February 18, 2022
In my 20+ years with D&E, I’ve worked on dozens of branding projects for a wide range of clients in a variety of industries. No two projects are the same, but some universal rules apply, no matter how big or small the project. If you’re about to embark on a branding initiative, take these three tips into consideration:
1. Define “branding” for your organization. The first important step in any branding project is to define what you mean when you say branding. The term “branding” tends to mean different things to different people, and we often find that not everyone is on the same page when they say their organization needs to work on its branding. Sometimes, people really mean they’re looking for a new logo and corporate identity. Sometimes, it’s more about updating messaging to reflect how the organization has evolved. Other times, it truly is about a soup-to-nuts brand overhaul. And we’ve probably heard at least a half dozen other interpretations over the years. Define and share your goals at the outset of the project so your team is clear on what the roadmap – and the end goal – looks like.
2. Involve the right team from the start. This is a tricky one. You don’t necessarily want a cast of thousands weighing in, but you do need to consider the perspectives of all important stakeholders. We’d suggest having a core team that gets involved in the day-to-day minutiae and a larger team that weighs in at critical milestones along the way. (More on that in the next section.) You might even want to consider creating an internal Brand Advisory Team (BAT), which is a group of employees that represent a good cross-section of your organization and who hold influence among their peer groups. Selection criteria for this team is based on influence, not title. We find this technique especially effective for major brand overhauls. Mobilizing a BAT does tend make the process a little more complicated and extends the timeline a bit, but we have found that companies who do have a much better success rate when rolling out their new brand internally – because they’ve built buy-in along the way from a group of people whose opinions matter to their colleagues. In turn, the internal adoption of the new brand is met with excitement out of the gate, which is a key success factor in launching your brand. After all, if your employees don’t buy into your brand, how can you expect customers, investors and other important stakeholders to?
3. Bow down to your production schedule. Branding projects are complex and often have many moving parts that need to happen in a certain order for the process to run smoothly. If you don’t create a detailed production schedule at the start of the project, you are setting yourself up for problems and delays along the way. While you can certainly use something like a simple Word document to establish and track your timeline, we prefer to use Gantt charts to map every activity over the months-long process (particularly if your organization doesn’t have a more sophisticated online project management system). Why? Because Gantt charts are visual, and they allow everyone on your team to get a quick, at-a-glance view of all the activities involved in the process. We’d suggest using color coding or bolding to identify key milestones along the way, which can help when reviewing status with the C-suite and your BAT, who may be less familiar with everything involved in a branding process. Update your Gantt chart every week to show progress and identify where things are getting hung up. This example gives you an idea of what you might want to work toward.
Certainly, there are many more factors that contribute to a successful branding initiative, but we have found these three to be critical to the process. If you’re considering a branding project for your organization, drop me a line and I’d be happy to share other insights from more than two decades of doing this type of work.