How to keep your startup brand fresh

Your brand communicates who’s behind your startup, what you produce, why you make it, and who your target audience is. While your brand may have been a perfect fit when you first launched, there’s no guarantee it will continue to define your company forever. When your company’s mission changes, your product line expands, or your target audience shifts, it’s time to consider a rebrand. Find out how to keep your startup brand fresh and get to know the essential steps for a successful rebrand.

Before rebranding a business, it’s important to understand what branding really entails and when a revamp is necessary. If you aren’t a branding expert, it’s easy to assume that a simple logo update is all you need to stay relevant in a competitive industry. However, branding also includes your company’s voice, mission, services, and overall identity. Your logo might be the most visual aspect of your startup brand, but a basic redesign will only get you so far.

For some companies, especially more established startups, a simple rebrand is enough. Known as a partial rebrand, this strategy keeps the company’s overall identity intact while refreshing a few key aspects. Taking this tack can be particularly helpful if you’ve started to lose ground with your target audience due to aging or education level.

Of course, sometimes a partial rebrand doesn’t do enough to reboot your startup. Instead, you may need a total rebrand, which gives you the chance to reintroduce your company to your target market with a new name, fresh mission, and revamped logo. This type of rebrand is particularly common when startups merge with other companies or change their primary objectives for financial or other reasons.

Even if you recognize that your startup needs refreshing, it isn’t always clear how far you should take it. After all, if you just need to generate buzz or boost sales, you probably need a new and improved growth plan instead of a rebranding strategy. Ask your team a few questions to guide your decision:

  • What branding problem do we need to solve?
  • Does our brand convey the story we want to tell?
  • Does our brand meet the needs and desires of our audience?
  • How much longer will our brand’s life last?
  • If we had to start over, would we still choose the same branding strategy?

If the changes your team proposes are minimal to moderate, a partial rebrand may be your best choice. If you project major changes, consider a total rebrand.

Once you’ve decided how far to take the process of refreshing your brand, you can start working with your team to develop a rebranding strategy. Follow these best practices to ensure that your rebrand makes the impact you want.

Hire a rebranding professional

If you’ve decided to pursue corporate rebranding, start by contracting a marketing professional who specializes in branding. If you’re tempted to ask your existing team to take on the task in-house, do your best to talk yourself out of it.

Rebranding your startup is no straightforward task. You need a team of experts who can do high-level research, strategy, and design to make your rebrand successful. Since your brand identity could make or break your startup, this isn’t a place to cut corners. Build the cost of hiring a branding expert into your budget so you don’t encounter financial surprises along the way.

In addition, plan to maintain your working relationship with your branding professional long past the launch of your rebrand. Keep in mind that when you reveal your rebrand, the work is far from complete. You still need an expert to educate your team on introducing your audience to the new brand and to create guidelines for using your brand effectively.

Complete a brand audit

After you’ve found the right branding expert for your startup, get to work on a comprehensive brand audit. This is an essential part of the process because it will tell you everything you need to know about the state of your brand and where it’s fallen short.

Work closely with your branding expert to assess the status of your brand. Survey current team members about your startup’s message, mission, and identity, and determine how successfully the existing brand conveys any of these aspects. Take the time to review your website, printed collateral, and social media presence.

Don’t limit your research to current employees, though. Survey members of your shared office space, past customers, and even your target audience. Ultimately, you need to know what’s wrong with your current brand before you can move forward and design an effective replacement.

Get the right people on board

After completing the brand audit, you may be ready to get started on your rebrand. However, you won’t get very far if you don’t get key team members to sign on to your proposal. Whether your startup has just a few main staff members or you’ve grown into a larger executive team, you need all the support you can get.

Call a series of meetings to explain your findings and illustrate where the disconnect between brand and execution exists. Discuss some possible suggestions for your rebrand to ensure that the team understands the scale of your rebranding strategy.

Once your executive team has signed on, get employees involved in the discussion. You might not need your entire staff to approve the rebrand, but you should make everyone aware of what’s on the horizon. After all, rebranding is a team effort, and you’ll need your employees behind you when you deploy the rebrand.

Know your audience

Depending on the extent of your rebrand, you may need to conduct in-depth audience research. If your average customer no longer aligns with your target market, it’s time to find out why.

In some cases, your rebranding efforts may involve shifting your sales pitch to capture the market that’s found you naturally. In other situations, you may need to determine why your target market has walked away from your company and take steps to retarget. Your market research may even introduce you to an entirely new target market that you’ll want to incorporate into your rebrand.

Rethink your brand promise

Next, it’s time to rethink your brand promise. If your brand audit revealed that you don’t necessarily deliver on your existing brand promise, this is a key component you’ll want to include in your startup refreshing process.

To devise a new brand promise, think about what sets your company apart from other startups. What is the key benefit your product or service offers that no other company does?

Think about how you want customers to feel when they use your product. Do you want them to feel successful, smart, or unique? Consider what you want to enter your customers’ minds when they think of your product. What expectations do you want them to have?

Include your startup’s mission in this part of the process, too. Your brand promise and company story are all intertwined, and you want to make sure that both are concepts your team can truly get behind.

This is also a smart time to rethink your company’s logo. If you’ve grown out of it or if it doesn’t really tell your story, work with your rebranding expert to design a logo that conveys what your startup stands for.

Streamline and rebuild your brand identity

Once you’ve rethought and redesigned your brand, you’re ready to relaunch. One challenge your marketing team will likely face is seamlessly transitioning from the old brand to the new one. Strive to keep your customers and target audience educated about the changes, and use the new branding consistently. You may even need to develop new style guides to ensure that all employees use the new branding correctly while sharing the story you want to tell.

Remember that a partial or complete rebrand is a major marketing opportunity. You’ll want to have a plan in place for the initial rollout, but you’ll also need to plan much further into the future. Maintain consistency with the new branding, emphasize the positive aspects of the rebrand, and work to rebuild your brand identity along the new path that you’ve established.

Corporate rebranding is no easy task, but with thoughtful research and careful execution, you can pull it off successfully. Decide what your startup needs and stick to these best practices to keep your brand fresh.

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