Creating a brand story and defining your brand values takes a lot of ingredients.
From defining your story and what your company stands for, to the creation of your new brand’s collateral, you can’t afford not to plan it out.
You may think you’re prepared to take on this task on your own or with your team. But, be warned rebranding is no easy feat. There are literally hundreds of moving pieces and countless entities that go into the success of rebrand. That’s why you need an expert in branding to help you navigate the obstacles.
Pinterest Recipe vs. Rebranding by Yourself
Why do you need an expert? Well, you know those Pinterest fails that you’ve seen while scrolling through social media? That’s what I imagine rebranding by myself would have been like. It’s a perfect example:
As my little Italian Nana used to say, “If you want to become a great chef like me, you have to work with great chefs like me. Now, get over here and peel these potatoes!” Nana’s advice applies to more than just cooking, it also applies to your rebrand. You will learn so much through finding your brand story mentor or head chef.
You can follow all the steps, read the best resources, assemble all the pieces, but when things get heated and complex and strategic branding decisions need to be made, you need a head chef, also known as a branding expert.
Save yourself the time, focus your rebrand, and prevent countless headaches: hire an expert.
Our Quest for a Mentor
When we started our rebrand journey, I knew we had to focus on our brand story. Our CEO had attended a Vistage meeting where Gair Maxwell did a brand of distinction workshop. Our CEO had taken a lot of the first steps in the story branding process, and he wanted to take the points from that presentation to the next level. So, he hired me with two main goals:
- Rebrand Avantpage by focusing on our unique story and the reason we exist.
- Redo our website to be more focused on our core industries and services.
As an eager, excited, and new marketing professional I arrived at my final interview with a four-page bulleted plan on exactly how I would rebrand Avantpage, the timeline, and what I thought the cost would be. I got the job, but my plan had a few major flaws.
I thought we needed to use the same company for our story rebrand as our website redesign. After interviewing several marketing and design agencies, I realized that they’re great at creating a modern and unique website, but when it comes to honing in on what makes your company different and defining your brand story, not so much.
After the third disappointing, lackluster interview, I went back to the drawing board and focused on the missing ingredient from all of the agencies: a brand story expert.
The Missing Ingredient
When it comes to finding an expert, don’t settle. Look for someone who connects with your greater goals and mission as a company. Pay close attention to their non-verbal communication, and don’t forget to hire someone who is insanely creative. You’ll know who works best for your company when you meet them.
When we first met with Park Howell to discuss our rebrand project, I knew right away that he was a good fit. Park understood that we wanted more than a redesign, we wanted to define our greater purpose as a company. Both my CEO and I felt an instant connection with Park and his Story Cycle System™.
Park was the missing ingredient and head chef that influenced and helped our rebrand to be a success. Park’s methodology and creative background helped us to assemble all of our rebrand ingredients in a strategic and well thought-out manner.
Why waste time and energy creating a mediocre dish when you can create an outstanding one? Take a look at some of the steps in our process to define Avantpage’s brand story and core values:
Phase 1: Exploration
Prior to starting our rebrand, we assembled our cooks (aka internal stakeholders) that would help create our new brand story. We wanted to make sure that we had a wide variety of perspectives that would contribute to our brand, while simultaneously representing all departments.
Park then sent each of our team members a survey. Once Park had assembled the ingredients that made up our current brand, he then led us through a 5-hour workshop where we dove deeper into our responses to the brand survey. Using this format, we started to connect the dots of our shared feelings around our current brand. We also identified our brand’s core audiences.
As a team, we identified three audiences: our employees, translators, and customers.
This is the first step to creating clarity around your current brand and identifying your new brand message.
You will need to do this as well when rebranding your company. Ask yourself, who interacts with your company?
Phase 2: Development
Armed with all the key-ingredients from our brand brainstorming session, Park then interviewed our customers and clients. These additional interviews are the “secret sauce” to your rebrand’s success. By gathering information from all of your audiences you will create a brand that will truly resonate with everyone that interacts with your brand.
Using the information provided during the story cycle workshop, interviews with customers and translators, and our past marketing content, Park developed our brand activation plan.
Phase 3: Resolution
Park then presented us with our brand’s promise, unique gift, brand personality, and much more, all packaged together in what’s called a Brand Story Activation Guide. This guide is the foundation of your rebrand and will help guide your branding decisions in the future.
Although this guide is full of all the ingredients your brand needs to be successful, it’s also only 75% complete. The other 25% is when you put on your chef’s hat and try baking it without burning it.
You can do almost anything with soup stock, it’s like a strong foundation. When you have the right foundation, everything tastes good.
– Martin Yan
I can’t stress how important it is to define your story before beginning the visual redesign of your brand. You can’t make a strong brand without defining your brand story and promise first.
Making our Masterpiece
Fast-forward one year and six months later, and here’s the best advice I can give you for your rebrand.
You can’t rebrand unless YOU and your TEAM believe in your brand.
The most important part of your rebrand launch is internal. If your employees and team members don’t believe in your new mission and values, no one else will.
“Once you think of your brand as a belief system, you automatically get all the things that enterprise spends billions of dollars trying to obtain: trust, relevance, vision, values, leadership”
– Patrick Hanlon, Primal Branding
I found this quote while researching, and as soon as I saw it I wrote it on a sticky note as a reminder of my goal for the internal launch. (Let’s just say it literally stuck with me.)
Launching your rebrand internally will be an ongoing process that you need to build into all aspects of your company. Here’s how we solidified our brand and truly started to own our mission throughout our company and beyond.
1. Make your launch a celebration
Instead of just presenting your brand story to your company, make it a party! Rebranding is difficult, and you deserve to celebrate the work that you accomplished. By making your launch a celebration you’re setting the mood for when you present your rebrand to your company.
Remember, by making it a celebration you’ve set an uplifting mood for your team surrounding your rebrand. This will take you one step closer to having your team believe in your new brand.
2. Engage your audience by applying your brand
We wanted our team to fully understand our mission to help immigrants. I found an immigration activism group called Define American. They started a social activism campaign right around our internal launch called #ToImmigrantsWithLove, asking people to write supportive and encouraging “love” letters to immigrants and share them. I incorporated this campaign into our internal rebrand launch as a way to solidify our rebrand in the hearts of our team members. We created a branded handout and bought markers, stickers, and glitter to make it even more fun for our team.
After everyone was done we took pictures with our letters as a team and as individuals and shared them in our follow up emails.
Conveying our Brand Story Visually
Our creative campaign was created by Luis Medina of Noble Candy, whose work inspired our new logo and website. Luis genuinely cared about our mission to help immigrants achieve their American dream, which was one of the driving factors for working with him. Luis created three beautiful campaigns for us to choose from, and we chose the most empathic version of three: the one-word campaign.
A derivate of the one-word campaign can be seen on the Avantpage website. The campaign focuses on one person and one word that sums up the feeling from the portrait in the picture. It’s incredibly powerful and perfectly human. The campaign is the essence of our mission.
The Finishing Touches
Our logo was designed by an incredible designer based in Mexico, Yuki Navarro. We needed to update our logo to be more modern, less literal, and more symbolic to our new mission of helping Immigrants achieve their American dream.
We wanted our new logo to be typographic so that it would be easily recognized, timeless, and modern. The color choice provides a sense of warmth and empathy that our previous logo did not. We took our logo from the literal to the symbolic to match our new brand.
Once we finished the creative campaign and logo design, we moved on to our website redesign. We were so inspired by the work that Luis Medina had done with the creative campaign that we decided to continue to work with him for our website redesign. We also continued to get feedback and recommendations from Yuki so that our logo, creative, and website would be cohesive.
During the creation of our logo, Yuki recommended color changes that would make the creative, logo, and website more engaging. With the color scheme set, we moved forward with creating a website that was user-friendly and invocated a feeling of warmth. Our old website was much larger, with over 600 pages worth of content, and we decided to cut back so users could more easily navigate the site. We also chose to use natural and realistic portraits of people.
Find designers that align with your company’s mission and vision, and don’t stop creating until you have the collateral that feels right for your new brand. This is how the public will see your company, so make it what you want, even if it takes more time than you initially thought.
To say there are a lot of moving parts to creating core brand values and a brand story would clearly be an understatement. There’s so much to consider that it can feel incredibly overwhelming. But, if you focus on your core story elements that drive your company to exist, you’ll end up with a brand that resonates with your audiences.
Listen to Sabra Rubinstein on episode #151: How to Use the Story Cycle System™ to Become an Activist Brand