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How to Refresh a Brand

Bob Brock

Brands grow in power, reach, and equity over time, not over night. The longer a brand campaign is in play, the better leverage it creates in internal ownership, audience awareness, marketplace credibility, and customer loyalty. Provided, of course, your brand campaign remains resonant and relevant for both internal constituencies as well as external audiences.

Everyone understands that the creative materials have to grab attention and resonate with potential customers. But fewer understand the critical nature of maintaining relevance and resonance of the brand platform among internal constituencies – faculty, staff, students, alumni, and – especially – leadership.

Commitment to Strategy
The brand platform is the essential strategic foundation. It provides the basis for purposeful organizational change. If the CEO, cabinet, and campus opinion leaders lose connection with the platform, the brand falls to pieces.

Without leadership ownership, the platform will increasingly fail to infuse the campus with purpose or energize faculty/staff to improve individual performance. It will no longer have the power to guide resource allocations in support of the brand promise and drivers.

In short, when senior leaders no longer claim personal ownership of the platform, it becomes irrelevant.

But this needn’t happen. The key to keeping the brand fresh, relevant, and top-of-mind is to periodically have senior leaders review, revise, and refresh the strategic platform. In doing so, they will reclaim it as their own and recommit to personal ownership of its tenets.

Timing is Everything
Usually, the leadership team needs to revisit the brand platform every two or three years. Surprised? Remember that brands build awareness, equity, and loyalty slowly over time, and ongoing commitment is crucial.

And while the creative campaign materials – photography, ads, layouts, brochures, recruitment materials, etc. – need ongoing updates and tweaks, the brand platform is more constant.

But institutions do evolve, albeit slowly, and the brand platform must evolve, too, to stay relevant. New priorities emerge, new programs take precedence, new audiences, new emphases, emergent characteristics. All of these impact the relevance of your platform.

More immediately, staff members change. A new CEO is named, new deans come on board, new vice presidents, personnel who were not involved in building the original brand platform. To remain strong, your brand needs the newbies to become brand champions.

So it’s critical to present the brand platform for senior leadership review and revision every few years or so in order to ensure that it remains in their consciousness.

The leadership review, which typically requires several hours of focused cabinet (including deans) time, should be preceded by internal research to determine whether or not the organizational core values and competitive advantages have shifted in any significant ways.

The research can include an online stakeholder survey, which is a quick and inexpensive way to measure internal perceptions of quality, competitive advantages, points of differentiation, and unique value propositions. Research also should include small discussion groups to probe the survey results and identify depth of feeling regarding the institution’s greatest strengths and weaknesses.

We prefer to use both methodologies to clearly identify and characterize potential shifts in internal perceptions. We find that leadership appreciates this level of thoroughness.

At a cabinet-level meeting, the existing brand platform should be presented, along with a brief recap of how and why the original platform was created. This should be followed by a summary of the internal research.

At that point, the assembled leaders should discuss and debate whether any changes to the brand platform are required, and they should come to consensus around what changes are needed. Disagreements regarding the revisions need to be thoroughly vetted to ensure every person present agrees with the outcome.

Only after the senior leadership has agreed upon the revisions to the brand platform should the creative team build out the messaging, designs, photo style, and executions of the brand refresh.

Step by Step
Here is a step-by-step summary of the important process steps in a successful brand refresh:

  1. An online internal survey and internal discussion groups to measure and probe internal perceptions of quality, competitive advantages, core values, and points of differentiation
  2. Compare and contrast survey/discussion group results with the existing brand platform and previous research
  3. A leadership strategy session to review the existing brand platform and stakeholder research and revise and refresh the platform to reflect current realities and future vision
  4. Creative explorations (design/copy) that reflect the revised brand platform
  5. Focus group testing of the creative explorations, and synthesis of a final brand creative framework
  6. Internal distribution, reinforcement, and support for the refreshed brand platform
  7. Launch of the refreshed campaign among target audiences

This process will guarantee not only that your brand campaign remains fresh and exciting in the marketplace, it will ensure that your brand platform continues to motivate purposeful organizational change and improvement.

Call us (303-743-8298) if you’d like additional information with any of these process steps, or would like to discuss the benefits of a brand refresh in more detail.

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