Account Director, Nick Friend, shares his first article.
As a brand, standing out in any cluttered market place is tricky business. There’s often little to differentiate brands in the same sector. It’s true, they offer similar products or services – but it’s how they package themselves that will differentiate them.
A brand identity is a company’s public face and a successful rebrand involves overhauling goals, messaging and culture - not just a look and feel. Look and feel is a key part of any rebrand, however it’s only surface deep. Ensuring your brand stands out from others must go far deeper than the ‘shop front’ for people to believe it. Your audiences are both your employees, internally within the organisation, and your customers and they will both want to back a business which is pushing boundaries, creating something new, exciting or challenging.
As an analogy, imagine a 65-year-old lady who wants to look and feel younger – she might decide a face lift is the answer to her prayers. And initially it might make her appear younger from the outside, but if she doesn’t change her behaviour and act the way she wants to look – it’s not believable to anyone and she’ll soon realise that people don’t see her any differently. She needs to embrace the change in everything she does. It’s the same with brands – a new look and feel will give the brand a new lease of life for a time, but to have any sort of longevity it needs to be more than just a visual treatment – it must connect in some way in order to become trusted and, eventually, loved. Therefore, it needs to be a much braver movement involving everyone for it to make any sort of serious step change.
Some rebrands fail because they never really get buy in internally (often a lack of understanding or communication) or because it’s not planned properly – without research or reason. A rebrand requires the whole business to take part and embrace change. This means that from the outset you need to have complete clarity about what the new brand stands for, how it works and what the vision is. Perhaps hold a creative workshop so employees can play around with it, have some fun and really start to believe in it. If they believe it, that will come across in everything they do – how they go about their day, how they talk about it, the work they produce and the energy in the work environment. Everyone will be a guardian.
Its sometimes more difficult for educational establishments who have a long history and heritage behind them. And it’s important that they don’t forget this - it gives them that gravitas and reassurance that some of the newer training centres simply don’t have. Why would anyone throw away decades of brand value (which actually shows up on the balance sheet as an intangible asset)? But with heritage comes a fear of change and the unknown – employees may have worked there for many years and can be institutionalised and set in their ways. So, its paramount that these people are brought into any rebrand process early, ensuring that they are part of key decisions so that they feel their views are being taken on board.
There is of course a certain balance for education establishments between showcasing their past and modernising and looking to the future. But in the current climate – with the Apprenticeship Levy, hikes in tuition fees and more and more options for higher level executive education – they simply must change, and quickly. Otherwise they will get left behind, well and truly in the past.