In the final weeks of 2013, you might begin thinking about New Year’s resolutions. As you reflect on all the things that could use a fresh start in 2014, add one more to the list: your brand.
“A brand is a strategy — not just a logo,” explains Alan Hayman of the Hayman Consulting Group. In his presentation, “Rebrand Now,” for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA), he points out that there are many misconceptions about branding. He defines it as a perception or an association of what people think about your product and how you are viewed in the marketplace. Rebranding through a combination of design and message enhances an existing brand, creating a new identity. “It is a radical change to reposition your company. All of us, every so often, need to reposition our companies,” Hayman says. “It is about distancing ourselves from the past — or even the present.”
Hayman points out that a successful company with a long history of service and reliability probably wants to make that part of its message, but the company might not want to lead with that information — especially if the company is doing something innovative or providing new technology. “In today’s world, our old brands really don’t resonate as well as some of the new brands do,” he says. He adds that rebranding becomes necessary for all companies, regardless of size — and smaller companies usually need to rebrand more often.
Market changes drive rebranding. In the retail market, for example, retailers shopping for point of sale systems are younger and much more technology savvy compared to those of a few decades ago. The competition also has changed, offering new solutions and operating with new business models. Hayman says that responding to changes with rebranding is invigorating — not only internally, but also among customers, potential customers, vendors, and competitors. “They will take notice that you are not standing still,” he comments.
As an example, Hayman uses the story of his own company, “Stanley Hayman and Company Business Machines,” as it was known from 1938-1976. “We had a mouthful. We had a logo. We had a sticker, and there was so much on that sticker that nobody could see if from a distance,” Hayman recalls.
He explains, initially, the company wanted to change the impression that Stanley Hayman and Company Business Machines was a one-person company. The company also wanted to focus on cash registers and not on typewriters and adding machines, as it had done in the past. “We wanted to stand out. We still wanted to have a simple design, but we wanted a major internal change. We changed the logo, and, more importantly, we changed the mindset,” he says.
The company became “Hayman Cash Register Co.,” and with the next rebranding, a subtle name change to “Hayman Cash Register Systems,” represented growth to a systems business. The company later evolved into “Hayman Business Systems,” providing new solutions — not only for the front of the house but also for the retailer’s office — selling networks, services, and software. Ultimately, “Hayman Systems” became a total solutions company. “The logo was just the tip of the iceberg of all of the things that we changed,” Hayman explains.
To begin the process of rebranding, Hayman suggests taking a critical look at your current brand to decide what you want the perception of your company to be. He says to consider your customers, the market, and your competitors. He advises, “Don’t be afraid of change. Be petrified of staying the same.”
“If what you are doing today hasn’t changed in 15 or 20 years, I can tell you that the status quo is not adequate. It isn’t, no matter what you think. You just need to go and ask some other people around you,” he says. Another suggestion is to type the name of your industry into an Internet search engine to see if your company is among the search results — and consider how your website stacks up to the top results.
Hayman advises working with experts to create a plan. This includes making an inventory of your current marketing collateral, setting priorities, and establishing a timeline and a budget. After designing a new logo and tag line, remember to update it everywhere it appears, such as on your website, social media pages, signs, labels, forms, proposals, contracts, and demonstrations. He adds that your “elevator speech” — the first few hundred words you tell people about your company when you first meet them — also needs to be changed to reflect your new marketing message.
Hayman stresses internal changes are just as important as external ones. “You set the example. Get organized. Change bad habits. Change your personal brand.”