Boxes filled with tiny dinosaurs and socks that say “This meeting is bullshit.” I mean...come on.) \

(P.S. that’s how to own your brand identity.)

What better validation can you have than your exact target audience reflecting your brand vision right back to you?

Itching for a rebrand and convinced that we know what we’re talking about? (We do.) Want a Tako Takeout Box of your very own? (Of course you do.) Drop us a line.




Topics: Business