Realizing that it’s time for a rebrand is the very beginning of what can be an intensive process — especially if you’re an agency, like us, and you’re doing all the creative and technical work yourself. From the moment we decided to revisit our branding to the day our new website went live, Trekk’s recent brand refresh took about five months.
Can a rebrand be done faster than that? You betcha. We faced the same challenge that virtually every other company faces: it’s easy to delay working on your own brand when you’ve got customers to prioritize. It’s the classic battle of the important versus the urgent. As an agency, though, we know how critical a consistent and relevant brand is; it builds trust with your audience and provides the foundation for solid customer relationships. As we remind our clients all the time, a strong brand generates its own leads, saving time and money in the long run.
To help ourselves follow our own advice, we did our best to treat ourselves like a client — we put together a full team, with representatives from Design, Interactive, Content, and Technical, and we gave ourselves real deadlines. We did the same level of planning and project management we do for client projects, and although we still put our brand refresh on the back burner once or twice, this approach helped us keep pushing it forward. Hear from the team on what the experience was like from the inside:
So how does a rebrand realistically break down? These are the steps we took — the same steps we’d take with a similar project for a client or recommend for another agency undertaking its own rebrand.
Step 1: Survey the team.
It had been a while (seven years, to be exact) since we’d discussed Trekk’s brand attributes as a team. Brands change over time, especially in an evolving industry like ours, so we started with a survey that included questions like:
- A new acquaintance asks you about Trekk. How do you describe what we do?
- What problems does Trekk solve?
- Imagine Trekk is a person. How would you describe Trekk's attitude and way of speaking?
- Name a celebrity or well-known person whose voice is similar to Trekk's.
We also listed the words we used to describe ourselves in 2010 and asked everyone to choose the three that best describe us today and the three that least fit now.
At this point, we weren’t yet certain what this project would entail. Would we update some of our collateral and brand messaging, or would the scope be bigger than that? We didn’t try to squeeze the project into a container just yet; rather, we let the opinions of the team inform our direction.
Step 2: Workshop it.
Using the results of the survey as a jumping off point, we held a company-wide brand workshop. The point of the workshop was to dig deep and really interrogate our ideas about who Trekk is today, while honoring where we came from and how our past has shaped the company. A workshop, by definition, is work, but we also had some fun — we used the celebrity question from our survey to help conceptualize some of our brand attributes, which resulted in a discussion of how Trekk is or is not like Lady Gaga. (Answer: we’re original, but we’re not flashy.)
The outcome of a good brand workshop is a list of attributes that describe the brand’s vision and voice, as well as a list of attributes that do not. We also made a list of aspirational attributes — words we hope we can use to describe Trekk in a year’s time, or five years, or ten.
Step 3: Perform a content audit.
A content audit is a big undertaking in and of itself, but it’s key to a successful rebrand or brand refresh. During this stage, you’ll list every piece of content you have — yes, every piece — in a catalog, along with its metadata. We cataloged each page of our existing website and blog, every image, every video, all our content offers, and any other collateral we could find. We gave each item a number and a category and listed its title, URL, and the date it was last updated. Then we did an assessment — did we want to keep, edit, or archive each piece of content? What we had at the end of our audit was a to-do list of things to update as well as a clear vision of the content that still fit within our refreshed brand. Any content that no longer fit we immediately archived.
Step 4: Map out a strategy.
The genius of the brand workshop and the content audit is that they allow your strategy to emerge on its own. By the time you get to this stage, all you have to do is document it and identify your milestones and metrics of success. We used our standard client project brief to do this, and we also listed our action items in a project plan spreadsheet so we could check them off as we completed them. It was at this point in our journey that we really defined the scope of the project, which included developing a new website for Trekk.
Step 5: Hold a design-off.
Most rebrands involve updated assets, and choosing a visual direction for these is a big decision. Your graphics, colors, and font choices should reinforce your brand’s story and should be memorable. Again, we treated ourselves as we would a client by coming up with multiple design concepts. Each of our art directors presented a concept and we weighed the options carefully, finally landing on the concept that best embodied our discovery-driven brand messaging.
Step 6: Kick it off with the relevant teams.
As soon as we knew there was a website in the works, we got our Technical team involved. They saw early drafts of the site design, and their input then informed each revision. Since the design featured a video homepage, we also got our Interactive team involved early on. This is when the core group of people who would end up working on the site took shape.
Step 7: Meet regularly.
We chose a weekly cadence. Even though we had designated leads on content, design, and development who collaborated throughout the week, it was still good to have a protected time each week to step back and look at the project from a high level.
Step 8: Construct your brand guide.
While the website development progressed, we took our refreshed brand attributes and visual assets and turned them into a brand guide, an internal document that any Trekk team member can reference when creating something for Trekk. This is the point that you’ll want to create any other new collateral such as presentation or proposal templates, letterhead, and email signatures.
Step 9: Create an editorial calendar.
If you’ve got a strong content strategy, you likely already have a working editorial calendar, but a brand refresh is still a good time to revisit it. After all, you’ve done the work during your brand workshop to understand how you want to position your product or service and your unique value proposition, so make sure you're publishing content that consistently reflects that.
Step 10: Report on analytics.
Before a rebrand goes live is the time to set up analytics. Wait til after it’s live, and you may miss out on capturing some crucial stats. We report on our metrics monthly, so all we had to do was make sure our new website was set up to measure the same stats.
Step 11: Review internally.
This is the really fun part: just before your rebrand goes live, send out your new assets, website, or messaging to the whole team and ask them to break it. Find the holes, find the bugs, find the inevitable typos. Build in at least a few days to find and fix errors, then launch that baby!
Step 12: Celebrate!
Okay, so maybe this is the really fun part. Pop some champagne and toast your achievement.
Step 13: Hold a retrospective.
You thought you were done, but this step might be the most important of them all. Once the dust has settled, take some time to get your core team together and review what went well and what could have gone better. Chances are you’ll go through another brand refresh together at some point... document your learnings now and the next one will be even smoother sailing.
Every rebrand is unique, but we include these steps in some form or another in most of the brand work we do You’ll notice that the process is heavy on discovery, and that’s by design; we believe that going beyond the surface up front is key to creating authentic content that truly connects with its target audience.
Is it time to take a fresh look at your brand? Send us a note and we’ll tell you what we think.
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