Can branding ever be a once-and-done activity?

If I didn’t love writing so much this could have been a really short blog post.

It would simple read, ‘Is branding a once-and-done activity?’

Followed by a blunt ‘No.’

And then a link to this image.

But, for me, writing is fun… when I’m caffeinated that is. So lucky you, dear reader, you get to enjoy another rant and ramble from the inner workings of Tess’ coffee-fuelled brain.

Today, I’m talking branding and how I’m never going to let you get away with putting this aspect of your business in the ‘finished’ pile.

As the Apple example above deomnstrates, your brand is an ever evolving task and should continually be refreshed, reinvented and just like those toenails of yours, treated to some TLC every once in a while.

After wrapping up a branding project for a new startup recently, our client exclaimed, ‘Phewww, I’m glad that’s done.’ Which sent the hairs on the back of my neck up like little soldiers standing to attention.

‘Done?’ Oh hell no, sweetheart. This is jusssst the beginning. Your branding is never done.’ If it were as easy as a quick; find something you like doing, create a logo and make money, we’d all be filthy rich. But you’re smart enough to know that that’s not how business works.

Instead, no matter how many style guides, brand formulas, clever logos, or sexy fonts you string together, there’s still work to be done. Yes, even if you’re the cool, of-the-moment, gotta-have-it and tell-all-my-friends-about-it ‘people’s’ brand nipping at the big dogs’ heels and stealing market share, (Hi Glossier!), you’ll still have to constantly evolve your brand.

There is no bringing a note from Mum to get outta this one, I’m sorry friends!

Why you ask? Because the only way a brand is successful is if it resonates at an emotional and instinctual level with its dream customers, day-in, day-out. BUT, your dream customers evolve and change too. Nothing is stagnant. Well, actually the only thing that is stagnant is a brand that hasn’t evolved, and if that’s the case it’s probably 6 feet under.

Branding is, for the most part, an intangible entity. It’s not your epic new logo, your flashy new business card or your shiny Instagram feed. It’s not even your website or your products or your services. Your ‘brand’ is what other people perceive your business to be or to represent. And as Seth Godin, the king of all things good and holy puts it, branding is “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. Your logo is a referent, a symbol, a reminder of your brand. But your ‘brand’ is a story, a set of emotions and expectations and a stand-in for how we think and feel about what you do.”

He took the words right out of my mouth. As Seth implies, when branding is done right, it has power. Power to shape perception, power to influence choice and power to spark a new conversation.


(And there’s always a but, you should know that by now.) Your brand is only as powerful as it is relevant. A brand that evolves over time, continues to win over hearts and satisfy the ever changing and evolving needs of its community is a powerful brand.

The reason you need to evolve your brand comes back to the definition of a brand itself. As we know, a ‘brand’ is not your logo, your product or latest Instagram picture – despite how great the lighting was. No, a brand is the ethos and the community of people that surround your product or service. So if brand is about creating community then it’s about belonging.

But the only way to truly belong, is to stay connected. Which means you need to evolve at the same pace as your community.

Seth backs me up when he says, you should “spend 10,000 times as much time and money on your brand as you spend on your logo.”

Kareene Koh, partner at, Deloitte Digital, agrees failing to evolve your brand comes at a cost to your business, “Our survey found that businesses whose brands stagnated over the past year also saw their revenues fall by 13% on average over this period,” she said. “For a business with annual revenue of $1 billion, this represents a potential fall of $130 million in revenue.”

Both Kareene and Seth are my virtual homies. They get why I’m utterly obsessed with brand evolution and continuing to update and reinvent both our own brand and the brand’s of our clients. I’m sure I drive my team bonkers – I don’t think there has been a single week in the history of Smack Bang when we haven’t reviewed, edited or tweaked our website or an aspect of our brand.

Let me be clear though, when I talk about brand evolution, I don’t mean a rebrand. Heck – if I were doing that every week I’d have a gold star membership to my local psych ward. What I mean is a gradual, organic, you’d-barely-notice-it update of each aspect of your brand. Continually. So that over time, you ensure that you remain relevant and in touch with your community.

Re-branding can be an invaluable exercise and it can certainly do wonders for your bottom line. But it’s not something I recommend doing often. Instead, allow your brand to change slowly and gradually in relationship to its context. Let it evolve with relevance to your values, your products and your people. Make small changes at a time and evaluate them as you do. Maybe you’ve always used cursive type for your headings, but you’re starting to realise that that font is so 2017 or a little too Disney-like for your customers. It’s not going to spark an unimaginable natural disaster if you slowly introduce a new heading font. And, if a few months down the track, you feel like the new replacement font doesn’t work, you can easily and efficiently switch it back, without creating a brand disaster. That’s the beauty of doing things slowly and gradually, with caution and care. You preserve the brand equity you’ve created, whilst tweaking pieces of your identity to stay relevant and connected to your audience.

But before you get all tweenager-at-a-Tay-Tay-concert, jacked up on red frogs and a cocktail of enthusiasm, don’t go transforming every aspect of your brand so that it ends up looking like a patchwork quilt created at Burning Man. Steady on, Tiger. I said make small changes at a time. You don’t want to tempt yourself into a completely new look without a solid strategy and method to your madness.

Image credit: Souffle

How to communicate a rebrand with grace and gusto

Do you ever have those thoughts of ‘Thank GOD I don’t have that haircut anymore?’ Like when I look back at photos from the early 2000s and realise that I had a peroxide blonde mullet? #nojoke

Or looking back at that dreadful 90s outfit you donned as a kid and thank your lucky stars that you’re actually somewhat fashionable now? (Thanks for the polka dot leotard with matching scrunchie mum!)

Or realising that you once drove a 1991 rusty Nissan Pulsar that was rustier than a tin shed and feeling ever so grateful for your sleek new Volkswagen Tiguan.

I love discovering little life hacks like that that fill you with newfound self-confidence.

I get this feeling when I look back at the Smack Bang logo circa 2011.

At the time I had a sickly obsession with bright turquoise green – like the kind of green you need sunnies on to look at. Our logo had a bright green circle behind it that felt like the nightclub lights turning on when it was time to head home and, in retrospect, fills me with the same kind of anxiety.

(Let it also be known that I even painted one of our studio walls this colour. I’m not sure what I thinking, but the creative juices were obviously really starting to fire up.)

When I compare that ‘brand’ to our now slick, sexy and sophisticated brand, I am elated with confidence, clarity and a massive sense of relief.

The power of a rebrand, no matter how big, can be truly business-transforming. 

I recently fell down the rabbit hole that is our rather juicy archive of projects. I got all the way from A to M (and only aged a few years in the process), and stumbled across our designs for one of our most treasured clients, Mukti. Sifting through the files in that folder sure was a trip down memory lane. When Mukti first came to us, her beautiful formulations were trapped inside outdated little bottles that no longer reflected the quality and greatness of where she wanted her brand to be. We’ve worked with Mukti over the last 5 years to reposition and alchemise her brand from bland to grand and have since rebranded almost every aspect of her business. It has been one of the most satisfying projects to date because we’ve seen first-hand what an impact a refresh and repositioning can have on a business’ bottomline.

In Mukti’s case, a rebrand was necessary to encourage growth and clarify their services,

“I wanted our brand to be cleaner and less pigeon-holed as a
hippy-boho-natural-organic brand. I want to be taken seriously
as a global contender – an organic skincare brand that delivers real results.”

The Mukti rebrand and repositioning is just one of many projects where we’ve had the pleasure of playing make-over magic and helping our clients reap the rewards of a refresh.

I’ve written about why to rebrand and how to rebrand before, but I haven’t shared how to communicate a rebrand to your audience. A rebrand, when done for the right reasons, is a surefire way to get positive alignment for your brand, both externally and internally.

Here are my six golden rules to revealing a rebrand to an existing audience without losing your street cred.

    When a company rebrands, there’s always the fear that your existing audience will feel alienated or confused by the change. The biggest fear Mukti had when it came to rebranding was exactly that:

    “I was scared that if it was radically different our customers may not
    recognise the brand. But I believe my approach to business has evolved
    and matured. I do my best not to be attached and to be open to others
    input and advice. Sometimes letting go is hard especially if decisions are taken
    out of your hands but in order to grow you have to take the leap of faith,
    experience a little discomfort and jump into the void.”

    We often find that when our clients are more vocal and transparent about the reasons for their rebrand, their customers aren’t alienated at all, and in many cases step up to offer their encouragement and support. If you’re transparent with your audience about why you’re rebranding, then there’s more potential for them to get behind your mission and support you on your voyage.

    The quickest way to lose customers through a rebrand is to implement your changes overnight, without a word of warning. This is particularly the case if your rebrand is a dramatic change from your old get-up.

    Back in 2010 GAP (or more officially, The Gap) did exactly this. One day they were the familiar old, preppy, GAP, and the next? Customers went to the company’s website expecting to see the familiar dark blue box and white name were met with a logo that left them confused. It was impossible to tell if this was even the same clothing store? It’s safe to say the rebrand was a complete flop, and within a matter of weeks they reverted back to their old branding *Command Z* and see-ya-later $100 million (that was an expensive mistake).

    Ensure you communicate your rebrand to your followers far in advance. Sit down with your team and come up with the a well-thought-out timing strategy to execute the evolution. If it happens too slowly, you’ll lose the impact and rewards of a rebrand. If it happens too fast, your customers will be confused and, most likely, resentful.

    It’s essential to make use of every tool in the communications toolbox to let people know about your new positioning and new brand. Your blog, social media accounts, email and even mailing lists should all be included as you roll out your rebrand.

    Remember, that all of your followers connect with your brand in different ways, some people will learn of your refresh via social, but others will be more inclined to read a newsletter. Check that you cover all bases by getting up on all your different soapboxes to ensure all your party people are kept in the loop and reassured they’re going to get the same great products, services or dedication to mission that they’ve come to expect.

    When we launched our latest brand refresh and spankin’ new website at Smack Bang last year, we also launched an entire new portfolio collection. This was a great plan of action because it gave us a reason to talk to our audience about the rebrand and also gave people a reason to care. Using a double whammy is a great approach – for us, we saw an increase in traffic to our website and greater interest in our studio, because there was a better understanding of what we offered, and our audience weren’t only interested in the new look, but also had an opportunity to view all of our most recent work. Have a think about what kind of double-pronged approach you can use with a rebrand? It might be the release of a new collection, the addition of a new service, a brand spankin’ promo? Whatever it is, remember to articulate it clearly and give your people something to care about.
    Strategies, like being transparent and timely about your rebrand, go a long way toward retaining customers. But the best way to avoid a drop in business is to focus on maintaining excellent service, particularly during this transition time. During and after a rebrand is the best time to really assert your brand values, ensuring that your customer service is next level top-notch! By going the extra mile when you have all these extra eyeballs on you, your customers will feel like the rebrand was the best darn thing you ever did.

    Assert your new brand positioning with confidence and clarity. Your approach should be reliable and genuine, not hand-deliver-a-thousand-cupcakes-level eager to explain every single design decision you made to get there. Ensure you and your team are onboard with the reasons why you’ve rebranded and get super-duper crystal clear on your brand values, mission and vision. By having a strong positioning on the DNA of your brand, you’ll be able to better communicate what the rebrand means for your customer. The more articulate, confident and succinct you are, the better your customers will be able to understand what the rebrand means for them.

Image credit: Joost Termeer