Design Alone Will Not Fix Your Brands Problems. Here’s What Will

Let’s imagine this scenario for a moment:

Company X has been struggling to retain trust with its audience after multiple public controversies. To create visual distance and distract their audience from the “old image,” the organization has an important decision to make. Either sit down, roll up their sleeves, and figure out what went wrong or attempt to change the conversation. So, Company X decides to follow the latter and launch a new logo with the hopes that their loyal audience will forget everything that has happened.

Sound familiar?

In 2019, Facebook attempted this very stunt. And people were furious. summed this scenario up perfectly with their headline, “Facebook Has a New Logo and It’s a Perfect Example of Why Mark Zuckerberg Just Doesn’t Get It.” The article goes on to explain why design doesn’t change your company- and that’s a big problem many organizations still don’t realize.

The best logo in the world will not help declining sales or an eroding membership base. And it certainly won’t fix a broken company culture and public image. Without diagnosing the root of your pain points, and learning how to correct them, design may be a waste of time.

Implementing a Diagnostics and Discovery Process

In every project, whether it be an integrated marketing campaign, full rebranding, or magazine launch, we start with a diagnostics and discovery phase. This is where our team takes a deep dive into the unique attributes that make up a collective brand. Often, we will use a combination of quantitative and qualitative research, stakeholder interviews, market analysis, and a comprehensive brand assessment to build a baseline to work from. This initial research will inform our team and our client on the exact next steps that should be taken, establishing a clearer understanding of how the organization can work to better support, market to, and engage with their audience.

While there are many different research tactics to consider based on your organizational needs, I recommend starting with the following to kick off your discovery and diagnostics phase:

1. Audit all of your materials

A successful brand audit will assess your organization as a whole and look at your internal branding, external branding, and audience relationship. I think a great example of this is our agencies work with CREW Network. As CREW Network approached its 30th anniversary in 2019, they wanted to increase their visibility and solidify their position as a leading commercial real estate organization.

Without the correct audit in place, it would be nearly impossible to know where to start. We conducted an extensive discovery audit to analyze CREW Network’s brand, digital presence, marketing materials, and audience experience. Based on these findings, we recommended an action-oriented brand strategy that understood what CREW Network’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities were. One thing we found was that CREW Network needed a flexible brand system that would unite its 77 chapters, and their disparate brand identities, and give them the opportunity to customize the brand for their unique personality and hometown.

A successful audit will tell you how to begin the creative phase rather than jumping straight into logo design and hoping everything else will align on its own.

2. Conduct a competitive analysis

A competitive analysis looks at major direct and indirect competitors to identify marketing opportunities, industry threats, and content gaps. For our client Transurban, one of the world’s leading innovative tolling and transport technology companies, a competitive analysis helped us build an identity that differentiated their brand from other toll-road operators in the DC-region. We wanted to know who their direct targets were, how they positioned themselves online, what their messaging strategy was, and gap areas that we could leverage to improve the success of Transurban’s brand rollout.

Following our competitive analysis, we determined that humanizing their brand in comparison to traditional toll road driving experiences would be the key differentiator. We wanted to make a drive on Transurban’s Express Lanes “happy” and fulfilling, with users feeling that they actually improved their day by getting where they needed to go faster.

This approach resulted in 227,433 customers driving on the 395 Express Lanes in its opening week.

3. Define audience personas

Through personas, organizations can develop effective strategies to better communicate with their audience.

When the American Welding Society (AWS) approached us in need of audience personas, we wanted to help them find the pulse of their members’ various needs, motivations, goals, and challenges.  AWS had struggled to personalize its communications and marketing outreach, which affected both current members who rely on AWS to further the welding industry and their ability to connect with potential members. We conducted in-depth research to inform the development of audience personas that represent the unique segments within AWS’s membership.

With these persona profiles in-hand, AWS can personalize its communications and marketing outreach to more effectively connect with their audience. These persona profiles also provided AWS with a clearer understanding of how the organization can work to better support its various member segments. A logo change would not have solved any of their existing issues.

Our belief is that your marketing success comes from a strong brand positioning. Understanding your audience and how you are speaking to them is central to this approach.

We Hope This Helps

All three of these strategies can be used to determine if a creative phase is the right next step. A logo alone will not change how your audience feels about your brand. So, consider looking hard at your business and its current brand identity through an audit, competitive analysis, and audience personas. This will allow you to know who your audience is, what their challenges are, and how you can further their mission.

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Debbie Bates-Schrott's headshot

Debbie Bates-Schrott

Debbie Bates-Schrott, Founder and CEO of Beyond Definition, has 25+ years of experience in branding, print and digital and marketing strategies. Her visionary perspective on cutting edge brand experience initiatives positions the Beyond Definition team as growing thought leaders in the media landscape.

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