When The Bagnall Company came to us in 2014 for a brand ‘refresh,’ the Miss Details team realized this company needed more than just some paint and plaster—it needed a walls-down renovation. As specialists in employee benefits, human resources, wellness, and technology consulting for more than two decades, the Bagnall team had what it took to go from a local business to a national brand, but they didn’t look the part.
We dove deep into their mission statement, values, presence, and existing marketing materials, scouting out gaps and opportunities for improvement. We recommended a name change to Bagnall, a title their customers and employees alike already used. A new logo, updated mission and values, new messaging frameworks, and new visual elements all followed. It was an update that really demonstrated who they were and what they did, and reflected the warm and welcoming environment their team was stellar at creating.
From their new business cards and stationery to an updated website and advertisements, it was clear it was a new era for Bagnall.
Throughout the rollout of their new identity, the Bagnall team was continually inspired and motivated, ensuring that their effort and output matched the quality of the tone they were setting. It helped them attract new clients, drive new business, and grow the company. Within two years of the rebranding, Bagnall was bought by Gallagher, a global insurance brokerage and risk management firm.
Certainly, their rebranding only played a small role in their success; their amazing team, business growth, and company culture made them quite appealing on their own. But their story is a reminder of the importance of proper branding for companies of all ages and sizes. Whether you’re a brand-new company that’s just starting to explore its personality, or an existing company like Bagnall that needs a refreshed image, read on to discover what you can do to ensure you’re headed down the right path.
Before and After Website
Because of a limited budget we were able to re-skin their older website with the new brand. We kept the framework and updated the feel of the site to coordinate with their refreshed brand.
New Brand Snapshot + Business Identity
The initial steps a business needs to take when beginning its branding journey differ depending on the company’s background. We’re going to go through two tracks:
- One for start-ups that don’t yet have any brand identity.
- One for companies with an existing brand or identity which they’re reviewing with fresh eyes.
1. Starting from Scratch
All businesses begin with a brilliant idea. But from there, every move you make needs to be intentional. What do you want your business to stand for? What do you hope the next few years will bring?
There’s certainly a lot to do for new businesses and brands to get off the ground, and dozens of steps to take along the way. But here are three key big-picture areas to focus on during the initial planning phase:
Analyze Your Competition
Unless you’re sitting on something truly revolutionary, such as a teleportation machine, chances are your business or product will enter a market that already features a few major players, and likely many smaller ones. You’re going to have to find a way to get your company and brand to stand out and capture attention and an audience (see our Deep Dive series on Customer Acquisition for much more on that topic).
Before you stumble blindly out into the marketplace, the best first step is to see what’s out there. Spending time and resources on market research will pay off in the long run, when you aren’t surprised by something as simple as being out-priced or out-branded by your competitor.
There are two different types of companies to look at when doing market research:
These are companies or businesses that already exist in the space you’re entering, and your customers will likely have to choose between your business and theirs. A company that wants to sell athletic footwear needs to study the likes of Nike and Under Armour (among others) inside and out; likewise, someone who wants to become a real estate agent in their town needs to study the other local realtors.
This type of comparison is useful when there isn’t a clear competitor for your company, whether due to your product itself or your market. The first newspaper in a growing town might not have direct competition, but it can analyze other news outlets in similar-sized cities to study how they make money, where they’ve had successes, and, more importantly, where they’ve had failures and setbacks. The more you can learn from others’ experiences, the better.
Predict Your Future
Unless you have a crystal ball, chances are you can’t actually see the future. But you’re going to have to do your best to try. Understanding and projecting where your business might be in one year, three years, and five years can help you lay out a sustainable, achievable growth plan, and give you an idea of how to best position your branding and messaging.
Define Your Personality
Now that you know your competition and have the groundwork set for your company’s growth plan, it’s time to determine the attitude, language, and style of your brand: its personality. Determine your mission and values, the factors that set you apart in your field. Having those values set helps you design your logo, which sets the tone for everything else.
Different types of logos come with different stories, different meanings, different attitudes. Is your logo modern and sharp, friendly and welcoming, or cartoonish and whimsical? Make sure to set expectations with that visual image and that it fits your authentic self: if your company is modern and innovative, your logo should not look like it’s from the 19th century.
2. Taking a Fresh Look
The process is a bit different for companies with existing brands that need refreshing or, like Bagnall, some more significant re-branding. Having a business with an established market, a sales history, an existing workforce, and more all affect your brand architecture. Your brand needs to stay true to your core values and present a realistic image to set proper expectations for your customers.
For example, companies with progressive, younger cultures should embrace those cultures’ values and not attempt to portray themselves as conservative and stodgy just because they assume it’s what their clients want.
Suggested reading: Learn more about the difference between a rebrand and brand refresh.
Define Your Challenges
Rather than external analysis, the first part of the rebranding process involves self-evaluation. If your company is launching a new branding initiative or changing its look, there has to be a reason. Were you failing to connect with your clients? Has your business changed over time in its mission, size, or approach? Have you needed to expand your market to stay afloat? Understanding why you’re embarking on this journey and having a clear idea of your issues is critical towards being able to fix your woes and set a positive plan.
Focus On Changes
Now that you better understand your pitfalls, you can focus on the aspects of your branding that you’ll be changing and adapting to fit your updated voice and attitude. For Bagnall, that meant changing their name, their logo, their stationery, their brochures and sales decks, their website—just about everything. For your business, that might not mean quite as many alterations, or it might be more. You might need a new name entirely, or just a refreshed color scheme and logo. It might be website copy, your sales approach and processes, your social media presence, or many other aspects. Figure out what you need, not just what you want.
Set Your Goals
How will you measure success? If you don’t know that, how could you ever be successful? Once you’ve decided on what you want to change, you need to set metrics to know if your changes have succeeded. Those could be timeline goals: having new materials by a certain date, or having a new website in six months. They could also be sales goals, website traffic goals, email list sign-ups, networking goals (how many business cards did you hand out?), or more.
Putting Your Plan to Work
Now you’re ready to begin putting your brand out into the world. In our next installment, we’ll take you through the steps of beginning to change your forethought into production, turning those ideas into reality.
And whether you’re working for a new business or an existing one, whether you’re confident in your branding or you aren’t, think to yourself: how much thought did you put into your appearance? How much time did you take to analyze your competition, to assess your specific challenges, to think long-term and plan for different paths? It’s never too late to start.
Here are quick links to the rest of this brand-building Deep Dive series:
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About Miss Details
Founded by Tanya Gagnon in 2004, Miss Details is a full-service branding and design firm which helps entrepreneurs and companies launch, adjust and reinvent key aspects of their branding and business marketing strategy. With a background in all aspects of interior and experiential design and a passion for data-backed design, Tanya leads the Miss Details team to guide her clients through everything from a refreshed website to a full rebranding, helping them put the pieces together to create a consistent, authentic, unique brand image.