New company name? New product? An old brand that needs a refresh?

If you’re in any of these transition stages, you know they can be tough to navigate. It’s like when you go through a bad breakup and feel compelled to change your hairstyle and reinvent yourself. Where do you start? Luckily for you, I’ve been through rebounding and rebranding and have your next steps all mapped out.

Define who you are

A good brand communicates a lot of things on a lot of levels. Way before any design gets done, you should determine what you want to communicate about your company or product. Eventually, you’ll need to bring in an internal designer, agency, or freelancer. So get prepared to answer these questions:

  • What does your company/product do?
  • Who is your target market?
  • What are your values?
  • Why do your customers love you?
  • If the company/product were a person, how would you describe them?
  • If the company/product were a person, how would they talk?

Draw a clear line about who you aren’t

Like that post-breakup makeover, a rebrand is all about the change and what makes you unique. It’s important to take an even deeper look at your company or product and think about how its identity is differentiated from its old self or its competitors. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Who are the main competitors?
  • Why do potential customers go with someone else?
  • What typical values aren’t important to your company/product?
  • If the company/product were a person, what’s something they’d never do?
  • If the company/product were a person, what’s something they’d never say?

Gather the right people

Branding is a very collaborative process, so hopefully, you haven’t been tasked to rock this project solo. From the start, a successful branding project should involve 3-5 key team members. If the team is smaller than that, you’re probably missing out on important direction, ideas, and feedback. If the team is bigger than that, you’ll probably run into analysis paralysis and be drowned in competing thoughts. Make sure each team member has a deep understanding of your company or product, the marketplace it competes in, and maybe even some basic understanding of design. Most importantly, know how you’re going to make the final call — who is the decision-maker?

That said, branding does impact the whole company, so you probably want to think about how to involve more folks to improve buy-in with the end result. Maybe there’s an optional survey when you’re close to your chosen logo concept. Maybe there’s a big company-wide release party when the new brand launches. The sooner you think about these things, the smoother it’ll be down the road.

Find the right partner

Bringing in strategic and design expertise to help with a branding project can be daunting. How do you know you’re picking the right partner to create your company’s very public image? While vetting agencies, make sure you really grill them on the following:

  • What’s your process for coming up with a brand? If they don’t have a well-defined set of steps to understand your company and its audiences, it’s a red flag. Also, look for agencies that are willing to show multiple ideas and concepts. Anyone who promises to nail it on the first try is full of it.
  • How do you handle feedback? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t want an agency that will take and implement every single piece of feedback. You’re hiring the agency for their expertise. Look for signs that the company will challenge your teams’ ideas and tell you when and why something might not be a good move.
  • How have you been successful in the past? Make sure an agency has a wide portfolio when it comes to branding work. Do all the projects sort of look the same? Or does every brand feel like it was carefully and thoughtfully created to reflect each company’s unique aspects? Sure there are design trends that probably carry through, but similar typography or colour throughout a portfolio should be a red flag.

Good luck and happy (re)branding!