Reviewing a marketing project at a small business

Branding Strategies to Update Your Look and Image

5 steps to take when your brand needs a boost.

Maybe your logo is feeling a bit dated or potential customers just don't seem to respond to your mailings the way they once did. Something is off. It could be time to evaluate your branding strategies and consider refreshing your image.

Unlike a full-scale rebranding, a brand refresh updates and sharpens your image while keeping your core identity intact. Here are five steps to carrying out a change:

1. Lay the Groundwork

First, ask yourself what you're hoping to solve with this overhaul. According to Forbes, marketing experts point to issues including clients who don't engage meaningfully with your content and losing ground to your competition. Talk to your co-workers, customers and management about your current branding strategies. What works? What feels stale? Where can you improve?

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recommends tying brand updates to real change within the company, such as a product launch, a merger or a new CEO. Symbolic changes in your brand have more impact — and give you more bang for your buck — when they represent real-world events.

2. Craft a Plan

With information in hand, decide what changes to make. Do you want to update your logo? Add a color to your corporate palette? Try out a new tagline? Research trends in marketing and talk to your web and print vendors for frontline insight into what styles are on the rise right now and how to achieve your goals as cost-effectively as possible. Your vendors should also be able to recommend graphics specialists if you need to outsource the design.

All these new ideas might spark your ambition, but remember: Too much change all at once can confuse or alienate consumers and co-workers. You want to maintain your current brand recognition, even as you give your image a touch-up. Your goal is to create something contemporary and fresh that still evokes thoughts of your company for consumers.

3. Get Down to Details

Make a comprehensive list of resources and collateral you'll need to update with your refreshed brand. For starters, consider sales materials, letterhead, website, business cards, promotional items and packaging. If you're updating your tagline or messaging, you'll also want to take a look at your email signatures and phone scripts.

4. Look Inward

Naturally, the brand refresh process focuses mostly on customers. But a brand can only be successful if the whole company understands and believes in it. An enthusiastic workforce can spread your brand message better — and at a lower cost — than can reams of new letterhead.

"You want them to have the brand vision in their minds and to consider whether or not they are supporting the brand in every decision they make," according to the HBR.

Communicate planned changes transparently to co-workers. Executives should talk to employees in person and encourage questions and feedback. To promote consistency, update your brand handbook (or create one, if needed) to make sure everyone can easily determine the proper ways to deploy colors, logos and messaging.

5. Phase Out the Old Look

As you focus on the exciting changes ahead, remember you need a plan to remove your current image from circulation. Changing everything to the refreshed brand immediately might mean you end up recycling reams of now-obsolete materials. But trying to use up all the old pamphlets and letterhead before introducing the new image could mean weeks — or months — of inconsistent branding.

Take an inventory of existing materials and calculate how long it will take to run out of each at current usage rates. Then determine the best balance between budget and brand consistency for your business goals.

Ready to get going? Start gathering your team and your information. With strong teamwork and a solid game plan, you'll be reaping the rewards of a refresh in no time.