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Is Your Brand Looking Like a Rummage Sale?

When is it time to develop or refresh your brand and culture strategy? 

Sometimes a business development will prompt the need for a strategic review of a corporate brand. That could take the form of a merger, acquisition, loss of a key customer, financial pressure, drop in stock price — those sorts of things.

More often, there isn’t one obvious event driving a need for a refreshed brand strategy. Example: What if you’ve simply accumulated a series of sub-brands or introduced products and services that aren’t cleanly connected in identity or culture? 

Six years ago, I wrote a piece called “Five signs you’re ready for a brand refresh.” 

The “rummage sale” point is my favorite.

Let’s say you just moved into a new house. The garage is fairly empty at that point. But a few years later, what happens? A ton of stuff that used to be in the house goes into the garage — and the future of that stuff isn’t very promising. You might never use these things again. The next stop is a charitable donation, a rummage sale, or the curb. 

One of our clients amassed dozens of subsidiaries and programs. The visual identities for them looked nothing alike in terms of tone, font, color or personality. When we put them all together on a sheet of paper, the result was quite striking. The cleanup process is under way.

Even innovative brands get in trouble with this. In their exuberant or frenetic growth, they’ll launch new services or absorb weaker competitors. Many times the owners of these divisions will freelance with brand and culture. Here, for example, you might see the cultural clash of “Wild West” vs. staid old-fashioned thinking.

A methodical brand strategy process will ask the right questions about the growth and positioning of the business and its culture. 

For example:

  • Will you be a branded house or a house of brands? Many firms are somewhere in the middle, unsure of themselves. You’ve got to keep the story clean and easy for your target prospects and customers to understand. 
  • What will be the standard operating practice going forward as you acquire or build subsidiaries, operating units, programs, etc.? A plan here will stop arguments and the reinvention of wheels — saving you time and money in the long run. 
  • Who will serve as the brand police to prevent the dumping of stuff in your garage? Sure, every associate has responsibilities here. But one individual, one department or one unified team must champion the leadership mantle. Be always vigilant!

What do you think? Is “the house lookin’ like a rummage sale?”

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