Is It Time to Renew Your Identity?

No, not your driver’s license. Your brand identity (or logo): the graphic symbol that represents the who, what and why of your business. When was the last time you considered its relevance? Does it look like the business you’ve built or worked for all these years? Does it resonate with the consumers of your product or service?

There’s a good chance it doesn’t. And in a competitive business environment it must. A strong, recognizable brand identifier is crucial. In order to cut through the clutter and stand out in the crowd, your brand identity – along with all its supportive visual language, built upon a solid foundation and clear business philosophy – must convey a clear and concise message. It must portray the ideals and values of your brand.

Indeed, a brand is much more than just a logo; but the logo is the cornerstone for the brand. It is the face and representation of that brand…the first impression, the identity and more. Well-designed logos are metaphors for the brand. They convey the concept and promise that the products and/or services of that brand deliver upon. And, oftentimes, over time, they begin not to…so well. Products evolve, the market shifts, the business retools. When these changes are significant, whether they’re rooted in the business or in the market, it’s time to rebrand. But this exercise should not be taken lightly, as it is not without risks.

Recently, we’ve seen several rebranding undertakings fail,gap-new-logo-design.jpg culminating with near catastrophic crescendos in the media. Iconic and culturally relevant brands, the Gap and JC Penny, and to a lesser degree, Pepsi and Tropicana, are examples of rebranding endeavours that tragically missed the mark, with results that were, at best, homogenized, generic and dull.

Perhaps the Gap and JC Penny’s executives believed their new identities accurately reflected the strategy in their complex creative briefs and extensive rationales, that the art created was good, or right? Or, as has been suggested with regard to the Gap, perhaps the entire rebranding exercise was an elaborate marketing stunt to generate media and exposure for the brand? Unlikely, but possible. Regardless, both companies failed to successfully advance their brands with the introduction of revitalized identities, confusing prospects and advocates alike.

Assuming the Gap’s undertaking was legit, it was, unfortunately, doomed from the beginning. The new logo was nothing more than a tired and lukewarm shift from its predecessor, one that combined an oversaturated typeface with a conceited gradient effect in its blue square. It appeared as though its creators had paid no heed to the current understanding of the Gap’s audience. Consumers had related well to the previous identity, and they spared no one when sharing their immediate distaste for the new logo. Though the Gap responded to media and message board chatter quickly, its ignorance and lack of confidence in its direction was further evidenced by its decision to crowdsource alternate design ideas immediately following the failure of its first attempt. Ultimately, consumer distaste and ill-worded feedback would give the Gap reason to revert to the previous mark.

A mandatory goal to keep in mind when developing a new brand identity is to ensure that it embodies a unique style. The mark must be inspired and relevant, traits which the aforementioned examples lacked. Simplicity and clarity are key. A great example of this is Comedy Central’s new logo and brand direction (http://tinyurl.com/3uopja3). This new mark is smart, versatile and modern. Combining the two “Cs” (one reversed) gives it the appearance of a copyright symbol. The simplicity of the logo reflects the flippant nature of comedy itself.

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Perhaps in years to come we’ll see Comedy Central rebrand again. Perhaps we’ll see them drop the textual component of their mark and go with just the two Cs. That may be right for the brand in a few years, just as it was for companies like Starbucks and Pepsi who refined their brand identities to cultural symbols, free of definition and rich with promise.

But such monumental moves cannot come without significant planning and testing. The creation or refinement of a brand identity is an evolution, not merely change for the sake of change. While nothing stays the same, brands and brand identities need not grow apart. Check in with yours regularly. And when the time does come to recreate your brand identity, build on the equity in your brand…and narrow the gap.