Oh the days where you would rock your acid washed jeans with a hypercolor t-shirt and neon fanny pack. Your perm plastered with a full can of aqua net and the smell of cucumber melon filling the air. Do you remember the moment you looked in the mirror and realized that this style no longer fit you?
Whether you grew out of that tight little mini skirt or you started a new career, did you look at yourself and think “this image no longer represents me.” Brands are no different. Over time, your City or Utility brand may need a refresh. How can you tell when it’s time for a rebrand?
1. Your Brand Doesn’t Differentiate.
Is your City’s brand “Live. Work. Play.”? These three things are essential for attracting people to your City, but we ALL live, work, and play in the City we inhabit. A good brand is authentic to what makes your City unique. Take the #GFisCooler brand for example. The Grand Forks region, struggling to fill their workforce demand and goals, recognized the need to brand the region in order to attract people to the area. While their goal was to get people to live, work, and play in the area – the struggle was to convince people to do that over other regional options. It’s no secret that Grand Forks is cold. And for a long time the region tried to disguise this fact. But in reality, the cold is what makes Grand Forks unique! On the coldest of days, residents take pride in the fact that they are hardy enough to live in one of the coldest parts of the country. And events and activities center on the cold winter climates (as well as the rest of the seasons). Ultimately, the City has a lot of cool things to offer. This uniqueness is where #GFisCooler stemmed. It encompasses the people, place, and personality of the region. And since its implementation, the brand has been embraced by residents. While cold weather may seem like a weakness, the brand is successful because it is authentic. Everyone is going to live, work, and play somewhere, give them a reason for it to be in your City.
2. Your Brand Doesn’t Represent Your Current Community Personality and Culture.
Finding a brand that is authentic to your City is not a new concept. In fact, many cities were branded to represent their unique character…decades ago. But today, that brand may no longer represent the City. Cities evolve over time as cultures, demographics, and industry change. What shaped your community 25 years ago, may not be the same today. Does your brand still resonate to your current residents? An important part of branding is what our team calls “Discovery.” Discovery may include a community survey, focus groups, or small and large engagement opportunities. Maybe its time to ask your residents how they feel about your community to get a handle on whether your brand still resonates.
3. Your Brand No Longer Fits Your Mission and Vision.
Similar to the last reason to rebrand, your brand should represent your long-term mission and vision for the City. Successful cities often invest a lot of time and money into long-term strategic planning. However, the resulting mission and goals for the City don’t always match the current brand of the City. My college softball coach used to encourage our team to wear make-up on game days because: “When you look good, you play good.” For the most part I totally disagree with this statement. Partly because I was a tomboy, (and in my opinion, Marla Hooch was more intimidating than Madonna in A League of Their Own) but more importantly because a player can only play at their current ability no matter how good they wish to be perceived as. The same breathes true to brands. As stated above, the most successful brands are a reflection of your City’s authentic self, not what they wish to be. However, back to the softball analogy, I’m a firm believer in holding yourself to the standards you wish to accomplish. If I wanted to be a winner, I need to carry myself with the confidence it takes to win. The same can goes for a brand. If your Utility has a specified set of goals to reach, your brand must have the strength to carry out those goals. If your City’s uniqueness is its ability to be a sophisticated shopping destination, your brand needs to represent that sophistication.
4. You Can’t Easily Understand the Symbolism of Your Logo.
While brand is more than just a logo, your logo says a lot about your brand. Do you know what your logo says? Do you know what the colors and elements in your logo mean? Similar to #2, your logo may have been designed many decades ago. And over the years, with staff and resident turn over, knowledge of the meaning or theory behind your logo may have been lost. The City of Barron, WI found themselves in this situation. Their logo had been used for many years but no one knew where it came from or what the complex logo represented. Aside from the ‘B’ for Barron, the other elements were just speculation. Was the feather a Native American reference? A specific animal? Or did it represent the Jennio Turkey plant in town? The City is currently looking into rediscovering themselves and creating a visual identity that matches that brand.
Your logo is your City’s signature and it should be intuitive to read. Moreover, the best logos make you feel something. Take Nike for example. Nike in Greek mythology is the goddess of victory. The swoosh mimics the wing of the goddess. But the wing isn’t what makes the logo so iconic. What do you feel when you look at the Nike logo? Speed? Acceleration? Power? The ability to make you feel those things is what makes the logo so successful. Does your logo evoke emotion? Make you feel something? Does that feeling represent your City?
5. Your Logo Doesn’t Work Well in All Media Forms.
Your logo should clearly represent you and communicate your identity. A City or Utility’s logo can be found on everything from stationary, website, clothing, signage, water towers, promotional items, vehicles, you name it! From a technical standpoint – your logo should be able to replicate (while still carrying your brand and messaging) on a variety of media formats. Too many colors drive up costs. Images don’t reproduce well in large formats. Crazy fonts are hard to read from a far. A variety of factors play a role in making logos visually, functionally, and cost effective. See Barron, WI example above for this situation as well. Too many colors, fades, shadows, and intricate design make reproduction harder than squeezing back into that old mini skirt!
6. Your Brand Simply Feels Outdated.
Has your logo just seen better days? Like your acid washed jeans, is the style just dated? Are you embarrassed to handout your business card? Is it getting harder and harder to design modern materials around a logo that just doesn’t work? It might be time for a rebrand. Or in some cases, maybe a brand refresh is an option. It’s no secret rebranding cost money and time – especially when you’re a community that has signage, vehicles, monuments, water towers, etc with your logo front and center. So, might your logo be salvageable with a few tweaks? The City of Williston’s logo was a representation of the unique land and confluence of rivers that define their community, but they just didn’t love how it looked. The original logo contained multiple fades and colors that were too close in tone to showcase the vibrancy of the area. Additionally, the font wasn’t as modern as they would have liked. Working with the City, palettes were derived from actual photographs of the area and updated fonts were perfected to show a clean, modern version of the logo they truly identified with. The City has adopted it over time with brand consistency guides helping all departments move towards this look.
What does your logo say about your City or Utility? Business in the front, party in the back? (If so, not judging, sort of impressed!) If it smells of the scent of cucumber melon or has the feel of your 80’s blowout, maybe it’s time for a refresh!