I spent the major part of last week in Rhode Island on the jury panel for the 2008 Rebrand awards, a yearly award series that offers companies the highest possible recognition for brand rebuilding and redesign in the business arena.
While the winners we finally agreed upon cannot be revealed until March of next year, the process of meeting with business, marketing and design minds from a range of different places and backgrounds, and of considering the applications submitted by over 100 companies that have recently engaged in substantial rebrands, is worth a brief glance.
My first thought when I walked in to one of three table-lined rooms at the Rhode Island Foundation (formerly a train station and hence fittingly large) was a resounding Oh No.
Thick binders covered practically every surface inch of the long tables that extended across the room. There were table loads of information explaining what the rebrands consisted of, with pages of before and after examples of the company, product or built environment, both before and after the rebrand. We spent the entire day reviewing these.
It was fascinating. There were instances of companies that had revamped, or at least attempt to revamp, not just their look, logos, and taglines, but also their organization’s focus, target audiences, training programs, models of customer interaction, and the entire culture of their organizations. Materials submitted included photographs, pictures, sketches, promotional material, apparel, and videos. Fascinating and mind-boggling.
The criteria we based our decisions on were as follows:
•There had been a clear transformation for the better
•The rebrand had exceeded expectations or incorporated an element of surprise
•It spurred an emotional connection
• The rebrand had been intelligently executed and was capable of being
The final round of judging was unsurprisingly characterized by a range of different perspectives. First of several jury members suggested the addition of further criteria: whether there was a rebrand at all, whether the story behind the brand had changed, what the larger impact of the rebrand was, and perhaps whether a company was a little guy with limited resources or a large company with lots of money to splash around.
The range of comments, focuses and favorites also shed more light on how, although primarily from a design background, the jury members all had their own distinctive approaches.
Roger van den Bergh, the Founding Partner of design firm, Onoma, displayed an innate propensity to judge from a micro-level: fonts, lettering and logos and typography were what caught his attention and swayed his decisions.
Katie Sprague, Vice President of RTKL and of an architectural background, was more concerned with follow through: “A brand is all about translating a promise and getting it into a built environment – making it a living, breathing thing.” Her stand resonated well with the rest of us.
Frank Kelly, President & CEO of Arnold Worldwide, repeatedly questioned whether a brand was telling a new story, or whether it had just revamped its look and feel.
Diane Hessan, President of Communispace, gave an emphatic speech about how brands are “bigger, loftier and more important that just the visual elements.” Her major focus was on trying to unearth the core values that formed an impetus for a company’s rebranding efforts, “to hear the insights behind what drove things.”
In the end, five winners were arrived at after several rounds of debate and discussion: all displayed a substantial change that was in line with their objectives. Check back on rebrand next year to find out who these were.
Apart from the wining, dining, and general networking that ensued from all of this, I left the jury session having truly developed a deeper appreciation for the multitude of factors companies need to consider when performing a rebrand. Some of the major takeaways:
Rebrand comprehensively: if you’re a firm that wants to go more upscale for instance, rebranding your logo without also changing your model of customer service is unlikely to be successful. Don’t get me wrong – a lot can be achieved by changing your look and feel; just don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re “rebranding.”
Ensure that you follow through: You can make all the changes you want on paper, but if users aren’t seeing them, feeling them and believing in them, you’ve wasted a lot of time and money. Implementation, on all levels, is key. Don’t just tell customers you’ve changed; show them you’ve changed.
Consider your business objectives: Write these out in block letters and stick them in front of you. Never ever lose sight of the purpose of your rebrand. Every single decision should be made within the context of what you are trying to achieve. Only then will your rebrand be effective.
Aim for consistency: Ensure that all marketing materials, and all facets of your organization portray consistency and embody your brand message.
Don’t get carried away: Being original and different, and generating a lot of media buzz is great, but don’t implement change just for the sake of publicity. Good, solid brands that attempt an unnecessary facelift can dilute themselves in the process.