When is the right time to evolve your brand?

By Andrew Bromwell

Hey, hey, hey. Andrew from ZoCo Design reporting. We’ve been busy as heck making some exciting new changes to our brand and website, and over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be giving you a glimpse behind the scenes as we’ve rebuilt from the ground up—our brand promise, our process, and how we communicate our value to the right audience. Hopefully, this peek behind the curtain is insightful for anyone who has questioned the value of their brand or website. Enjoy!

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So, when is the right time to evolve your brand?

That’s a question that comes up a lot here at ZoCo. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve had a similar thought. The answer is a tricky one. Brands are complex—they’re living, breathing systems that need cultivating. They must evolve to stay relevant, no matter how well they have served you in the past.

Your brand is not just your logo.

Before any brand evolution, we first need to understand what a brand is. Commonly, a brand is thought of as simply your name, logo, color palette, etc. In reality, it’s a compilation of every touchpoint, every experience and every interaction that extends far beyond just visual assets. A brand is how you look and communicate. It’s what you promise. It aligns your organization’s values, builds a connection, and serves your business objectives. All of these things join to build a perception in the minds and hearts of your audiences, creating a vision of who they believe you to be.

If you neglect even one of these, you may need to show your brand some love. Okay, but how do you do that? How do you cultivate your brand? Where do you even start?

Diagnosing the problem.

Start by asking questions. What does your brand do well? Where does it fall short? Does it communicate the right message? Does it represent your values? Does it successfully serve your business objectives? If the answers to these questions are anything but positive, it might be time to re-evaluate.

This can be an overwhelming task, and we get that.

Brand identities are personal. You live and work alongside your brand each and every day, and become strongly connected over time. This identity reflects who you believe the company to be through everything you do in the business. It’s also daunting to think of overhauling something so foundationally important. Depending on how your audiences experience your brand, a small change can lead to a significant investment.

We recently experienced this firsthand. When we first built our brand, it worked. We were proud of it—it was our baby—but we’ve grown up. While our core values and personality haven’t changed, our process and offerings have (a lot). What makes us great, what we do best, became more clear to us than ever before—but we weren’t sure if others were aware.

First, ZoCo was founded on the principle that creative should never be separate from business and strategy, and that the three should work in harmony to find the most impactful solutions. This ideology isn’t quite revolutionary, but in a market where strategists and project managers have direct relationships with clients while designers are locked away to execute on someone else’s vision, it is surprisingly rare. We weren’t sure that this guiding principle and the value it creates for our clients was being clearly communicated.

Second, we offer a number of services, but time and time again we would hear from existing and prospective clients, “Oh, I didn’t know you could do that,” or “Wow, you guys tackle so much more than I expected.” Others yet equated us to a traditional marketing agency (spoiler, we aren’t), or didn’t comprehend how our research and strategy focus set us apart.

These served as our first indications that things weren’t quite right.

Then we started asking questions.

  • What about when we aren’t around to tell our story?
  • How do our audiences differentiate us in their minds?
  • What happens when past clients need something new and aren’t aware that we can help?
  • Do they reach out, or do they go somewhere else?

We had a feeling these answers could be leading to losing business opportunities, which is a big bummer.

TLDR; our brand wasn’t connecting with our audiences which meant it didn’t serve our business objectives. Time to rethink things.

With our key problem identified, we wanted to flesh out the details further and look at all of our ingredients—from aligning to our internal values, to connecting to our audiences, to servicing our business objectives.

Your brand reflects your values.

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We started the process with a bird’s-eye view of our brand strategy. As a team, we reconfirmed our core values and drew a line in the sand. Regardless of external factors, our values make us who we are, and that won’t change. Those values translate into attributes that define who ZoCo is as a person.

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Once we aligned on our values, we needed to understand how those values translated into our brand promise. Above all else what is our mission?

By practicing problem finding before problem solving and using research to guide the vision, we can confidently identify the right problems and provide the most effective solutions.

Your brand connects with your audience.

Next, we defined our audiences and what made them tick, paying close attention to what they care about and how they reflect on our core values.

We took this a step further and defined where they look for information: What tools do they use to achieve their goals? How can we best serve them?

When thinking about our recent interactions, we asked ourselves: What questions come up over and over? What is the number one misconception?

Your brand serves your business objectives.

Finally, we defined our business objectives. In the past, ZoCo focused on more niche markets, but as we’ve grown we realize our value extends far beyond the startup scene. We’ve served dozens of corporate innovation teams, built robust digital products, launched successful B2C brands, and conducted thousands of hours of user research (and we love it all). Most importantly, throughout all of our projects we held true to our mission: to help our clients make informed and effective decisions by problem finding before problem solving.

Our new business objectives focused on ensuring our promise was clear and expanding our offerings to new audiences and even new markets. Our current brand and messaging didn’t serve this need.

If you’re applying this to your own company, think of it this way: Your brand and messaging should be pulling its own weight, not working against these goals. Where might your identity today be holding you back?

Once we had defined our values, audience, and business objectives, we needed to ensure our brand and messaging lined up. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as I unravel how we evolved our brand through a website (launching soon) and messaging strategy, followed by building a more robust brand system to tell our authentic story.

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These are some of the exercises and considerations which are key to understanding if it’s the right time for an evolution. If you’re considering a new brand, let’s talk! We’d love to get you started on the right track and help you diagnose the problem to set you up for success. zocodesign.com or [email protected]

Andrew Bromwell

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