Can branding ever be a once-and-done activity?

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If I didn’t love writing so much this could have been a really short blog post.

It would simple read, ‘Is branding a once-and-done activity?’

Followed by a blunt ‘No.’

And then a link to this image.

But, for me, writing is fun… when I’m caffeinated that is. So lucky you, dear reader, you get to enjoy another rant and ramble from the inner workings of Tess’ coffee-fuelled brain.

Today, I’m talking branding and how I’m never going to let you get away with putting this aspect of your business in the ‘finished’ pile.

As the Apple example above deomnstrates, your brand is an ever evolving task and should continually be refreshed, reinvented and just like those toenails of yours, treated to some TLC every once in a while.

After wrapping up a branding project for a new startup recently, our client exclaimed, ‘Phewww, I’m glad that’s done.’ Which sent the hairs on the back of my neck up like little soldiers standing to attention.

‘Done?’ Oh hell no, sweetheart. This is jusssst the beginning. Your branding is never done.’ If it were as easy as a quick; find something you like doing, create a logo and make money, we’d all be filthy rich. But you’re smart enough to know that that’s not how business works.

Instead, no matter how many style guides, brand formulas, clever logos, or sexy fonts you string together, there’s still work to be done. Yes, even if you’re the cool, of-the-moment, gotta-have-it and tell-all-my-friends-about-it ‘people’s’ brand nipping at the big dogs’ heels and stealing market share, (Hi Glossier!), you’ll still have to constantly evolve your brand.

There is no bringing a note from Mum to get outta this one, I’m sorry friends!

Why you ask? Because the only way a brand is successful is if it resonates at an emotional and instinctual level with its dream customers, day-in, day-out. BUT, your dream customers evolve and change too. Nothing is stagnant. Well, actually the only thing that is stagnant is a brand that hasn’t evolved, and if that’s the case it’s probably 6 feet under.

Branding is, for the most part, an intangible entity. It’s not your epic new logo, your flashy new business card or your shiny Instagram feed. It’s not even your website or your products or your services. Your ‘brand’ is what other people perceive your business to be or to represent. And as Seth Godin, the king of all things good and holy puts it, branding is “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. Your logo is a referent, a symbol, a reminder of your brand. But your ‘brand’ is a story, a set of emotions and expectations and a stand-in for how we think and feel about what you do.”

He took the words right out of my mouth. As Seth implies, when branding is done right, it has power. Power to shape perception, power to influence choice and power to spark a new conversation.

BUT.

(And there’s always a but, you should know that by now.) Your brand is only as powerful as it is relevant. A brand that evolves over time, continues to win over hearts and satisfy the ever changing and evolving needs of its community is a powerful brand.

The reason you need to evolve your brand comes back to the definition of a brand itself. As we know, a ‘brand’ is not your logo, your product or latest Instagram picture – despite how great the lighting was. No, a brand is the ethos and the community of people that surround your product or service. So if brand is about creating community then it’s about belonging.

But the only way to truly belong, is to stay connected. Which means you need to evolve at the same pace as your community.

Seth backs me up when he says, you should “spend 10,000 times as much time and money on your brand as you spend on your logo.”

Kareene Koh, partner at, Deloitte Digital, agrees failing to evolve your brand comes at a cost to your business, “Our survey found that businesses whose brands stagnated over the past year also saw their revenues fall by 13% on average over this period,” she said. “For a business with annual revenue of $1 billion, this represents a potential fall of $130 million in revenue.”

Both Kareene and Seth are my virtual homies. They get why I’m utterly obsessed with brand evolution and continuing to update and reinvent both our own brand and the brand’s of our clients. I’m sure I drive my team bonkers – I don’t think there has been a single week in the history of Smack Bang when we haven’t reviewed, edited or tweaked our website or an aspect of our brand.

Let me be clear though, when I talk about brand evolution, I don’t mean a rebrand. Heck – if I were doing that every week I’d have a gold star membership to my local psych ward. What I mean is a gradual, organic, you’d-barely-notice-it update of each aspect of your brand. Continually. So that over time, you ensure that you remain relevant and in touch with your community.

Re-branding can be an invaluable exercise and it can certainly do wonders for your bottom line. But it’s not something I recommend doing often. Instead, allow your brand to change slowly and gradually in relationship to its context. Let it evolve with relevance to your values, your products and your people. Make small changes at a time and evaluate them as you do. Maybe you’ve always used cursive type for your headings, but you’re starting to realise that that font is so 2017 or a little too Disney-like for your customers. It’s not going to spark an unimaginable natural disaster if you slowly introduce a new heading font. And, if a few months down the track, you feel like the new replacement font doesn’t work, you can easily and efficiently switch it back, without creating a brand disaster. That’s the beauty of doing things slowly and gradually, with caution and care. You preserve the brand equity you’ve created, whilst tweaking pieces of your identity to stay relevant and connected to your audience.

But before you get all tweenager-at-a-Tay-Tay-concert, jacked up on red frogs and a cocktail of enthusiasm, don’t go transforming every aspect of your brand so that it ends up looking like a patchwork quilt created at Burning Man. Steady on, Tiger. I said make small changes at a time. You don’t want to tempt yourself into a completely new look without a solid strategy and method to your madness.

 

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