Published: 4 February 2011

Branding: where to start?

Athena Lamnisos offers 10 top tips for rebranding  

At Forster we’ve been looking at a number of mind-stretching naming and branding briefs recently.

Businesses that have merged, some that have changed their purpose, others that just aren’t achieving the reach and recognition they feel they deserve.

From grappling with these briefs, exploring the challenges and opportunities and really listening to what clients want to get for their money, we’ve put together this list of top tips:

1. Set realistic targets for what a "rebrand" can achieve

It won’t change your customer service like food colouring into water and it won’t – on it’s own –  clarify your business objectives and reason for being.

2. Take an inside out approach.

Start with employees first. The heart of brand must exist within your team. They must be engaged throughout the rebrand process – understand why it’s needed, what it will achieve and the thinking behind the recommendations. If your staff don’t believe in it, your public audiences certainly won’t.

3. Collect independent evidence and research on which to base your recommendations.

Tingling in fingertips and assumptions about what will work with your audiences is not a robust foundation for your renaming. Current and prospective customers, audiences and stakeholders should be at the heart of your strategic branding recommendations.

4. Keep it real.

A rebrand can be aspirational but it must be true to what an organisation does, says and seeks to achieve. You can’t give a brand facelift when what the business needs is reconstructive surgery.

5. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

You must make sure that you understand the equity that exists in the current brand and name. It might need a refresh but changing everything might not be the best or most cost effective solution.

6. Compromise.

Not on your brand promise or on the quality of the execution but all names are compromises, as no name suits all the people all the time. The solution needs to be logical, rooted in audience-centred research and true to your mission, vision and values.

7. It’s what you make of it.

A brand and name is more than a combination of the words within it. It is what you make of it: it’s how you ‘live’ it, how it’s articulated and visualised. It doesn’t have to make sense as a stand-alone set of words.

8. Be flexible for the future.

A brand isn’t static; it should be fit for future business development and growth. Always ask the question – can you live and grow with it? What might we deliver in five years’ time and will this name and brand still fit?

9. Standing out is critical.

Differentiation is a key requirement in every rebrand brief. It’s critical to map the competition, be crystal clear about the business offer and analyse exactly what will give the new name and brand stand out.

10. Get an independent, expert view. 

As consultants, we would say this wouldn’t we, but bringing in a fresh external perspective that allows you to see with new eyes is critical to finding the right solution.


Athena Lamnisos, board director, Forster

In a varied consultancy career across the public and voluntary sectors, including nine years at campaign charity Friends of the Earth, Athena has specialised in strategic communications.