Published: 4 November 2016

Keep your brand alive

A rebrand is just the start of the story: a one-off project. After it comes the need to curate the brand to keep it strong for years to come with a long term commitment. To survive, brands need to be agile and willing to adjust to trends. 

Fit for relevant channels 

Nothing has made a bigger impact on the way we interact with brands in the 21st century than Apple’s iPhone. It entered the market less than a decade ago in 2007, changing our communication habits forever, giving us a new way to engage with brands at our fingertips and set them free from print formats and desktop computers. 

To keep your brand alive, it must work seamlessly across multiple platforms. It goes without saying, yet I’m amazed by how many brand guidelines still don’t cover channels that are now commonplace, such as favicons or web, video and social content. A notable example is English Heritage which brought its brand to life with a new responsive website after becoming a charity in 2015, to help keep the story of England alive.

You may have noticed a succession of brands that have refreshed their identities from 3D to 2D design so the brand works better across multi-channels: Netflix, PayPal, Microsoft, eBay and Deliveroo. Even BT is getting ready to shift its brand for the first time in 13 years. If the full logo won’t fit into a small space, modern brands create a shortcut, like Google’s multi-coloured ‘G’. 

Modern brands like Airbnb and Uber are quick to embrace change to fuel their success. Charities can be nervous about investing in changing the brand, but it’s possible even on tight budgets. Adam Petrie from Shooting Star Chase told us at the last Brand Breakfast how the charity has evolved and refreshed its brand guidelines to address early teething problems. Cancer Research UK has also been optimising its brand continuously since its rebrand in 2012. 

A flexible framework  

To keep brands alive, we need to rip up the traditional brand management rule book. The brand police are dead and so is clinging to consistency. 

Consistency has a place for smaller charities which need to build their profile. But to survive and thrive, bigger brands need to work for a range of audiences and products, requiring a degree of flexibility. Coherent messaging around why the brand exists is still essential and there needs to be creative parameters and brand architecture to experiment within. Consider how you structure and present your range of products. Most successful charity brands, like Cancer Research UK, now operate a flexible design framework rather than imposing strict guidelines.  

It also means demonstrating to colleagues how the brand can meet their needs and empowering them to embrace it, so brand managers have enough time to evolve the brand strategically and creatively. A welcome shift from control to more creativity.

Keep focus 

The desire for spontaneous awareness is a common source of confusion. Instead, we should focus on measuring our brands against core target audience segments and in relation to competitor media spend across channels. Few of us have the budgets of the market leaders but we shouldn’t lose faith. Even leading brand campaigns start with the basics and are designed with a well-targeted audience in mind before confirming budget. 

Airbnb targeted professionals visiting media and tech conferences, before refreshing its brand to broaden its appeal to holiday makers. Under Armour and Facebook built their appeal with universities before going universal. Uber and Snapchat used simple media tactics to build a core group and let their appeal grow organically, building faith in the product before investing in paid-for media. Even Facebook didn’t invest in above the line advertising until it had a substantial market position to defend. 

There’s no point investing in developing a brand unless you are measuring it against key metrics and audience segments, including online sentiment. To keep it fresh, I’d also recommend regular brand audits – or health checks – to identify and rectify any hiccups.

Branding should be fun and creative, so let’s embrace it.

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Dan Dufour, brand strategist, The Team

Dan is one of the sector’s leading brand strategists. He has worked on brand development across all sectors including Rightmove, London 2012 and Cancer Research UK. He's best known for his award-winning work across all corners of the charity sector, including Shelter (Design Week Award), Parkinson’s UK (Design Effectiveness Award), RSPB (Third Sector Excellence Award) and Scope. Dan established CharityComms Brand Breakfast, proudly supported by The Teamand is an author of our best practice guides to branding and integrated communications.