Where should your focus be when rebranding? Use this 5-ingredient secret sauce for maximum consumer evocation, simplicity and differentiation.

The 5-ingredient secret sauce to performance rebranding

Where should your focus be when rebranding? Use this 5-ingredient secret sauce for maximum consumer evocation, simplicity and differentiation.

Photo by McKenzie Thompson, courtesy of Hint Creative

In the sixteen years since social media platforms mastered modern marketing, the entire practice of branding and advertising has transformed. Consumer attention has never been more divided, but customer insights have never been more accessible. 

I often collaborate with Hint Creative, a Salt Lake City-based boutique design agency that has worked with clients like Nike, Fender and Cotopaxi. Together with my research and strategy agency, Brandthropologie, we create large corporate rebrands designed to influence human behavior through strategic brand positioning and thoughtful design. We recently rebranded Utah-based companies Gadget Guard and Grand America Hotels & Resorts. We also rebranded Babe Original (formerly Babe Lash) and transformed every aspect of the brand—from brand name, strategy, architecture and positioning to colors, fonts, imagery and packaging—for maximum consumer evocation, simplicity and differentiation. For these three notable rebrands and others, here is the secret sauce we used.

1. Research everything. Strategically execute.

To properly position a rebrand for maximum differentiation, value and growth, get a broad perspective of the brand, industry, market, competitors and customers. This requires surveys, interviews, audits, comparative metrics, focus groups, company analytics, validation testing, UX testing and more. Then, codify all research into a three-to-five-year brand growth roadmap, and hold people and projects accountable to the new plan. A consistently executed strategy is the best way a brand can leapfrog its competition.

Where should your focus be when rebranding? Use this 5-ingredient secret sauce for maximum consumer evocation, simplicity and differentiation.

Photo by Derek Israelsen, courtesy of Hint Creative

2. Build customer-first, not company-first.

Everything starts and ends with the customer. Generate ideas, discover preferences and test concepts with customers before making strategic decisions. As you begin to execute, validate with customers before investing in any production. 

If you pay attention to the successful rebranding of any major company, you’ll notice they invert how they communicate with customers. Instead of what was popular in the 2010s (This is who we are, why we exist, what we do and how we do it), the entire experience has shifted to the customers’ perspective (Who are you? What do you want? How do we get you there as quickly and seamlessly as possible and subtly highlight our differentiators along the way?). 

Put yourself in the customers’ experience and eliminate anything that distracts, confuses or impedes their journey. Find moments along the journey where you can reward, surprise and delight your customers. If you have a physical product, visit the lived habitat of your product and see how customers use it.

3. Provide emotional value, not just transactional value.

Any company-customer interaction has two types of perceived value. The first is the transactional value (Was what I paid worth what I got?). The second is the emotional value (Did I enjoy the experience?). Most companies over-focus on the first and under-invest in the second. Instead, over-focus and over-invest in providing intangible emotional value to customers throughout every brand touchpoint.

Luxury brands are successful because they know people react emotionally before they respond logically. These brands understand and capitalize on the intangible, emotional value customers want. Pinpoint the emotional benefits your brand already provides its customers, such as novelty, hope or status to better tap into the power of your product’s emotional value.

4. Make it stupidly simple for customers to understand, remember and buy.

Consumers are overwhelmed by the amount of information bombarding them daily. Simplicity is key; forcing consumers to think in order to interact with your brand is a deterrent. Distill your core message to 3-7 seconds, and make it so simple anyone can understand, remember and repeat it. 

Not all simple messages are the same, however. To be successful, strategically design your messaging to combine connected, novel, core ideas across the omnichannel customer experience, reinforce consistent talking points, and adapt to each sales channel’s culture, algorithm and customer. Make it stupidly easy for customers to browse, buy and return by following industry UX/UI best practices for conversion. 

5. Distinctly stand out.

Finally, none of these changes matter if you can’t capture your customer’s attention. A good brand strategist ensures every signal their brand communicates to the world is distinguishable from any other their customer interacts with. Distinctive signals require having a unique font, color scheme, logo, name, style, vibe, attitude, etc. Don’t underestimate one of the oldest and best tactics from branding legend Marty Neumeier: “When everybody zigs, zag.”

Dr. Chelsea Shields has dual-PhDs in biological and cultural anthropology from Boston University, where she studied the evolution and elicitation of placebo effects. She uses this background to help brands, speakers and healthcare workers increase the techniques proven to benefit their customers, audiences and patients. Dr. Shields owns Brandthropologie Agency, a research-based performance branding company that has worked with clients such as Lafayette 148, Clea du Pea Beaute and Isagenix. Dr. Shields is a TED fellow, a 4x TED speaker and a TED speaking coach.