Much like the makeovers we see in romantic comedies, everything happens against the protagonist’s will and often leads them to realize they loved who they were before all the glam. Sure, it forces them to reevaluate how they really see themselves at their core and what is worth keeping of their self-esteem, but only after struggling through an entire movie’s worth of comedic failures and half-baked attempts to fit in that turn into embarrassing debacles.
Branding is no different.
The Exciting Realization that You Were Always Right
Since COVID-19, we have received an unprecedented number of requests for rebrands and website redesigns. It’s always been obvious to the marketing managers that these companies needed professional help. Their in-house teams couldn’t handle all the work, but nobody wanted to invest in outside help.
Now, The Powers That Be at the top have finally come to the realization that the internet isn’t going away, and they had better clean up the company’s online presence ASAP. Or, it’s the new marketing manager or creative director that has come in with new ideas as to how things should be done or displayed. Most of the time, they’re absolutely right.
Bring in the big, expensive guns! The agencies! The freelancers! The outside opinions that just confirm what the in-house marketing person has been saying for years!
However, for a company or an organization (especially one with decades of bad graphic design baggage and a dozen departments that don’t talk to each other), this may be the most costly, unwanted makeover of your life. Why?
It’s easy to see when the brand is lagging behind or running as fast as it can just to stay in place instead of planning ahead. But it’s also easy to overlook the systems that have been in place for as long as the organization has existed. Breaking people away from those systems and habits could crumble your entire, beautiful rebrand.
How Does the Fall from Grace Begin?
Your in-house team has worked with an agency or outside influence on a rebrand. Now you’re like the shy girl in the movie that discovers bright red lipstick, and suddenly you feel like a rock star. It’s time to go out on the town and win that hot guy (or big proposal) you’ve been eyeing for years.
Your business cards all finally match. Your website has parallax scrolling, an intuitive mobile view, and a cohesive color scheme. The lady in HR has signed a form committing to never, ever use Comic Sans in her emails again.
You think you have enough templates in place. You don’t. You never do. Someone from outside marketing has requested something to post on social media using a sample that’s in a format from 2003.
“Just change the date on this,” they say. “It should take you five minutes, so we don’t even want you to open a ticket for it.” Or, worse, they don’t even want to pay to have it done because it’s “easy” in their eyes.
There’s no obvious way to redo it in the new style, so you’ll have to call on your in-house designer or your usual freelancer. It’s going to cost money whether it’s inside the company or not, and it’s definitely going to take more than five minutes to redesign.
So, you give in. You figure this is just one item you can ignore for the sake of keeping up your productivity. You get bullied into slapping the new logo on the top and changing the date, and off it goes into the world.
You think, “The colors are close enough. I don’t have time to rethink its function or flow or whether or not this even needs to exist in this format. It’s fine. I don’t want any trouble.”
Maybe not a lot of people see it, as you expected, so you chug away at the other items on the list that need redesigning without giving it a second thought. These are the real, important things: proposals, email workflows, landing pages, targeted ads….
Then someone from another department knocks on your door a few days later. They heard from the first rebel without a cause about how you let something slip past your gates without opening a ticket or making a big fuss to enforce the new design. The good ole boys who think their charisma is what sells the company have no time to wait for you to redesign their pieces. Departments start going rogue and use their own freelancers to “save you the effort,” but it’s ok because they have the brand guide you built! They’ll at least get the colors and fonts right.
You are now the hole in the fence, and the animals are breaking out. You try to round them back up, but you’re in those fancy new heels and lipstick. You’re tripping on the heels and the lipstick is smeared on your dress. This romantic comedy metaphor apparently takes place near a farm.
How to Stop it From Going Wrong
Like everything else in this industry, communication is at the core of success. It’s easy to work in a silo the whole time, trying to avoid the evils of Design by Committee. Many rebrands have died before they ever left the ground floor because there were too many cooks in the kitchen.
The truth is that while it’s important to listen to the people who’ve been at the company the longest, it’s also important to note that you’re listening to them for processes. If you trust in a real creative agency or a dedicated team member that has your company’s well-being at heart, that understands your history and where your company could go, you have nothing to fear when it’s time to go to the company for initial research.
You need to know exactly how designs fit into every aspect of your company before you launch. We don’t mean that you have to have a template for every possible situation. You don’t know what you don’t know you’ll need. But you can listen to how every department does business and implement a Phase I, Phase II, Phase III plan that makes sense.
What’s more, once you know what items are coming up and require priority handling, educate your entire staff on why the rebrand is happening and how it’s going to improve processes over time.
Colors and fonts are all well and good, but other departments will never care about them the way you do. Yes, things look nice, but how do they work to make employees’ lives easier?
Converting Brand Champions
Employees will care if you explain how you’re using color to differentiate sub-brands so customers don’t get confused. Maybe the traditional fonts reference the origins of the company, so your audience will understand that your business succeeds because you’re trustworthy, and new photos better illustrate your product’s ease of use. Your sales team will care if interactive PDFs or integrated CRMs help them focus more on giving personalized attention and less on formatting social media graphics. They probably didn’t know how to use their LinkedIn accounts anyway.
Once you’ve explained to them how the design is going to benefit their everyday goals, you can slowly turn them into brand champions. They’ll fight for your way of doing things, not because it looks good, but because it makes the company as a whole easier to understand to outside consumers. This is true across all industries.
Good brand launches need everyone on board with the direction and to understand that they are helping explain why the company does what it does in the most intuitive way possible. If it’s too hard to get everybody in a room or on a Zoom, record your presentation in a way that speaks to individual departments and send out links to view it. Put the brand how-to guides on the company intranet, and make it a rule that new employees are trained in the brand and the new processes as a regular part of onboarding.
Of course, we assume that the employees care about doing a good job and finding more effective ways to sell the concept of the company. If they checked out years ago, you’ll never really get them. They’ll always want to do the least amount of work possible because they can always skate by. If too many people in your company have this attitude, please just move on. Don’t ever let it take away your capacity to care. Apathy is the poison that leads to bad design, and, ultimately, being dissatisfied at your job.
Still, we have hope that you’ll find that one person in each department that will fight for the new way of doing things for the years to come. Much like a gym buddy, they’re there to motivate you to keep going. Don’t lose the conviction that you’re doing what’s right for the company.
If brand don’t evolve, they die, especially in this economy.
Rebrands are, at their core, an act of love as much as a saving grace.