After exerting significant amounts of blood, sweat, tears (and of course cash), it would seem a tragic waste to see a college rebrand suffer unnecessarily because the transition process from old brand to new brand wasn’t managed properly. Strangely, it is often trivialised and over-looked – a worrying thought considering what is at stake.
Below are some of the pitfalls to avoid.
Pitfall #1 – An unwillingness to accept and embrace change
Change can often be expressed as difficult to accept (let alone keep up with) but it is something that we have learnt to live with everyday. In fact, ‘change’ is very often eagerly anticipated – fashion and technology being notable examples. Evolving a college brand is another natural process that is necessary to improve it. It is done for a number of reasons; to become more in-tune with the target audience, to clearly define values, to become distanced from the competition, to be unique, to avoid becoming unwanted. A brand that’s being stifled because of a reluctance to change risks alienating itself from its audience. So, to appear reluctant to accept or embrace change (or rebrand) seems a strange notion when just about everything else is constantly moving forward.
Pitfall #2 – Inadequate planning
Building a brand that ticks all the boxes is no easy task, but poor planning on the college’s part can hinder the true quality of the final outcome. Redesigning a website and then undertaking a rebrand afterwards isn’t the way to go about it (the foundations of the brand need to be developed before the look). Likewise, a lack of time, insufficient funds, little thought for brand overlap and the un-organised rollout of the new brand are all too common. These elements should however be treated with respect and pragmatism. A realistic timescale needs to be considered and agreed upon – don’t expect a thorough design solution in a few weeks particularly if part of the background research involves Q&A sessions about the old brand. Take a sensible approach to budgeting for a major project – be aware it’s not just about the initial work, there also has to be enough in the pot to cover applying the new look to immediate items like a photography shoot, copywriting, a website, stationery, signage, a style guide (and other items to consider as a result of the initial research). Consider how the new brand will be managed during the transition period – will it happen over night or over the period of a few weeks (don’t make it indefinite), stick to the timeframe and inform all involved what is happening so they, in turn, can plan for the change. Plan the eventual roll out too – adopt a synchronised approach to using newly branded material.
Pitfall #3 – Only implementing some of the brand
If the strategic and foundational work has been done properly, the new brand should have everyone’s buy-in. To ensure it has maximum impact and clear direction, ‘old’ should be replaced with ‘new’ – using old envelopes to house new letterhead shouldn’t happen, updating signage should encompass the major points of navigation throughout the entire college (not simply the main entrance) and photography commissioned to reflect the new brand shouldn’t feature students wearing clothing branded with the old logo. With planning, all this can all be avoided and in committing to the new brand 100%, the target audience will recognise the college is serious about who it is. Displaying a mix of old and new (after a realistic cross-over period) will represent brand uncertainty and confusion amongst present and future students and staff.
Pitfall #4 – Brand inconsistency
The strength of a college brand is based in its foundations, but this must also be matched in its application. If it is seen to be unclear (in terms of value or misleading in any way) it risks being shunned for a competitor. But a uniform look and feel is only the beginning, the college brand should run much deeper – employing the same engaging language in communications material (that actually ‘speaks’ to the target audience) must also be evident on the website, developing the colleges’ values must truthfully reflect what life is like there (without exaggeration), maintaining a Facebook page that’s an extension of the brand and undertaken in a professional manner (not seen as an amateurish media outlet) – it is vital every aspect of the brand flows distinctively through every touchpoint.
Pitfall #5 – Stagnation
Once a new brand is up and running, it’s not time to kick back and relax, quite the opposite in fact. The new college brand needs to be nurtured, measured and most of all evolved to ensure it constantly reflects the ever changing demographic. There should always be room (and encouragement) for growth and improvement because that is what the target audience is looking for. Should it be left to stagnate (or begin to fragment) it will struggle against competitors and eventually become disengaged from its target audience – confidence will be lost externally and internally.
Pitfall #6 – Bowing to baseless criticism
There will always be critics but working through criticism is part of the process of moving forward. A negative opinion should be viewed as a chance to find out the reason for it – is it just a rant without foundation or is it a valid point that can be taken on board? Succumbing to the first sign of peer pressure would seem timorous and create confusion and uncertainty within the target audience. If the new college brand has been conceived with solid foundations and watertight reasoning, there should be no doubt about its ability to stand fast in the face of adversity.