Our simple description of a brand is the meaning your audiences associate with your organisation. A less ‘consultancy’ description would be reputation. The activity of branding is there for the management of that meaning and the attempt to influence audience perception so that any associations they make are positive. A logo can be a wordmark, a symbol, or a combination of the two that triggers that associated meaning in the minds of your audience when they view it. So, your logo is part of your branding, but the thoughts or feelings it inspires are your brand. OK, lesson over.
Now that we’ve separated the logo from the brand, it is easier to consider how you might update one without touching the other. So, if you are being out-thought by your competitors, ignored by your customers or neglected by your employees, you have just cause to invest some attention into your branding; here are six alternative approaches to just changing your logo.
Make sure you have a robust brand strategy in place
A good brand strategy delivers two things vital to sustainable business success: clarity and alignment. It clearly articulates all the core tenets of your brand so that they can be shared easily with internal and external audiences and used daily as a driver of growth.
Your brand strategy should provide answers to five fundamental questions: “Why do you do what you do?”, “What are you trying to achieve?”, “How will you achieve it?”, “Who are you, defined in terms of beliefs and behaviours?” and “Where are you compared to your competitors?”. What you label the answers doesn’t matter; pick what works for you.
If you haven’t ever put pen to paper to set these ideas down, it is never too late to do so. If you have the answers, check they are still relevant, and then assess whether you are bringing them to life in every aspect of your business, not just the marketing department. If any area of your business activity is not contributing to amplifying your brand strategy, then change it. That way, although you may not have changed your logo, the associations it triggers when viewed will be more apparent and more positive.
Update your wider visual identity
Start by taking a long, hard look at your competition. Do you still stand out? Or have you all adopted a similar sector-appropriate visual vernacular? Where once you looked like a fresh alternative, have they all caught up?
Colour is a powerful identifier. Can you tweak yours to make it feel more contemporary, or would a more revolutionary approach be more effective? What about your typefaces? You don’t have to invest time and money to create a bespoke typeface, though that is an option. Google offers a wide variety of free typefaces – could you put together a combination that is more expressive of your brand’s personality, improves legibility, or helps make your marketing materials look more different from your competitors?
Take a look at your imagery. Is your website full of the same stock images that everyone uses? Could you build an image library of unique photography by commissioning a photographer? Could you create some criteria to apply when choosing stock images that would lead to a more cohesive impression across all your branded applications?
Does your identity system allow you to maintain recognisable consistency but enable appropriate adaptation for different audiences, contexts, or applications? You can increase the breadth and depth of your visual vocabulary by incorporating elements such as patterns, textures, shapes, and iconography. If you cover your logo, would you still know it could only come from you?
Of course, once you have finished updating your wider visual identity, you need to roll it out across all your branded applications, from your website to your interiors, presentations to packaging, marketing materials to merchandise.
Make it move?
You can’t escape from the fact that we live in a screen-dominated world. It’s relentless and dynamic. Adding motion is a great way to revitalise your logo, make it feel relevant, and help it get your brand noticed. It doesn’t need to be a Hollywood blockbuster, but it helps if the animation adds to the story your brand is trying to tell. If you are all about speed of delivery, you want some fast-paced action. If precision is your thing, the movement must be controlled and deliberate. Don’t save them for video; put them to work on your website, social channels, trade shows, and presentations.
Make on-brand life easier and more productive
For your staff, make sure the path of least resistance leads to an on-brand result. Rather than have a brand guidelines document that details how to set up a letter in Word or lay out a presentation, provide an easy-to-use template. If you have many document types or use a document management system, invest in customising Word to your requirements so that all the templates you need are held in a custom tab in the top menu bar, and whatever automation functionality you need is built in.
Use technology platforms that your staff are already comfortable and familiar with. For example, for a team tasked with creating content for your website or socials, create templates and a digital asset hub in Canva.
Give your staff access to a centralised brand hub, where all the logos, typefaces, colour palettes, imagery, other visual assets and guidance they require are easily accessible.
Pay attention to your tone of voice
If you don’t want to squander budget just to grab attention, if you want to inspire customer loyalty and motivate staff, if you want everything from your packaging or instruction manuals to your website and socials to contribute to the same clear story, then harness the power of language. Humans are language animals. We tell stories to share ideas and deepen relationships. Language is the fastest, smartest, cheapest marketing tool that most people don’t use.
A good tone of voice guide should work at three levels: a birds-eye view that doesn’t contain much detail but which sets out the overall narrative for your brand; a hilltop view where key defining features of how language expresses your brand’s personality are made apparent; and a ground-level view where the nuts and bolts of language use, such as punctuation, date styles, and a lexicon of approved terminology are set out.
Innocent and Oatly are famous examples from the world of FMCG, but consider how Virgin Atlantic differs from British Airways, or how Mini uses language in a way that is bang-on for them but which would be wholly inappropriate for Bentley. In B2B, businesses like Mailchimp and Slack use language to differentiate themselves effectively. Whatever sector you are in, managed correctly, language can be a game-changer for your brand.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes
This is often said but seldom done. Get under the skin of your business to see how various audiences experience your brand at every touchpoint and different stages in their relationship. Are you keeping your promises? Is the personality consistent? Are you living up to your values?
It’s about more than marketing materials. If any interaction does not support and amplify the meanings you want people to associate with your brand, then redesign the experience: scripts for sales calls, complaints procedures, the layout and content of your invoices, sponsorship activity, the cleanliness of your vehicle fleet, the onboarding process for new joiners – leave no stone unturned so that your still untouched logo now stands for an amazingly positive experience.
As an experienced branding agency, we can add value across the board. Redesigning a logo only becomes part of the scope of work if we and our clients think it is necessary. If you’d like to discuss any aspect of updating or creating a brand, please get in touch for a chat, with absolutely no obligation.
Call Andrew on +44 (0)1483 331250 or email email@example.com