When is it time?
At St. Bernadine, we believe in the power of great brands. The best brands know how to evolve and change with the tides of opinion, style, and market forces. But, after a period of stagnation, market disruption, or in preparation for growth, a comprehensive rebrand can be the catalyst for positive, transformative change.
Our process, work, and success for our clients has earned us recognition, three of the past four years in the global Rebrand Awards, making us one of the most consistently recognized branding firms in North America.
From the Core Out
A rebrand is not merely a cosmetic change. It’s not a simple logo refresh or a colour palette change (though those certainly may be elements). Rather, a rebrand is a process whereby all aspects of a business may be scrutinized and optimized, from operations, to messaging, to marketing strategy, to trade dress and communications.
As such, the most successful rebranding projects attempt to envision an ideal brand, with all stakeholders involved in their relative aspects the business, from internal communications, to front line employees, to the product or service itself, to the consumers for whom the brand is most relevant.
Insight Guiding Action
For over 80 years, the relationships people have with brands has been known and capitalized on. It’s common now to think that brands “live” in the minds of consumers and culture at large. The owners of a trademark can try to position a brand or a product, but ultimately it’s how people think of it that determine the real value or position of a brand. Metrics like brand health have been developed to measure what consumers think of brands, in addition to more traditional awareness measures.
Any successful rebranding project must therefore start with as much empirical, market-based data as possible. That insight then becomes the strategic foundation to help us optimize the business by connecting with consumers and reinvigorating the enterprise.
Insight comes from a variety of sources; company leaders will share vision and knowledge, front line workers that have intimate customer knowledge that frequently doesn’t make it back to the boardroom. Perhaps most importantly, consumers are asked about perception, to see how far we need to go, their values, what kinds of stories will resonate, and their purchase triggers, to see what will turn engagement into intent.
But make no mistake, you don’t need a huge budget to do research – even the smallest projects can benefit from the increased access to consumers that digital tools now give us. For example, research for our client WrapZone – a small quickserve chain – was conducted very economically using SurveyMonkey and Facebook ads.
Fundamental to our approach is the idea of storytelling. Stories are inherently social; they are one of the primal ways we connect with one another, and as such offer brands the same emotional and practical benefits. Everyone remembers and shares a good story, and telling a story, in turn, reflects upon the person telling it.
For example, the success of a new brand, Original 16 for our client, Great Western Brewing, is due in no small part to the great David vs. Goliath story of the founding of the brewery.
We look to the insight to determine what brand stories will resonate and engage our target market. We look for stories that are true, authentic, and will differentiate us from our competitors. These will inform the tone and manner of our communications and even the types of programs that we may run.
Our first Rebrand win was for Brewhouse Beer. At the time, it was a fairly nondescipt brand, competing in the value category in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The rebrand was based on the insight that consumers shopping in this category aren’t looking for “badge” beers; that they just want a quality, drinkable beer and are willing to forego the pretense that comes with beers at a higher price point. After careful consideration, the platform Refreshingly Honest Beer was born, with all of the quality and none of the hype. The result is an engaged core consumer group that translated into a profound 30% growth year over year, for several years in a row.
With a remarkably different target market and business problem, our rebrand for Western Coal had similar results. In a volatile market, Western Canadian Coal needed to communicate its financial strength, growth plans and new international focus. The word “Canadian” was dropped from the name, but elements of the original identity were retained to provide continuity. Overall, the new look of the brand was bolder and stronger, with focus on visuals of the new international assets. The result was not only increased stakeholder engagement and investor attention, but ultimately resulted in Western Coal itself getting bought by Walter Energy in 2010, and additional investor value.
Business to Business
Different again, but no less successful, is our rebrand for Total Graphics. In the increasingly commoditized digital printing market, Total Graphics stands out not only by their great service and high quality work, but also by the wide range of complementary services they offer, from prepress, to digital asset management, to new-generation online tools. The rebrand was based on the insight that most of their clients used one of their services only and that cross-selling services would provide the desired business result. The new brand was based on the timeless tangram puzzle, showing how Total’s wide range of services can be reconfigured in almost infinite ways to provide a custom solution to their clients’ problems. The result is much greater awareness with current clients of their range of services, greater engagement by staff, and a positive impact on sales.
Retail / Food Service
It’s still in its early days, but our rebrand for WrapZone has already had a significant positive impact on their bottom line. In an increasingly competitive market, where multinational chains are offering inferior wraps and smoothies, WrapZone needed to stand out and redefine its unique offering. Research told us the category already “owned” the healthy space, so messaging focused on quality and taste. The new brand features lots of white space, “hand done” elements, and a proprietary typeface that can be distributed to all franchisees with no additional licensing costs. The result has not only reversed a sales slide, but has provided a boost in sales, morale, and dedication amongst franchisees. We have just welcomed a new franchisee as well.
Thanks for reading this. If you’re thinking about a rebrand and have questions or would like more information on our process, please feel free to give us a shout. We’d also welcome your comments below.