Read this before rebranding

March 19, 2019

Rebranding is an exciting and challenging process. Pulling it off successfully requires several ingredients. You'll need collaboration skills, defined business goals, awareness of your competitive landscape, and empathy with your audience, to name a few. There's one more (rarely discussed) ingredient essential to a successful rebrand: self-awareness. 

I've noticed three recurring roadblocks during rebranding projects. These roadblocks can stall out a project. The good news is, you can avoid these roadblocks before the project begins with reflection and preparation. Below each of the three roadblocks I've listed a key takeaway to help make better brand decisions.

Roadblock 1: Looking for "the one"

Letting go of an old logo is hard. The longer the company has been around, the more difficult this can be. Logo's are containers for our feelings, associations, and experiences with the brand. These containers keep filling up with time. The more experiences we have with the logo, the stronger the connection. We develop relationships with people the same way.

Stakeholders of all types can put impossible burdens on a new logo, because they are comparing it to the relationship they have with the old one. Upon unveiling, there is an expectation for it to"feel like the one" or have some "magic." 

New logos haven't had time to build a relationship with the company or its stakeholders. Relationships grow with time and repeated interactions. This fact is true for people and logos. When you view a logo for the first time, you should ask if it is graphically and strategically sound. Beyond that, you will be searching for a connection that it can't yet provide. It needs time to grow and develop its own set of meaning and memories. Fail to understand the role time plays in establishing a connection, and you will have a tough time committing to a new logo, simply because it's new.

Takeaway: Give it time, and it will become "the one."

Roadblock 2: Subjective tastes and dislikes

Decide not to enforce your personal aesthetic preferences. Your logo is not an art project. Design it with specific criteria and goals in mind. 

Ideally, you should hire someone whose aesthetic sensibilities you trust. By that I mean: you actually value their expertise and know-how when it comes to visual design. Find a design partner who thinks strategically and trust them to lead you. If you don't believe your design partner can understand the visual needs of your company better than you, then why are you hiring them?

If you feel tempted to tell your designer to change the logo design because you don't like the color orange, take a second, step back, and ask yourself why you hired this person/agency. Good brand decisions aren't based on the CEO's favorite color or aversion to specific styles. Those things aren't relevant.

To put it bluntly, it doesn't matter if you personally "like" your logo. Your logo is a business tool. Consider the contextual environment in which it will live; it's competitors for attention, and how it will stand out in the mind of its audience — not if it fits your personal style. If it's distinct, memorable, appropriate, and ultimately effective, then you should like it.

Takeaway: Detach personal aesthetic preferences from the project in favor of business goals.

Roadblock 3: Attempting to over communicate

The primary function of a logo is identification. You want customers to be able to recognize it, remember it, and describe it to someone else.

It's easy to assume the logo should communicate what your company literally does. But trying to infuse the logo with literal meaning puts too much pressure on one symbol. It can't communicate all the specifics about your business.

The truth is, even if you wanted to, you couldn't control what the public thinks about your logo. People will project their own associations, sense of meaning and experiences on to your brand.

I was a songwriter in a past life. It was always entertaining to hear other people's interpretations of the lyrics I wrote. Quite often, the meaning they took from my lyrics wasn't even close to my original intent. Some of their interpretations made me sound more thoughtful than I was. My other songwriter friends have had similar experiences.

The same thing happens with logos. People bring their worldviews, experiences, and associations to your logo. You can't control that. Instead of over communicating, create a logomark that will stand out in your market. Let customers fill it with meaning as they interact with it. A robust visual identity can handle all the different interpretations of your audience.

Takeaway: Prioritize identification over communication with your logo.

Before you jump into a rebranding project, read this guide and reflect on how you will decide upon a new logo. Practice these takeaways, and you will make healthy decisions for your brand.

2023 - Zach Janicello

2023 - Zach Janicello