Embarking on a brand refresh is not a journey you should take lightly. It’s fraught with peril, can result in reputational damage, and can cost you far more than the stack of cash you spent months getting sign-off for.
On the turbulent high seas of B2B – where much of what we do is too defined and many are resistant to change – the task is even more daunting. B2B companies are like huge ships, weighed down by decades-worth of established process and branding legacy, meaning they can take a long time to turn around.
But if done right, a successful brand refresh can course-correct a B2B brand adrift – unlocking new revenue streams, establishing brand differentiation, and forming long-lasting emotional connections with clients and employees. But where should you start? Here are five critical steps for a B2B company considering a brand refresh.
1) Do you even need a brand refresh in the first place?
Before even whispering the words ‘brand refresh’, you need to determine whether it’s actually the right move for your business in the first place.
As any brand marketer worth their salt will know, the secret to a successful brand strategy is in its unwavering loyalty and service to the overall business strategy. Understanding how your brand helps deliver your business strategy is the first step in determining whether it should be treated to a refresh or even a full re-brand. So determine whether your brand satisfies the following criteria before going any further.
- Contributes to the financial welfare of the business
- Positively influences the purchase decision
- Creates loyalty among clients and employees alike
2) Determine what needs changing, and why
A brand refresh doesn’t necessarily have to involve throwing out the baby with the bath water, otherwise you run the risk of changing too much about your brand. Hone in on the valuable elements of your brand – i.e. the historically-important components where the brand equity sits. This exercise of separating what provides value and what doesn’t will quickly expose which areas of your brand need changing.
Once you’ve identified the elements that need fixing or changing, it’s critical you understand how they affect your clients and employees. That’s where the tech comes in – using analytics and user behaviour research, you can mine data-driven insights to understand exactly how you’re going to approach change.
After you’ve defined your strategy and developed your new brand value proposition, it’s critical to test it. For example, if you’re looking to exploit an untapped market and your new logo or brand value proposition doesn’t appeal to them, it’s no use spending thousands of pounds on a refresh, only to find out you’ve alienated the demographic even further.
3) Be brave enough to be different
How many times has a B2B company sunk hundreds of thousands of pounds – along with unimaginable amounts of people and resource power – into a brand refresh, only for literally no-one to notice? It’s why being brave enough to create something different is the key to standing out in such a crowded marketplace.
But it’s a tricky balance to strike. Marketers are an emotive bunch. If we’re given complete, unadulterated rein over a brand refresh, there’s a risk we’ll sink too much of ourselves into the exercise and lose sight of the strategic focus. The typical outcome here is a brand that’s been too far shifted away from its essence, which can erode its value and alienate existing advocates.
But on the other hand, if you’re too rigid and stifle your marketing team’s creativity, the brand refresh will feel forced and disingenuine. You have to find a happy medium between the two.
4) Know what success looks like
Come launch day, it’s important to remember that everyone is going to have an opinion, regardless of whether they’ve previously had a relationship with your brand or not. Social media has given everyone a platform to express their thoughts, so laying out what success looks like ahead of the launch will allow you to placate that flustered exec who is panicking about some negative feedback from Joe Bloggs on Twitter.
Taking a data-driven approach to measuring feedback and user behaviour will allow you to pivot your strategy if necessary. Brand changes can be emotional, so take the emotion out of a refresh by agreeing the business outcomes prior to launch and use that as your north star. This will help you, and your executive team, not to buckle under subjective feedback.
After all, it can go wrong. We, as marketers, have to accept that. It’s how you respond to that potential misstep that carries the most weight. When Dropbox revealed a complete brand overhaul in 2017 to promote itself as more than just a file-sharing platform, the result was met with an emotional response from users. Many criticised the fact that Dropbox seemingly abandoned the simplicity that once made the brand great.
Instead of blindly persisting despite the negative outcry, Dropbox used a data-driven approach to identify the issue and made the brave decision to quietly and effectively tone down the re-brand. Because the team had identified key metrics at the outset they could pivot and confine any business damage to a minimum.
5) Bring your employees along on the journey
Having your entire employee-base – not just marketing – onboard is one of the most overlooked considerations during a brand refresh. Seeing the brand they’ve poured their professional lives into undergoing a fundamental change can be a very emotional process for people, especially if they’re fierce advocates of your brand. It is, therefore, down to us marketers to meet that existing emotional connection with a new emotional connection. It’s something we should be pretty good at, after all.
Your people need to feel like they’re in control of and have provided input into the change, and are not just cogs making up a wheel that would keep on going with or without them. If you don’t do this, they’ll feel like the change is happening to them, and they will criticise it publicly.
To succeed, you can’t ‘logic’ people into loving the brand, you have to create an emotional story around what your brand stands for. A brand refresh actually represents the perfect opportunity to tell your employees the brand story, from beginning to end. You’ll only get this chance once, otherwise it will feel like a banal induction.
But, if done correctly, you’re creating a whole new breed of passionate advocates who will staunchly defend your brand.
In 2015, Dimension Data became the Official Technology Partner of the world’s most prestigious cycling race. Five years later, and the Dimension Data brand is more recognisable than ever, with the Tour de France partnership helping to transform brand opinion and successfully reposition client and prospect perceptions.
Join Marisa Jansen van Vuuren, brand director at Dimension Data, at B2B Marketing Ignite on 9 July to learn how a sports sponsorship campaign has helped transform a humble systems integrator into a major global technology provider.