When and how to refresh a B2B brand
We are often called in to advise on whether and how to refresh B2B brands, and even 'should we change our name?' Our advice is always that it depends on the circumstances.
Has the product offer changed significantly?
Has the nature of your competitive advantage changed?
Are your customers becoming less loyal to your brand?
Are you addressing new markets for whom your name or visual identity is inappropriate or ineffective?
If any of these are true, then it is worth considering. And every 10 years or so it is worth reviewing the situation, checking that your look and feel haven’t become dated, and that the qualities that you project are still true of you and valued by your prospective customers and partners.
Case example - Refreshing the Hensley Partners brand
Hensley Partners has now been around for 12 years, so we thought we should take some of our own medicine, and review our own brand. This post is a brief overview of the process and methods we use when planning, creating and deploying a new brand identity. Our client work is typically confidential, so we decided we could and should share how we did it for ourselves.
Stage 1 – Research
Like every project we undertake we started off by auditing our brand – surveying the key stakeholders. So we interviewed and surveyed our partners and clients to get feedback on what they value, and how we compare to competitors.
We then took an objective look at ourselves, to see if our brand image as projected had a good fit with what they valued, and compared it with competitors and best practice examples of branding in professional services and creative agencies.
- We got some good, positive feedback - not unexpected as most of them have been repeat clients for years - and they told us what they particularly valued us for: professionalism, insight, impact and collaboration.
- We found the name still fits. We have several Hensleys active in the practice, and work very much in partnership, both with the experts in our network and with our clients.
- The look and feel however were feeling tired after over a decade, and had fallen far behind the best practices in our sector. Our website, while responsive, needed to have imagery that gave a more professional feel.
- The original logo featured a ‘flourish’, like a feather quill pen. This symbolized our flair and wordcraft, but wasn’t immediately recognised by people new to the brand.
- And those qualities that clients particularly valued us for – professionalism, insight, impact and collaboration – weren’t strongly communicated in the visual identity or our website.
So we decided that we should refresh our look and feel, to create a more modern impression and bring out the qualities our existing clients recognise and value.
Stage 2 – Strategy
We needed to have a simple communication concept to guide our future creative direction and messaging – a brand platform that can be used as a basis for developing a more client focussed brand identity.
We refined our brand platform based on the findings of our research. We found a big idea – the brand essence – that encapsulated the qualities that our clients valued, the key brand attributes that needed to come across in our design and in our messaging.
We also needed a communication strategy, setting priorities for the work needed to to refresh our brand and bring it to life. As a small consultancy, client work always comes first, so we needed to plan an efficient sequence of activities to deliver our new brand.
Recognising that our web presence is our most visible external manifestation, we planned to work on our identity system and website in parallel. Then we coordinated the launch of this with updates to our email signatures, social media presence and key collateral e.g. business cards, to be followed as needed by updates to our other communications media - PowerPoint, brochures, etc.
Stage 3 – Create
Bringing the brand to life
The new brand platform formed the basis of all the identity concepts, and informed the direction of our new look and feel.
What does Creative Intelligence look like?
We created a rich and sophisticated visual language – inspired by Creative Intelligence – that depicts what it's like to collaborate with Hensley Partners. Particular attention was paid to our verbal identity – creating a short, succinct narrative with a simple, direct tone-of-voice – design to appeal to our target audience of time-strapped CEO's and CMO's.
At the same time we were exploring the brand look and feel we started to develop a range of identity concepts. We tested these with a selection of clients and partners, and found that they shared our view on the best route.
The new symbol which incorporates a plus sign in the H represents positive change and sustainable business results. It is distinctive, looks sharp yet professional, and communicates the positive sense of partnership.
This, combined with a very professional set of imagery, showing us working together in collaboration with our clients, and an appropriately professional colour palette, give us a more sophisticated feel.
You can see it here on our new website, and we'd be interested to hear your feedback.