I don’t have many answers to give in this post – just questions to ask.
By and large, I’ve been a fan of keeping brand consistency as much as possible – if you keep changing the name, the message, the logo, the promise, and the look/feel; well, then, pretty soon, no-one has a clue about your identity.
Because you’re not sure of your identity.
However – the fact is, we live in a rapidly-evolving time. If a company is going to manufacture clothespins forever, they might be able to maintain a single focus and brand. But for those of us who are entrepreneurs/SMB people, in fast-moving spaces like technology and communications, the issue isn’t so simple.
Our businesses often evolve quite a bit over the first few years. And, our marketplaces are shifting continuously. We might start with one offering, and end up in quite a different place; a derivative solution; a new vertical; unanticipated customers.
In fact, I’d argue that this is mostly a sign of health. Staying in one place on a placid lake is one thing, but trying to set anchor in a fast-flowing river is dangerous.
So when do we re-brand?
My simplest broad-stroke statement is that a re-branding is recommended when the identity and message you’re projecting outward no longer corresponds to reality (and I mean your current and your desired-future reality).
Let’s make up an example. You’re a small digital agency. You started earning your chops 6 years ago by creating slick Flash-based websites, and your name (WebWonderWizards) and tagline (We Dazzle UR URL!) fit your work and mission. But two years ago, a major client in the tourism industry, and then another, starting calling on you to do mobile apps, and pretty soon almost all your work had gravitated toward mobile development, and your domain expertise started to grow in one area – travel and tourism – where there was a ton of opportunity. Plus, the world is going away from the old web model toward mobile, and away from Flash and toward HTML5.
Is it time to re-brand? No-brainer. The name, the identity, the message – it’s all obsolete. And it’s even confusing. Instead of providing clarity to potential customers, you now have to waste time explaining how you’re NOT what you’ve been projecting about yourself. You haven’t dazzled anybody’s URL in a long time and don’t intend to anymore!
That’s a real simple example, but it’s not too far from what I often see. We start at one place, but circumstances and client requests and growing self-awareness and the current of the river bring us elsewhere.
So is branding becoming more unstable to some degree? Do we just bake that into our expectations?
What do you think? Is re-branding going to be more of a dynamic, repeated process? What should be the indicators that it’s time to make a shift – and what are the cautions to consider? How can we create brands that better endure through inevitable shifts?
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