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Does your brand need a refresh?

Even the biggest brands don’t always get a refresh right, but there’s as much to learn from their failures as their successes.

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Has your brand reached a crossroads and you’re not sure which road to take? Have sales flattened or started to decline? Is the message and design of your marketing materials all over the place?

Your business is not alone. Even the most iconic brands have stumbled over the years to remake their image, often by failing to make necessary changes until it’s too late or making unnecessary changes with the best intentions but poor execution.

So, how do you get a brand refresh right? There are four key inflection points in the life of a brand when it’s time to press pause and regroup, notes Todd LaBeau, SVP and head of digital, and Lindsay Ferris, SVP and chief marketing strategist at Madison marketing agency Lindsay, Stone & Briggs.

Tood LaBeau


Lindsay Ferris

Through real-world examples, the branding experts at LSB will help attendees at the In Business Expo and Conference identify when it’s time for a brand refresh and provide an actionable checklist for building a modern brand. The Expo is set for Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Alliant Energy Center.

“At LSB, we’ve done hundreds of brand strategy and brand repositioning projects, and we’ve learned through experience that brands that need a refresh generally fall into one of four business situations,” notes Ferris:

  • “The first (and most obvious) situation is brands that are new to the world. So often, we see new brands that design a logo and call it a day, then two years later come to us because they don’t have any idea what their brand is about and they’re struggling.
  • “The second is brands that have received no marketing support for a period of time and are seeing their sales drop. They realize the need to support their brand and often have tried to DIY it without success. We help them realize their brand’s potential and can help them create a sustainable marketing support plan that can scale with the brand.
  • “Mergers and acquisitions or corporate restructures are the third big brand-refresh driver. When brands are acquired or spun off, a new team can see new potential, or marketing resources may become available and a once stagnant brand can begin a resurgence.
  • “The final situation is sometimes the most challenging and fun: brands in categories that are being disrupted. Brands experiencing disruption often need to refresh more than just their brand — they may need to fundamentally reevaluate their product proposition and channel strategy.”

“There are other factors that can drive the need for a refresh — sometimes your brand is just tired and outdated — but we always start with the business problem and figure out where the brand fits in to the consumer’s world,” adds LaBeau.

Ferris explains that understanding what a refresh really means is important for brands looking for a boost. “Often, people think of the outward expression of a brand — the logo and brand identity — when they think of a refresh. But when we think about a ‘brand refresh,’ we start from the inside. We need to figure out the brand strategy and the brand story we’re trying to tell — who the brand is and what it’s about — before we design the brand identity.”

Knowing whether your brand needs a minor refresh or a complete overhaul is also very dependent on the specific situation a company finds itself in, says Ferris. “Every brand is different. Some brands need ‘the works’ — new strategy, new name, new brand identity, new advertising. Some brands just need sharpening.

“We’re currently working on an interesting project for a service brand, and we’re only focusing only on a specific part of their brand strategy,” continues Ferris. “They know who they are, but they don’t have a focused story, so every consumer communication they put out is saying something different. We did research and the results were startling: Brand awareness is exceptionally high, but consumers have no idea what the brand stands for and all of the amazing things the brand does to literally make the world a better place.”

Knowing when it’s time for a refresh also isn’t as simple as hitting a milestone on the calendar, says LaBeau. There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule when it comes to brand refreshes; it all depends on the health of your business and the strength of your connection with your consumer or customer.

“Even when business is booming, it’s always a good idea to pay attention to the context in which your brand exists,” LaBeau says. “Cultural shifts can sometimes take even the healthiest brands by surprise. Take the bottled water category, for example. One day sales are growing at double digits and the next day plastic bottles are the scourge of human existence. Taking time to understand what’s going outside your immediate category can alert you to early signs of trouble.”


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