In this article I discuss the corporate rebrand I led for Datasine (acquired by Shutterstock). I will share insights and learnings of what brands must ask before deciding on a rebrand.
This is the second of two articles on the Datasine rebrand. Read part 1, The story of a rebrand: How to build a brand with a purpose (and set it up for growth opportunities).
More often than not one of the first things I’m told when entering talks with an organisation is, “we want to rebrand”.
Startups in particular love to rebrand. It’s cool – I assume?
For a marketer, there are few more exciting projects than leading a rebrand. The idea and responsibility of leading the change in how a brand presents itself and the mark it leaves on the world is most marketers’ dream.
However, often brands fail to understand the magnitude of the rebrand process.
A rebrand is not just new colours or a new logo, it’s a full rethink of who the company is. And unless leadership back a complete rebrand, it will likely just be a waste of time and money
What is a brand — and what is a ‘rebrand’?
Before even beginning the rebrand process, it’s important to align your definition of ‘brand’. I ask our Art Director, Stephen Taylor ( Heat Design ), for his definition of a ‘brand’.
“You can’t define a brand with a single definition,” he tells me. “It’s a misnomer — that a brand is a: name, logo, identity, service or product.”
“Simply put, a brand is a constellation of experiences perceived in the heart and mind of the customer. Every time a customer engages with your company, these experiences grow.”
This ‘constellation of experiences’ is something Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also identified in one poignant sentence during his 2012 TED talk: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Branding requires an elastic consistency across all its touchpoints. This stretches far beyond the look and feel of your website, logo or marketing channels. It involves the internal and external culture of your organisation, including, but not limited to, your companies’ values, hiring process, office ambience … I could go on.
But the essential point is that brand is not a marketing channel. So, what is a rebrand? That’s simple: changing up all these things with a defined goal in mind.
“A rebrand is an excellent opportunity to review, refresh, and refine a companies business strategy and vision,” explains Stephen.
Authenticity = Self-knowledge. Brands who know who they are, and what they stand for, start the identity process from a position of strength. They create a brand that is sustainable and genuine.
‘Why’ do you want to rebrand?
Once you’re aligned on the definitions of brand and rebrand, it’s time to ask why the company wants a rebrand.
A rebrand needs to be done for the right reasons. It can’t be a vanity project, nor should it be done just because someone on the board doesn’t connect with the look of your logo or the website.
For the most part I’ve found that these issues come down to a misunderstanding or simplification of what branding is, or — in more cases than not — because the current brand hasn’t been activated properly or defined to its full extent. This doesn’t necessarily mean the company needs to change the brand, instead they need to work on embracing it more.
I generally conduct three steps before casting my vote on whether or not to go ahead with a rebrand.
1. Sit with the decision-makers
Ask the company’s leaders what their understanding of a rebrand is, why they want one and what they’d like the rebrand to be in order to find out why they want/need that rebrand.
2. Review the current brand
You can’t understand whether a rebrand is needed without looking closely at the current branding. So find out about its origin and about the internal / external perception of the brand. This process of reviewing perception of the brand is something Stephen also advocates.
“In the early stages, make sure all key decision-makers are involved and don’t be afraid to ask the newbies for their opinion,” he advised. “We found this to be one of the most effective ways of getting everyone engaged, and it gives you a fresh perspective.
“Send out a customer questionnaire to get feedback on the company, revealing the good things, and not so good,” he adds.
I’d also suggest reaching out to your colleagues, friends and your professional contacts to ask their opinion as this will give you external insight, too.
If the old brand is not working, you’ll need to know why to avoid repeating the same mistakes with the new brand.
3. Engage with the wider organisation
Ask employees if they know who they are as a company and what their mission is — are they all aligned?
At Datasine, asking “do you want to rebrand?” revealed that the current brand wasn’t fully implemented and changes in the team over the years led to inconsistencies across many of the tangible (and intangible) touch points.
But what was more telling was that, as a young, fast-growth startup, time was never spent on defining who we are, and who we aspire to be.
4. What is your organisation’s DNA and brand purpose — why do you exist?
Defining who you are — what your company’s DNA and brand purpose is — is the most important part of a rebrand. Sitting down as a company and identifying exactly who you are and what your mission is will help you visualise a rebrand with more clarity. Stephen also advises asking “Why choose your company over another? Where do you want to be in say 5–10 years?”
A great advice at this point is to start with your Why. Simon Sinek’s now famous TED Talk on the ‘Golden Circle’ and the question of “Why?” is at risk of becoming cliche when we’re talking about branding. But that’s only because the advice is so helpful to companies trying to find out exactly who they are.
Having the answer to “Why do you, as an organisation, exist?” is mission critical and opens a lot of doors, facilitating a successful rebrand and allow . celebrating your brand as an experience for your audience.
What struck me at Datasine right from the start was that they had an innovative product and a team with big vision and laser-focused aspirations, yet none of this was effectively communicated to the outside.
The branding didn’t match the company, either internally or externally, and it took asking these questions, and really thinking about the answers, to find going for a new brand felt just righ.