Million-dollar brand makeover on a shoestring

Hiring a specialist to give your brand a health check can be expensive.

Here are some ways to cut costs without cutting corners.

Any business can start to feel and look a bit tired.

A rebrand might be the answer to regaining a competitive edge, but for many small business owners the downside in time and money can be an obstacle.

Also, changing a proven strategy or brand positioning can be risky. Even businesses that invest millions in a rebrand can come unstuck.

In 2010, clothing label Gap reportedly spent US$100 million on a new logo design to make it appear more modern. It was forced to withdraw it in less than a week, realising too late that it was so disliked by customers that it made them disconnect from the brand they loved – and restored the old logo.

Clearly, if it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it, as the likes of Kraft, PwC, Pepsi and many others now realise, having all endured multi-million dollar rebranding flops.

For business owners considering a brand makeover, there are lessons to be learned from these and similar debacles.

No matter what your budget, due diligence is essential.

The basics: conduct research and consult your customers.

If you’re still not sure what to do, stick with what you know has always worked. Remember, brand equity built over years could be at stake.

“Often businesses make decisions assuming they know what is best for their brand, but making brand decisions in a vacuum is very risky,” warns Daniel Herndon, principal of branding agency MilesHerndon.

Conduct a brand audit

Looking at your brand through the eyes of existing and prospective customers provides a quick but accurate assessment of its strengths and weaknesses.

And because SME owners generally have closer relationships with their stakeholders than larger competitors, it can usually be done without breaking the bank.

Seek feedback on what customers think, feel and expect when they see your brand, either by phone, a web form, email surveys, or social media.

Once you know what is or isn’t connecting with your customers, you will some ideas on how to move forward.

A successful makeover isn’t just about changing a logo or tweaking a name once every five or 10 years.

As the guardian of your brand, conduct an annual brand audit exercise on a regular basis to manage and maintain its health.

At a minimum, a brand audit should assess:

  • your website, its purpose and ease of use
  • your target market and product niche
  • main competitors
  • the perceived uniqueness of your brand versus competitors
  • brand strengths and weaknesses
  • new branding opportunities
  • current and predicted industry trends.

Aim for consistency

“Brand consistency is vital,” adds Herndon. “In addition to the ‘look’ of the brand, it’s important that SME owners also consider language and message.”

This means integrating branding changes into social media, sales tools, email templates, signage and décor. It also means making sure your staff understands the changes, what they mean for the brand, and can communicate that to customers.

Using responsive web design techniques optimised for local searches is also important. If you can’t afford a designer, perhaps consider an upgraded WordPress setup.

Brand experts say it can take months of planning to execute a successful brand relaunch. Given business owners’ time constraints, moving incrementally could be a good idea.

Making slight strategy, marketing and logo tweaks over long periods can also minimise the risk of alienating existing customers. If you take this approach, make updates as quickly as you reasonably can to reduce the risk of communicating conflicting branding messages.