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May 17th, 2016

When Is It Time To Update Your Identity?

I’ve never been a proponent of change for the sake of change. There needs to be a compelling reason for change. Yet the adage: “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” can also be shortsighted. There’s a time and place for everything, and certain changes are inevitable. Including with your brand identity. A change should be a signal, an indication to your constituents that something is different, new, or needs attention.

So how do you know when it is time for an identity update? What are the key drivers to think about when considering the update? Let’s hit a few reasons that may be relevant to your business.

1.  Your audience has changed.

Are you still selling to the same customers you were 10 years ago? Has your product line changed? Are you in new channels of distribution? Has your target moved? Has your customer’s target changed? You may have started out with a tight focus on who you were trying to reach and why. However, success and growth has brought a wider point of view and audience. As a consequence, you become less relevant to your original target.

We once had a client whose brand was aimed toward the end user—the consumer of their service product. While they enjoyed growth and success, it was limited by the challenge of hiring enough of the correct service associates. We were asked to develop a recruiting campaign to increase the velocity of recruitment. However, what we found when we conducted our research was that the brand pointed the wrong way. By focusing the brand identity and message on the consumer, which was the geriatric market, the company was portraying itself as older and sedentary. The focus needed to shift to the young, entrepreneurial associates they were recruiting as their service providers. We helped them update their visual brand identity and all assets. The new approach reflected who the company really was and why they were in business. Consequently, the growth, vitality, energy, and overall culture of the business changed—almost overnight. And has continued to flourish.

2.  Your company has changed.

You’ve been in business for a number of years, and have built a successful enterprise. You’ve added personnel, locations, and new products. Your business has matured. The culture has changed. Not long ago, I spoke about continually evaluating your brand ecosystem because it is forever evolving, shifting, and changing with the demands of your goals. Your brand identity needs to reflect this evolution. How often have you been driving along and seen a truck or building with the same fleet graphics or signage of 20 years ago? Your first thought may be that that company hasn’t managed to keep current and wonder how they’ve managed to stay open. The reality might be that the company is enjoying year over year growth and success, but they just don’t look the part. Sometimes change is needed, sometimes not. Pay close attention to your brand identity and consider if you need an update as your business changes. Staying relevant and in the present will glean new customers, and maintain respect for the business you’ve built.

3.  You’re involved in Merger & Acquisition dealings.

A change in your business strategy is about to take place. You’re merging, acquiring, or preparing to sell. If you know where that change is going to take you, this could be the perfect time to reset and update your identity. Business and brand strategy alignment is always critical, but even more so when you’re working to be attractive to multiple constituents. Acquiring a business typically means you will have new products, services, locations, and channels of distribution with which to contend. Understanding the needs of your new customers, consumers, and associates can guide the possible changes of your brand identity. Research is a great tool to discover how the new brand foundation—purpose, promise, pillars, personality, and positioning—can reflect the compelling truths of your new organization. Use those insights to formulate a new identity system. Selling your business, just like your home, is usually more successful if you have the right curb appeal. Understand who you’re selling to and why. Who are their customers and consumers, and how can you position your business visually to be the most attractive? Especially important if you haven’t updated your identity in a while. After merging, you will be a different company. Culturally. Organizationally. Literally and metaphorically. Make certain that your brand clearly communicates and reflects the why of your new business.

4.  Your identity was bad to start with.

Are you reluctant to give out your web address because you know it looks bad? Do your employees never wear the t-shirts they received at the company picnic? Your identity is more than 40 years old and you can’t read the name because of the funky typeface used back then? Sometimes there are compelling cosmetic reasons to update your brand. Often the original identity no longer reflects your business goals, culture, and innovation of your organization. Legacy and heritage can be respected, but are no reason to live with a bad brand identity. We frequently talk to clients about the importance of building your brand from the inside out. That is, making sure that it’s reflective of the true character and culture of the business. The best brand ambassadors you’ll ever have are your employees. If they understand and believe in the purpose and promise of your brand, they will represent it better than any advertising campaign.

5. You’re getting beat.

Competition for share of mind and share of shelf is more intense than ever. You can now communicate the meaning and value of your brand to your constituents anytime and anywhere. Technology offers choices that never existed before. Make sure that your identity represents the meaning and value of your brand through every touchpoint and experience. And that it’s relevant to your audiences. Competition is treacherous and opportunities to capture brand loyalty are fleeting in today’s marketplace. However, if your brand and business are aligned, you can drive brand preference effectively today. By designing meaning and value into your brand identity, and then consistently and constantly monitoring it, you can build preference for your brand. And keep it.

Your brand can and should be one of the most valuable assets of your business. And your brand identity should reflect that value through consistent management and upkeep. For mid-sized manufacturers—the growth engines of America—this is even more important. You are competing every day. Make sure your identity measures up.

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