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How to make your company rebrand go smoothly, according to a graphic designer [Interview]

How to make your company rebrand go smoothly, according to a graphic designer [Interview] Blog Feature

John Becker

Revenue & Features Editor, Co-host of Content Lab, 15+ Years of Writing and Teaching Experience

August 5th, 2020 min read

If you’re a company considering a rebrand, you probably fall into one of two buckets: You’re doing this because you want to, or you’re doing this because you have to.

But whichever the case, entering the rebrand process means navigating unfamiliar waters.

You likely have questions about duration, scope, and what external resources you’ll need. You want to make sure you do it right and that you don’t skip any steps.

Thankfully, Kate Rooney, brand director of Design Pickle, is here to help.

An experienced graphic designer and a veteran of numerous rebrands, Kate has hard-won insights that can be useful no matter what’s prompting this strategy shift for your organization.

Here, she addresses common pitfalls and offers advice for companies looking to pivot.

Who is Design Pickle?

John: Can you start off by telling me what Design Pickle does, and what you do for the company?

Kate: Design Pickle is a flat-rate creative subscription service. We offer graphic design for a flat rate for businesses everywhere.

Design Pickle was created to fill in that gap for companies that need designs or creative services, but maybe can't afford in-house or agencies, or are having a hard time managing freelance, creative support. 

We started out with just graphic design and recently expanded our scope into custom illustrations.

In the future, we'll have some other creative services beyond just graphic design and illustrations.

I'm the brand director there, so I act as the gatekeeper and strategist behind our brand voice and outward image.

I also develop all of our creative marketing campaigns and make sure everything that's created adheres to our brand standards and our brand voice.

John: Where are you guys located and how big is the company?

Kate: Our headquarters is in Scottsdale, Arizona, but we have a remote team all over the world. I live in California, we have about 30 people in the U.S., and then we have almost 400 designers and production team members around the globe.

Heading into a rebrand

John: Describe the emotional state of most companies considering a rebrand. 

Kate: There are so many factors that can go into this, but it breaks down into two different categories: a proactive rebrand versus a reactive rebrand. 

If you’re an organization that's expecting a ton of growth — maybe you're expanding into different markets or expanding internationally, expanding product lines, or  merging with another company — that would be a proactive rebrand. 

In those cases, companies rebrand from a place of hope — hoping to attract a new audience or a new target market.

A recent example of this was Diet Coke. They rebranded their cans to attract a younger audience.

diet-coke-flavors

(Source)

They wanted to attract millennials, so they made these fun colors and streamlined shapes. 

Other companies have done reactive rebrands. We've seen a lot of this in the past few months, especially reacting to certain events or circumstances that could lead to the decision to rebrand.

What we've seen recently are reactive rebrands based off of negative publicity, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement prompting companies to understand that their brand has maybe been perpetuating stereotypes.

Aunt Jemima has been in the news for rebranding for that exact reason.

John: It’s kind of amazing that it took this long.

Kate: Right? It's like, why did we just let this happen? But the change is happening now, so here we are.

Proactive vs. reactive rebranding

John: As an expert, as a consultant, as a designer that works with companies in this situation, does your approach change if it's a proactive or reactive rebranding?

Kate: Rebranding is really such a broad term. It covers everything from starting from scratch and rebuilding everything to just changing certain elements about your brand. 

It could be just one department working on it, or it could be Aunt Jemima having to change their brand from the ground up.

Really, your approach as an outside expert draws from the reasoning behind the process, but it certainly feels more positive when it’s an elective rebranding as opposed to a reactionary rebranding. 

The power of a brand promise

John: Going into a rebrand, what's one thing companies should keep in mind?

Kate: Having a really solid, deep understanding of your brand story and the brand promise is crucial. 

Changing just your logo and your colors is one thing, but being driven by your purpose and your values will be a lot more effective. 

It's not just slapping on a new color; it’s really about where your brand comes from, what it stands for — and not in just a fluffy way; really believing in it and coming from that angle is so important.

John: How do those sorts of introspective processes take place? Is this something that should happen before a rebranding kicks off? 

Kate: Yes, I think it should really be your starting point, especially if you're coming up with a new brand.

That core messaging is going to drive everything else — from the decisions you make, to choices about your actual messaging and brand voice. You need to sit down with stakeholders and go over that. 

rebranding-tips

One practice we've done is sitting around a table and discussing our ideal employee.

We actually named one employee who's just an amazing person and an extremely hard worker. And then we listed out his core characteristics and developed those into our core values, because we realized we would love to see every person who works at Design Pickle share those attributes.

That can help you with your core values and what you stand for, but then, your brand identity is why you're doing what you're doing. What problem are you solving, and what promise are you making to your customers? 

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a brand promise.

Anything you say or represent is a promise to your customers or potential customers. So even if you're coming up with something like a slogan or a tagline with your rebrand, you want to have those other elements in place first.

Common rebranding pitfalls 

John: What are common mistakes you see companies make during this process? What gets overlooked?

Kate: The biggest one is just not having that strong brand promise or brand identity in place. 

Second is understanding the time and effort a rebranding will take. It can't just be slapping on some new colors. 

Another thing I see overlooked is just making sure that all the guidelines are documented and enforced. This requires communication across all departments to make sure all of your new assets are readily available to everyone. 

One more thing that often goes overlooked is having a brand voice.

When people think of the rebrand, they often think of the design aspects: the colors, the fonts, everything like that, but there's also your brand voice. What does the messaging sound like? Is it more polished or more casual? 

Think of your brand as a person. What would they be like? Who would they hang out with? How would they write an email? That’s your brand voice.

What does a rebrand timeline typically look like?

John: What timeline should companies expect to follow — and what are the factors that would make this longer or shorter?

Kate: It's so hard to give an exact time because there are so many factors. 

It all depends, but a smaller organization could take a month or a few months, whereas a global enterprise could take years to complete a full rebrand.

But a lot of it is dependent on your team, team size, the number of people involved in making the decisions and the experience levels they have, and whether or not you choose to do it all in-house or have outside support. 

Additionally, some companies may be starting from scratch, while others are just changing some elements about their brand.

Do you need outside help?

John: When companies are considering rebranding and are looking for outside help, how can they evaluate that help and determine a good fit?

Kate: It can be pretty unnerving to seek outside help, especially because you may be really emotionally tied to your brand. How can you find the right partner to help you develop something so crucial? 

Your needs will depend on how big your rebranding is going to be. Is it a full rebrand? Is it just certain elements of your brand? Are you just updating your logo?

Some other factors to help determine what you need: How big is your marketing team? What kind of creative talent do you have in-house? 

An agency is likely to cost a lot more, so leveraging your internal resources would be best for your budget.

If you want a huge, dynamic rebrand, it may be best to seek an agency. To do so, always evaluate their portfolios, and check to see if they have a proven track record of success.

You should make sure you actually like the work that they've done, and note the variety they’ve demonstrated. 

Remember, you should be evaluating them as if they were applying to work for your organization — because they really are. 

At the same time, make sure you get a very good idea of the process, resources, and other logistics. 

How much will you be involved in the process? When should you expect updates? Do they do weekly calls? When you’re outsourcing something, you want to know the full plan. 

The thing about rebrands is that even “small” projects are big projects. Once you are in the process, there’s a lot of stuff you have to tweak and change. It’s easy to forget about business cards and your letterhead, for example. 

The moral of the (horror) story

John: Do you have any rebrand horror stories that you've seen that you want to share?

Kate: I love this question! A lot of people who work for a startup know the growing pains that you go through and the fast pivots you make — and sometimes you don't make the best decisions.

About two years ago, we were sitting around a table at Design Pickle doing a product summit. 

I can't remember how this even got brought up, but someone came up with the term, the graphic design cloud. At the time it sounded so cool. It was like, “that's so high tech, it's such a buzz word. Let's do it.”

So, we just went all in and didn't didn't approach it pragmatically. We did not do any research or do any testing. We didn't even consider how it aligned with our values.

It was just kind of like a pipe dream, but we spent months building it into our website, changing all of our messaging, spending thousands of dollars on collateral for it. 

And then a few months later, we realized it wasn't going anywhere. It became really clear that it was way too confusing. It didn't really exemplify what we did or what our services were. 

We really just thought it sounded cool. So we ended up scrapping it overnight. It was a lot of time, money, and resources spent — and we laugh about it now. That’s the thing we joke about now. But it was definitely a horror story for me, and I learned my lesson. 

John: How can companies avoid their own “graphic design cloud” blunder?

Kate: Even though a rebrand can feel daunting, you don’t have to go it alone. Whether you’re facing a proactive or reactive rebrand, Design Pickle’s unlimited graphic design subscription service can help speed up the process. 

Unlike design marketplaces or freelance resources, Design Pickle ensures that all of your content is on brand with our smart designer-matching process — all of your requests go to one dedicated designer who gets to know you and your company.

All Design Pickle subscriptions include unlimited revisions, unlimited brand profiles, and native Adobe source files. The best part? All new signups are backed by a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.

If you’re ready to level up your current brand or get help with your next rebrand, sign up for any Design Pickle plan today and get 30% off your first month using code IMPACT30 at checkout.

Find your perfect plan and start making requests today.

Sign up for Design Pickle

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