Is your brand holding you back?
We work on a wide range of projects at CreateFuture, from proposition to product to promotion, but there is one constant: brand underpins everything. A solid, shared understanding of the brand is essential if you want to think ahead, act consistently and empower your teams to be creative.
We’ve delivered high-profile, end-to-end rebrands - including Redington which we talk about below. Along the way we've honed our approach. We’re sharing here five principles, and tactical suggestions, which will hopefully be useful whether you’re launching, refreshing or looking to better communicate your brand.
Align your leadership team
Why are you doing this, and why now? What has changed in the business? If you've been in business for a while, are you still who you used to be?
Explore these issues early and often with the senior team, and get alignment. Use research from outside the business (see below) to bring clarity and objectivity to the discussion. The Three Hour Brand Sprint can be a very effective way to surface these issues quickly.
Talk to your friends
and your enemies
Sense-check your assumptions. Do your research. Don't just speak to customers - reach out to the people who have turned you down for work. Speak to peers and journalists to see how you're perceived compared to your competitors. Using an independent researcher pays dividends here - it avoids you only hearing the answers you want to hear.
Your brand is brought to life by your team. Talk to your staff, let them know your plans and get their view on the business. Why did they join you? What do they want from you? What excites and motivates them? Don't limit this to leadership - engage a representative sample, old hands and new joiners. They will be representing your brand, so it's essential your brand represents them. If you go into developing the brand, the staff panel will really help.
As you grow and change, surveys, town halls and show-and-tells are useful tools to get insight and share progress.
Take risks, safely
When communicating your brand, be bold, be brave.
Go wide, and explore all the options. Be wildly divergent on your early ideas and concepts, testing as you go and refining as you get feedback from your research panel.
You don't need to test with hundreds of people - 5 is often enough.
Make it real
Whatever stage you're at, the brand is more than your logo. It doesn't live in a brand book. Signage and letterheads are the easy bit - ensuring that your brand is understood, so that it can guide day-to-day decisions is harder.
Can everyone understand and align around a clear brand goal? Provide principles to help translate your brand into actions.
Case study: Rebranding Redington
Thinking about a change
When Redington started, they were on a mission to change the pensions landscape for the better. They were ambitious, smart and experienced and wanted to prove that large pension fund deficits need no longer exist. So the brand goal in the beginning was simple: make the business look established. Show that they belong, can be trusted and will point the way forward for clients.
But 11 years later, they'd grown from one client to 80 clients. From two co-founders to an incredible team, 140 strong. All committed to helping 100 million people become financially secure. They were established, but they didn’t want to look like the establishment. They wanted to shake it up.
After 11 years, Redington had outgrown their original brand.
For a business that thinks and acts differently, their brand simply didn't reflect their attitude and culture.
What is the perception of the business?
How do you see yourself? If we were to ask your friends would they say they same thing? What about people who wouldn’t call themselves your friend? Would they describe you differently?
As an independent, we spoke to everyone with fresh eyes. We spoke to stakeholders to see how they saw the business. To clients, lapsed clients and even to those that they had lost pitches to recently. We ran anonymous surveys with the internal teams.
Only then did we present the business back to the business. Across nine themes from their culture to their perceived point of difference.
Aligning the leadership & teams
With the leadership team fully informed of how they are perceived today, we were ready to plan tomorrow. In a fast paced but well structured environment, we brought the leadership team together to define their purpose, personality, market positioning and values. We stayed in their offices for the next few days to talk to them and play back their views visually, editing and adapting until we had the brief right.
We developed an engagement framework. It detailed how the business would like to engage with the world and how they would like to be perceived in return. It defined not just the principles, but the proof points. The actions that make the brand.
Before we put pencil to paper, we started with an audit of how the brand assets are currently being used, and how their competitors present themselves. We ran a truly modern design process, inside their office, open door, in Sprints with the customer at each stage. We iterated from three routes to two and then finally one, with testing at each stage.
We held panels with the teams, leadership heard testing feedback and designs were iterated in real time. No big reveal, and everyone felt part of the process. The end result was a much bolder approach than they started out thinking they would take.
Making it real
In a process that took less than four months from hello to delivery, we loved working with the Redington team at every turn. With the fully finalised brand guidelines and assets delivered, we collaborated with the marketing team to plan out everything from pens to premises. The jewel in the crown was the news that they were moving to a brand new purpose build floor at Bank, and we were asked to help design the environment. Challenge accepted.
Whether you're launching, relaunching or need to breathe new life into an existing brand, we hope you've found something useful in this post.
If you'd like to get into the details, don't hesitate to get in touch.