How to prevent a brand identity crisis

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Rebranding–which can include updating your positioning, messaging, visual identity, website and more–is a big investment of time and capital. To the outside world, it signals an intention to mark a new moment in your organization’s history and to be perceived differently. A rebranded brand will undoubtedly provide powerful opportunities to impact new audiences and increase your return on investment. A rebrand isn’t a transformative thing. It won’t change the organization. The rebranding process is simply a recording of an ongoing transformation. In other words, rebranding doesn’t cause transformation; transformation inspires rebranding. And this transformation comes from within.In our experience, most rebranding projects are rooted in one thing: Your current brand simply isn’t a reflection of who you are as an organization anymore, and that’s a big problem. Some clients are able to articulate it. Others feel it, but can’t quite name it. Clients often come to us and say, “We want to look more modern,” “we need modern tools,” “we want to be relevant,” “we’ve secured funding to do it,” or “we need to engage our audience in the digital space.” Yep, totally. These are well-intentioned asks, but are often an effort to treat the symptoms and not the root cause.In fact, the greater the distance between who you are and how you’re perceived, the greater the dissonance. Your team might have a very different view of the organization’s mission and why it exists. Some might struggle to express these ideas. Perhaps your communications team feels like they’re trying to wear old clothes to nice theatres. They’re kinda comfortable, but you know they’re probably not going to come off as ironic or cool. Instead, they’re going to make you stick out for all the wrong reasons. If only you’d planned for enough time to go home and change first. Is your current brand creating friction that works against your potential impact?Why does this happen?Organizations, the people that make them up, the world they exist in–all these things are constantly evolving. Think about how ridiculous it would be to sound five years old and have the exact same voice as you do at 40 or 25. This would not be normal. You are still you; in your core, you’re the same person, you have many of the same values, beliefs, and personality traits, but you’ve also grown and changed.Your brand is your organization’s voice. You know your organization isn’t exactly the same at 5, 10, 25, and 50 years. Your organization’s fundamental purpose could remain unchanged. However, the world around it is changing and your organization might need to act differently. To be effective, your brand must keep pace with the changes. If it’s the wrong pitch, you’re going to get a lot of head scratching and raised eyebrows at best–or dead silence at worst.There are moments of dramatic change and periods of subtle, gradual change. Just think about the changes that have occurred within and without your organization in just five years. A new leader might be in your organization. You might have new members on your leadership team. It is more likely that half your staff will have resigned. They are often from a different generation with differing values and workplace behavior, leadership expectations, and political views. New words and phrases are popping up all the time in public discourse. Changes have occurred in the political party. Both the nation and the globe have seen some great achievements, but also suffered from many of society’s most painful pasts. Despite all of this change, you are still the same organization, but your brand needs to reflect your evolution.This doesn’t mean you throw it all away every few years and start over. Make sure you do it correctly the first time. You can then nurture, monitor, and prune your brand, as well as update it. The “it” of course is “your brand.” But if you’ve never done it right, you’ll probably find yourself in the habit of throwing out your clothes and constantly reinventing yourself every couple of years. You are either ruining your reputational capital or you have no reputation at all. It’s the natural speed at which time passes. It is already taking place within your company. It’s always happening. Sometimes it happens faster and sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes it’s a seismic shift, sometimes it’s glacial. Your transformation is not a rejection or deletion of the legacy you’ve already created–it is an evolution, a correction of past missteps, a necessary adaptation to remain in touch with the moment. The reward is a brand that resonates both inside and outside of your organization, and it is rocket fuel for impact.Deroy Peraza is a Cuban-American designer, husband, father, and Barça fan. Hyperakt is his design studio that focuses on branding non-profits. He serves as a creative director and partner.

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