How to make a normally jarring transformation go down silky smooth
There’s a reason that “identities” is right there in our company name. We believe that a company’s brand is an integral component of its long-term success. How early in your company’s development you need a strong brand varies from one industry to the next, but sooner or later, you have to have it in order to make the conceptual leap, in the minds of potentially lucrative customers, from “little guy” to “kingpin.” But while creating a strong brand from scratch is one thing, evolving from an old brand to a new one can be tricky. Here we discuss the finer points of converting an old brand to a new one.
The biggest gear shift: your logo
Splitting the difference: this client was remembered for years for her “purple house.” The house remained, but everything else got a needed upgrade.
It is a sometimes unfortunate truth that people learn to identify your company as much by your logo as they do your name. Those who start their businesses with poor-quality logos are therefore presented, at some point in their company’s growth, with the tough decision of when to suffer the continuity break of switching to a logo with which their existing customer base won’t be familiar. With very few exceptions, it is always going to make sense to go ahead and make that change as soon as you’re able to do so. After all, the longer you wait, the more impressions of the old logo are made on prospective or existing customers’ minds, and the more jarring a logo revision is therefore going to be. If you believe in your company and have a mediocre logo that you know that you’re going to have to change, do it now.
That said, it is sometimes possible to redesign your logo in a way that makes it more professional and maintains the general form factor of the old logo, allowing you to maintain a high degree of consistency from the old brand to the new one. The tweaking of fonts, letter spacing, line quality and color are occasionally all that’s required to take your identity to the next level. Don’t hold out for this option, though – not all logos can feasibly be turned into a strong, corporate-quality brand. In most cases, it’s best to just bite the bullet and start fresh.
Smaller fish: your stationery & business cards
Our feeling is that this deliverable may as well be second in line, since it inherently must follow the logo development and won’t take nearly as long to complete as the website. But just because these are simpler, less time-intensive projects doesn’t mean that they are “throwaway” pieces. You have the opportunity here to create something that demonstrates your company to be at the top of its field, rather than a small shop from down the street (assumedly, you want to be evolving toward the former). Imagine your company as that industry cornerstone. What would the card of that company look like?
The big kahuna: your website
Your website isn’t necessarily the most important representation of your brand, but it is the most comprehensive, since it displays: your logo, your overall style, your textual delivery, and the bulk of your content. This makes it, in most cases, the most complex component in a rebranding effort. It’s usually, therefore, the most expensive component to replace, but the good news is that you’re not beholden to your client base in terms of keeping the new site consistent with the old one. Redesigns happen, and unless you offer a web-based service where end users require a high degree of interface consistency (i.e., Facebook), they will understand and easily adapt to a revised layout and informational structure. So for the most part, the opportunities here are wide open.
Visual design aside, there are other considerations that go along with building a new website. Technologies and standards evolve over time, so it’s probable that a number of available delivery options and marketing techniques will be new to you. The use of call-to-action (CTA) buttons, content management systems (CMS), social media, light box viewers and mobile-friendly editions have become fairly universal and easy to implement these days, and most comprehensive site redesign projects will make use of most of them.
Those are the most important aspects of a small- to medium-sized company brand redesign. No one can guarantee that the rebranding process will be easy, but with clear expectations, a positive attitude and the right team, it will be well worth the investment of resources. On the other side of the project, you can expect to hold your head high. Your company is wearing shiny new duds and will be turning heads in no time.
Whit Gurley is the owner and chief design geek at Angled End.