Rebranding is not a substitute for defining who you are.

REBRANDEDITEDI was speaking to a potential client the other day, explaining what we do, and he stopped me mid-sentence. “Oh, we just went through a rebranding process. Haven’t you seen our new logo?” he said. While I had noticed it and thought it was very well done, I explained that while updating or developing a new brand identity is essential to contemporizing a brand or business, it is not a substitute for the hard work of clarifying your reason for being. Frankly, I am not sure he got it, and he is not alone.

The truth is, the most important question every brand, business or organization needs to answer is “Who are we?” Not a mission or vision statement, rather a few words carefully crafted that provide the foundation for everything a brand or organization is and does. What is its purpose or brand positioning? What defines and differentiates it versus competitors? What unifies and inspires its people? What language does it own?

Sometimes, it is born from the vision, beliefs or values of the founder. Howard Schultz envisioned Starbucks as being ‘The Third Place’ – the place between home and business – and whether it was comfortable furniture or Wi-Fi, everything supported this promise. No agency needed to define Patagonia for Yvon Chouinard, who was and is the personification of what the brand stands for and why it exists. The same is true of Sir Richard Branson. Most organizations, even very successful businesses, are in commodity product or service categories where there is very little that distinguishes them from their competitors. Often the key differentiator is their people, and all of them, regardless of role or responsibility, need to be inspired, motivated and elevated by a simple, credible, proprietary and differentiating reason for being that gets them up in the morning, defines their ‘role in the story,’ and provides them with a clarifying lens for what they do and more importantly, why they do it. Simon Sinek, a highly regarded author and speaker, describes this as developing your ‘Why’ and sees this as the true differentiator and value creator for businesses and brands. We agree.

Look, developing a new logo or brand identity is important, but it is only one of many ways to activate a strong, singular brand positioning, not a substitute for one. Rebranding without redefining is like putting a fresh coat of paint on. It looks good but is only skin deep.

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