How can I refresh my company’s branding

My company is losing market share and we’ve looked the same for the last four years. How can I inject some freshness, get a new brand and find the right designer for the job?

Antonia Ward writes:

Rejuvenating or refreshing your company’s brand is never easy and there are a few key steps to consider. You need to work out your ‘big idea’ first, or what lies at the heart of your company – what makes you different to the competition?. Next come the values at your company’s core. Where’s the business heading? What’s your vision? How do you want to come across? What personality does the business have?

If you can start to answer these questions with clarity and consistency, then you have the basis for developing a strong brand. Once decided, the articulation of these ideas can be put into action through things like graphic design – your logo, and corporate identity – as well as packaging, product design and less tangible things like the tone of voice in which you talk to your customers (will it be authoritative or more informal?) and the way in which staff are trained to communicate with customers. The next step is to find a designer to deliver the goods.

There are several ways to find one and the following organisations provide directories of UK designers and design consultancies:

Don’t rule out asking friends or colleagues for recommendations and introductions too.

Once you think you’ve found what you’re looking for, it’s worth trying to see two or three different designers to get an idea of how well you’ll work together. It’s invaluable at this stage to prepare as much information as you can for this first meeting. Here’s where you’ll get a sense of how they’ll react to your objectives, your business and its requirements.

Make sure you’re prepared to brief on:  

  • Your products
  • Your customers
  • The size of your business
  • Its financial performance
  • Your competitors
  • The reason behind your decision to commission a design project
  • What you hope the outcomes of the project will be
  • The business’s or product’s current position in the market
  • Your aspirations
  • Your ideas for growth
  • A long-term vision for your company

You should also ask the designers to show a selection of their previous work to ensure it’s appropriate and of a high enough standard for you. You may also want somebody who has previous experience in a relevant market, so look out for that.

The designers may not be able to give a completely accurate estimate of costs until they have a more structured brief in place, but once they know your requirements and how much money you have they can prepare a proposal for you to look at. Equally, you should expect any proposals from your designers to include a detailed breakdown of all their charges, including standard day rates, possible additional fees and what is and isn’t included.

Once you’ve decided on your shortlist, you’ll need to write a brief for agencies who are pitching for your business; basically a set of instructions that set out what you want your designers to do, along with the objectives and parameters of the design project. It will also help you determine how successful the project has been when you reach the end.

A big factor in the selection of a designer is gut feeling. The truth is many contracts are sealed on this type of relationship and it makes sense too. It’s better to work with someone you like and trust, rather than basing the decision solely on lower fees or a higher profile.

Antonia Ward is managing editor at the Design Council. For further guidance on branding for small businesses, see the Design Council’s free guides

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