Brand New

By Hannah Wallace May 31, 2007

It’s a testament to some very skilled marketers that all most people have to do is see a bright red bull’s eye and they automatically think, “Target.” Such is the power of the brand that the department store doesn’t even use its name in most of its TV commercials anymore.

Whether it’s a tweaking of your corporate image or a whole new name, rebranding requires care, starting with the timing. 

“Every situation is different,” advises Steve Smith of Stephen A. Smith & Associates, the advertising and public relations agency that guided The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce through its recent rebranding effort.

Basically, Smith says, a company should think about freshening its image “if the brand’s becoming a little tired, your analyses show you aren’t quite connecting with the consumer anymore, it’s in conjunction with a milestone anniversary or a new product launch—or you could just be repackaging the same product with a few upgrades—or you feel you just have to something to get some attention out there.”

If you’ve decided to make the leap, it’s important to do your research, say John Fain and Angela Massaro-Fain of Grapevine Communications, who led the recently renamed Asolo Repertory Theatre through its rebranding. “Know the demographic of your customer, know your own business, what is it that you want people to know about you and what is it about you that you want to convey to the public,” says John Fain.

Analyze everywhere you have your logo, and factor in the cost involved to revamp everything from your business cards to your ads, says Asolo Rep marketing director Christine Manring, who lives with the rebranding every day.

When you’re ready to unveil the whole new you, “Don’t go out with a whimper,” says Smith. “Allocate a budget for the launch and do it with some impact: events, media relations, a big media push. That’s extremely important.”

The most critical thing to remember, says Smith, is that “your brand is a lot more than a name and a logo. It’s all about the experience you want the consumer to have with the product and the environment in which it’s delivered.”

Here are recent rebranding campaigns that caught our eye—including the rebranding of this very publication, which our staff rolled out in May.

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce gets down to business.

THE CHALLENGE: “The chamber has a lot of moving parts; it’s a very diverse, active and dynamic organization” says Smith, with six councils that had been using its brand with striking inconsistency. “Their marketing committee found a lack of [public] perception; some people were not even aware the YPG was an arm of the chamber, for example,” Smith says.

OUT WITH THE OLD: The former logo—a large, stylized “Sarasota” with a setting sun representing the letter “o”—dated back to 1997. “It was really nice,” says Smith, “but it looked more like a tourism logo.”

AND IN WITH THE NEW: Smith and his senior art director, Scott Spear, developed the new logo around a bold sans serif typeface and a robust graphic image of the Ringling Causeway. “We wanted it to portray the strength of the chamber,” Smith says, and it relates directly to the organization’s positioning statement: to be “the bridge that links businesses, organizations and residents together with innovative programs that strengthen long-tern economic vitality, business success, job creation and quality of life.” Plus, “It had to have lots of different applications,” he explains. “It’s one thing to look wonderful on a billboard, but when you shrink it down, it’s got to stay strong.”

THE FOLLOW-UP: Developing an easy-to-follow branding system that myriad staff and volunteers can follow. Smith created a visual identity standards manual—specifying the proper use of taglines and the logo’s correct colors, font and type size, as well as templates for the chamber staff to work with in-house for newsletters, announcements and flyers—“all the things they do week in, week out,” he says. All six councils, by the way, now have the bridge logo on the left and the council name on the right, and the monthly print newsletter has been renamed The Bridge.

THE LAUNCH: The new look was unveiled at the chamber’s sold-out kickoff breakfast at the Hyatt in February, along with a documentary-style video that explains its rationale. (The video is also available on the chamber Web site,  “Buy-in was very important,” says Smith. “I wanted chamber members to understand this was not just about redesigning a logo.”

A new name, new energy for the Asolo.

THE TIMING: “A couple of things came together at once,” says marketing director Christine Manring. “The Historic Asolo Theater [on the grounds of the Ringling Museum] was to reopen, and Michael Edwards was coming onboard as our new producing director. It was a really good time to update our image with a different quality logo, a different energy.”

THE PROCESS: John Fain and Angela Massaro-Fain of Grapevine Communications led the Asolo Theater Company board of directors through a series of brainstorming sessions that resulted in an entirely new name—Asolo Repertory Theatre. “It was a group decision,” says Manring. “We’re only one of three repertory theater companies in the nation [the others are the Alabama and Oregon Shakespeare festivals], and we wanted people to know in our name what we do.” To that end, the Fains, with the board’s input, created an energetic, easy-to-remember positioning statement: “Entertain. Engage. Inspire.” 

THE LOOK: A bright new logo features the word “Rep,” in red, set on a jaunty slant. The former logo, last redesigned in 1998, was an old-fashioned Harlequin jester, usually reproduced in black and white, or occasionally in a flat, dated, dark green. “We were driven toward youthful energy to attract a broader audience,” John Fain says of the red color choice, and Manring approves. The new logo “is more hip; it stands out in the crowd a little more,” she says.  

THE WHOLE PICTURE: “We called it our evolution,” says Manring. “A new logo, new positioning statement, stationery, Web site, business cards, ad campaigns, even the new red carpet in the lobby—the whole look and feel. It’s a constant reminder to us and to the community that we are a repertory company, and what that means.”

THE FUTURE: “We looked at a longer-term brand positioning,” says John Fain. “In a few years, the vision will be the Asolo Rep, and you’ll lose the ‘Repertory Theatre’ part of the name. But it’s important to retain your brand equity while you migrate to your new image; it would have been a disconnect if you just went to Asolo Rep directly.”

THE ROLLOUT: “We spent a good 90 days launching the new logo before physically integrating it into the marketing program,” says John Fain. “People had a chance to look at it, think about it, get feedback on it. They didn’t wake up the next morning and suddenly it was all-new.” 

Biz941 hits the streets.

THE DILEMMA: About to enter its fourth year, the monthly Sarasota-Manatee BUSINESS magazine, published by CurtCo Media, was a success in all areas—readership, editorial awards, engagement and ad revenue, says executive publisher Jeff Lawenda. “People, however, were calling us all different things, anything from Sarasota Business to the Business Book.  We felt the disconnect.”

ENTER BIZ941: A new logo’s one thing; a name change is a seismic step for any company. “We were fully cognizant of a basic branding premise: If you can’t come up with a great name, live with what you have and come up with better marketing,” Lawenda says. But after several meetings involving all facets of the operation—marketing, editorial and graphic design—“we came up with something we feel is extremely strong, very descriptive, contemporary and highly memorable—and ultimately easier for our readers and our advertisers to say, to think about and to remember. There was a little trepidation, but we felt so strongly about our connection with our readership and our advertisers, and we felt so strongly about the name, that with a comprehensive marketing plan, we could make it work.”

THE CAMPAIGN: The new name, Biz941, debuted with the May issue, and “we wanted to make sure we created enough awareness of the impending change early enough, but not too early,” says Lawenda, “so we had specific dates for various aspects [of the rollout].” Ads about the name change appeared in the April issues of Sarasota-Manatee BUSINESS and its sister publication, Sarasota Magazine, and advertising account representatives had postcard, e-mail and telephone campaigns. “We managed to get to everybody who represents a client of ours,” Lawenda says.  And, leaving nothing to question, the May issue was encased in what publishing insiders call a “belly band”—a six-inch cover wrapper that boldly proclaimed, “Sarasota-Manatee BUSINESS is now Biz941.”

THE REACTION: “Excellent,” Lawenda proclaims. “I have not heard one negative. But let’s face it, people don’t like change no matter what they say. If a magazine is doing its job, there’s a bond, a relationship. Now you’re changing the relationship. Biz941 hits a responsive chord, and it’s not a different concept—it’s saying exactly what Sarasota-Manatee BUSINESS was saying. We took great pains to assure people our standards, our editorial focus and our new design are not going to be changing.”

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