Your brand is the first impression you make with your customers, stakeholders, and employees. Whether your brand is just starting out, growing quickly, or well-established and in need of a refresh, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Spring Venture Group started in 2009, and since then we’ve made a lot of changes. Our early days functioned much more like a startup—we knew we were onto something and couldn’t wait to get messy. We bought and sold companies. We tried on a few different products. We hired and kept hiring and we’re hiring still.
We’ve grown from about 25 employees to over 600—and lately, our focus as a marketing team has been how to adjust our brand to accommodate that growth. Of course, much of who we are hasn’t changed at all. Our mission, our values, and our goals have stayed strong—but we knew we needed to make some changes.
In the past few months, we’ve built a new website, made plans for how that new website can improve, and established an official guidebook to use both internally and externally. We brainstormed about who we are, who we were, and who we want to be. We made audience personas and figured out how we want to serve them. And the process taught us a lot about the importance of figuring out exactly who we are.
Here are a few things we learned.
If you’re confused about your brand strategy—your audience is confused, too.
It’s easy to recognize brands that know exactly who they are. Those brands often become titans in their industries, talked about in marketing classes, and household names across the world. When your message is clear, it’s that much easier for clients, stakeholders, partners, and employees to get behind whatever it is you’re selling. Confused messaging makes it harder for people to buy in. If you’re not sure about who you are, why would anyone else be?
Establishing brand standards matters—a lot.
Not only does solidifying your brand help your audience, but it helps your company’s marketing and communication efforts, too. The process itself forces you to make decisions about your company’s identity that may not otherwise take precedence. Not only that, but it helps keep your communication consistent no matter who you’re talking to—current employees, future employees, clients, customers, stakeholders, and decision-makers. The process of putting these decisions down on paper can help a confused brand come together and figure out exactly who they are—and how they want to tell that to the world.
Remember to take a look at what’s going on outside the company, too. It’s easy to start navel-gazing when your team is focused on your company’s identity. And while it’s key to look inward at your strengths, weaknesses, values, and goals—its critical to pay attention to what’s going on in your industry, the marketing world, and society at large. Great artists know influences are essential to their craft, and marketing is no different. Great brands pay attention to what’s going on around them and apply it to their strategy. Maybe that means digging in to your competitors’ strategies. Maybe it means learning more about the neighborhood right outside your office. There is inspiration everywhere, and it’s up to you to find what can be made relevant and impactful to your business.
Ask yourself if a change is even necessary.
Sometimes the best strategy is the one you’ve always had. Changing for the sake of change can hurt your brand more than it helps. As much as being stagnant or irrelevant sends a bad message to your audience, re-branding without purpose can cause frustration and confusion. And even if you do decide to adjust your strategy, parsing out what stays and what goes is an important exercise. Identifying your business needs early-on in the process can help you make better and informed decisions about where your brand should change or stay the same.
Don’t be afraid of change. No matter why your business came to be, it’s critical to stay relevant to the environment in which you exist. As your company grows, communicating who you are to your employees and your audiences gets more complicated. Taking the time to establish standards, revisit your communication strategy, and look around at your environment can give you the tools and information you need to make decisions. But just because you can change, doesn’t mean you should. Assess the needs of your business once in a while to determine any big changes in how your company should communicate with employees, stakeholders, and other decision-makers. That can help you figure out exactly what direction your re-brand should move so you can keep a clear and confident message about exactly who you are and what you do.