As we move into the post-COVID world, a lot of business leaders will be taking a hard look at their brands. That’s great, but a case study we read recently points to three big mistakes you can avoid during a brand refresh.

The client in the case study was reportedly very pleased with the outcome and adding new customers. But we’re not impressed — not impressed at all — with the approach the agency took. They claim success, but we’ll keep watching the client’s income statement for the return on investment. In the meantime, you and your company can draw three lessons from the case study if you’re considering refreshing your brand.

1. Sure, Listen to Your Customers

But start by listening to your team.

The case study spells out the extremely expensive and time-consuming process of developing the new brand platform for the client (over a year in the making — that’s a lot of billable hours). The campaign was positioned as a transformation for the client with a new promise to customers, and a tagline and logo to support it. And it was all based on feedback from the customer. This flies in the face of one of MBM’s key brand principles —

Your employees know what your customers are thinking and feeling — they just don’t know how to tell you.

Rather than a massive customer survey or multiple expensive focus groups (which probably make customers feel pain points more acutely), how about an internal survey of employees at every level — especially customer-facing staff? By engaging them, you’re going to raise morale, create buy-in for any revised brand messaging, and learn what’s really going on in your company and with your customers.

You’ll need to know the right questions to ask, and your employees will need to feel confident that they can be candid with their responses — but the insights will be incredibly valuable, without raising the eyebrows of your customers.

2. Stop Telling Your People What to Think

Until you listen to what they already know.

The case study mentioned that along with the brand launch there was “an internal rollout to inspire and educate employees” plus the creation of “internal assets to educate and generate excitement among employees.” We interpret this to mean the brand development was done in a vacuum and then sold to employees after the fact. It also implies that employees needed to be educated about their brand, and then told to get excited about it! These employees are the heart, soul and frontline providers of the brand and don’t need to be told what it is (now) and how to feel about it. We can see the eyerolling from halfway around the world.

Your employees live and breathe your brand every day – they know more about it than any outside experts. You just need to ask them.

Few human beings like to be told what to think or how to feel. If employees aren’t engaged in the branding process and their voices aren’t heard and acknowledged they will push back — even if what they’re hearing is right. They’ll think, “I could’ve told you that, if you’d only asked. And that would’ve saved you a lot of money.”

This is business, and employees are adults who have keen perceptions about their jobs, their customers and the brand they represent and deliver every day. This knowledge is free for the asking — you just need to know the right questions to ask, and assure them they can feel confident and candid with their responses.

3. Don’t Change What You Say to Your Customers

Until you know what your team hears from your customers every day.

According to the case study, there was a big launch for the brand refresh which included an advertising campaign, billboards, video and an industry association’s award for “a winning refreshed brand platform.” All of that must have been expensive too — there were copywriters, designers, filmmakers, editors, media buyers and the media buy itself. All these professionals were working to put into words what they think customers want to hear — in the language they assume customers are using. But…

Your employees hear customer feedback every day — the strengths you can build on and the gaps you need to fix.

Why not ask your employees what they’re hearing? People love to talk about successes and accolades. Nothing makes people feel better than acknowledgement for a job well done, a compliment – especially when their boss, and their boss’s boss know what a good job they’re doing. Talk about raising morale!

They’ll share strengths that better differentiate your business from your competition: the strengths that keep customers returning and recommending the brand to their friends and family. You’ll hear the words and phrases customers are already using. Why pay for a substitute to the real thing, especially when it’s available for free?

And when employees share gaps that need to be remedied, it’s satisfying for them to know they’re making a genuine contribution to your company’s future success.

Bonus: Don’t Overlook Key Details

The entire “rebrand” case study never mentions how a “dated and uninspiring brand” was able to pull off the technology and training to deliver on its new promise of “digital-first, customer-centric.” That’s a tall order of change management.

  • Is the client doing things differently now?
  • Did they train their employees to act differently?
  • Was the technology needed thoughtfully purchased, installed, tested and trained for?
  • How long did it take to be positioned internally?
  • Is the client really delivering on their new promise?
  • What did this all cost? And not just in terms of money and technology, but in employee frustration and morale if promises were made without the backend ability to deliver on it?

If your business is considering a brand refresh, those are all important questions you’ll need to ask yourself before you get started and approve such a significant investment.