We know those MC Hammer pants once made you feel like the coolest kid in the class, but now they no longer fit. You’re ready for a change. Here’s what we learned rebranding the medtech startup NeuroPace.
Almost all brands get to a point where they take a look in the mirror and don’t like what they see. Maybe you’ve outgrown your brand, or maybe you’re just embarrassed to pass out your business cards. NeuroPace raised a new round of funding and were ready for a brand makeover.
Whether you’re a younger startup taking your brand identity to the next level, or a big name, here are basic steps to take when you’re ready for a rebrand.
Step 1: Research, research, research.
Every rebranding exercise should begin with questions. What is the competition up to? What is your competitive advantage? How does your brand fit in the visual landscape of similar products or services? Who is your target audience? Selecting typefaces, colors, and visual styles are irrelevant if you haven’t thought through these strategic questions.
NeuroPace came to us after spending years developing a groundbreaking smart device that could treat seizures at their source in the brain called the RNS® System. Their existing brand, designed to highlight the device images of glass skulls on black backgrounds (pictured on the left), didn’t come across as very welcoming to prospective patients.
By asking questions about how they felt about their brand, we helped them hone a new look and feel that felt warm, friendly, and most importantly credible and trustworthy.
Step 2: Listen to the gossip.
Fun fact: your brand is not only what you tell other people it is. It’s human nature to categorize and typecast people and brands are not impervious to this, but as much as we might not like it to be true, your brand is how you are perceived by others.
We scoured the Internet for mentions of NeuroPace, and our findings helped the us locate opportunities to strengthen the brand message. When we listened to what people were saying about the NeuroPace device, we found that there was confusion because the name of the device (RNS) was similar to another epilepsy treatment (VNS). We knew the website needed to clear up any questions prospective patients had.
“Do you mean VNS? Or are there two very similarly named devices?”
–Lacy D., Facebook
Find digital watering holes where people are talking about your brand. Go ahead and eavesdrop on yourself. The best part about working on a rebrand instead of starting fresh is you have a reputation (or lack of) to use as a brand barometer.
Step 3: Discover your magic keywords.
We are huge fans of the Brand Deck, a powerful tool for helping you identify your brand’s characteristics. When we consult with clients in this early stage they often come to the table with ideas of their own and are surprised to discover new words during this exercise.
We always remind clients to think about not what words they already embody, but how they strive to be perceived by their audience. Subtle differences in keywords like “realistic” versus “idealistic” spark heated discussions about who you “are” and “are not.”
Once you have a solid list of brand words that you can agree on this is the foundation for everything.
Step 4: Design is in the details.
Everything up until this point has laid a foundation for creating both the visuals and messaging for your new and improved brand. Sometimes after doing research we find that there are certain elements of the brand that are actually working, while other cases require a complete makeover.
Now the fun part begins! Use the keywords you generated previously to inform messaging and design details (such as logo, color, typography, and supporting graphics) to reinforce the brand personality you are trying to achieve.
To stay focused, we often try to keep the branding development to 3-4 rounds. The first is fairly broad, with various logo, color, typography, supporting design elements, and photography options that we explore within our defined keywords and research. A lot of this exploration is trial and error, seeing what works, and what doesn’t. Pro-tip: mocking up various items such as t-shirts, signage, and stationery is a powerful way to see how the various elements work as a cohesive unit.
The second round is spent honing in on one direction that takes into consideration all of the client’s feedback. If budget allows, we will also survey a test audience to make sure we are hitting our target. Our third round is used to review and refine every tiny detail of the new brand identity.
Our final step in design is creating a comprehensive brand guidelines document. This should include clear rules everyone in the company can follow to keep your brand’s look and feel is consistent across channels.
Step 5: Confidently pass out your new business card.
One of the most exciting parts of a rebrand for us is seeing how it completely transforms employee confidence. Now that you’ve shed your old MC Hammer pants and are rocking perfectly tailored trousers, you are more likely to spread the word about your company which is a win win for everyone involved.