In this episode, we go personal! That’s right, I’m here to share my story of my own branding journey. Tune in to discover why I chose to rebrand a couple of years into running my business, the process behind it, and the results I have seen from doing so. I also want to teach you the telltale signs that indicate it might be time to do a rebrand or a brand adjustment.
Once upon a time, there was a designer who had left the agency she co-founded 7 years earlier and was ready for a new adventure… That designer was me! And like so many startups, my priority in those early days was to “just get going” – because hey… you’ve gotta pay those bills, right? So I carried on doing the same work I had been doing, for many of the same clients I had been serving in my previous role.
And that was a privilege, it allowed me to be profitable from day one.
I designed a logo and visual identity, and deemed “good enough for now”. And it’s not that it didn’t do its job, it’s just that my vision and my goals for Petchy changed in those first two years in business. Changed a lot, in fact.
For starters, I realised that I wanted to niche down. I didn’t want to niche down to serve a specific industry, because the variation is something I really enjoy. Actually, I think I’d despise my business if it meant I had to work with the same kind of people in the same industry over and over and over again. But I did know that I wanted to work mainly with branding and identity design, rather than carrying on as a generalist. It was a gradual change, but also a natural course of action – after all, brand strategy and identity design is what I do best and what I truly love working with!
Over time I started to feel like I had outgrown my initial logo and identity, that it didn’t really reflect me and my visions for Petchy as a brand. It felt uncomfortable, somehow. Like a badly fitting pair of jeans; the kind that sag and give you a cleavage in the wrong place, despite your futile attempts at hoisting it back up. That constant niggling and annoying sensation. Not good.
The old brand identity felt wayyyy to formal, and I wanted a quirkier brand. A little more designer, a little less formal, more playful, more me – whilst still remaining clean and striking. I wanted it to communicate my personality in a way that would attract more of the type of client that I love working with; the ambitious but easy-going and fun business owners who are ready to invest in their brand.
It was time to take action!
So, what did I do? I started over. Back to square one, taking the time I didn’t have when I first started out. I started the process by going back to the basics: Who is Petchy? What do I stand for? What are my values? What kind of work do I want to do? For what type of clients?
These processes take time to mature, which is also one reason I dislike taking on rush projects for clients as well. Working on the brand foundations (and I used my own Brand it! Roadmap by the way, which is one reason I know how effective it is) took a few many weeks and a lot of thinking back and forth before I was ready to start the design process – and another couple of months before the final logo and visual identity was ready.
Around the same time, I decided to make my business international, which meant switching all my communication, my website copy and my social media channels to english. Aside from the obvious language change, I also tweaked my messaging. And I removed all the portfolio entries that weren’t showcasing brand strategy or identity design. This didn’t mean I stopped doing the general design work that came my way – I just stopped talking about it.
And it worked! Not overnight (anyone who tells you they transformed their business overnight is likely lying) but I went from ad-hoc general graphic design and even web design jobs (what was I thinking, I know fuck all about webdesign…) making up around 80% of my work – to now working almost exclusively on brand strategy and identity design. The general design work I do now, is limited to ongoing work for my existing clients – where it’s more about keeping their brand cohesive than about designing a random business card as fast as humanly possible because someone somewhere needs it “yesterday”.
So was it all smooth sailing and smiles all round? No. When I first rebranded and started showing up more as me, there were people commenting that I’d lose clients over dropping the odd swear word in my copy. There were people convinced I was shooting myself in the foot by writing in English, and that every potential Norwegian client would be put off by it. Some people were offended when I dropped certain services (I did go out of my way to set them up with alternative service providers, because ultimately I didn’t want to leave them dangling).
But look, you can’t please’em all. You don’t want to please them all.
What happens when you start showing up as you and potentially putting some people off by doing so, is that you start to attract more of the right people. And when you consistently attract the right type of client, this magic thing happens where Mondays are a cause of joy rather than dread – because you get to work with clients and projects that fire you up and allow you to perform your magic!
So to recap: Going through this rebrand helped me get to a point where I get to do more of the work I love, for clients I love to work with!
By now, you might be wondering how you know if it’s time to rebrand. There is no single correct answer to this. There are a number of reasons why a rebrand might be a great next step for your business:
You feel like something is not “quite right”.
You’re not sure what exactly, but you keep changing your brand colours and tweaking the visuals, and yet it still just feels off. This is a sign of a misalignment.
You’ve outgrown your brand.
If you built your company from scratch and DIYed your branding, and now you’re more established – it may be time to step up the branding game to match the quality of your business.
People keep confusing you with a competing brand.
At the end of the day, branding is all about standing out from your competitors. If you feel like your brand is lost in a great pile of bland sameness, it could be time to shake things up.
Your business has evolved and your branding no longer reflects who you are.
Businesses and brands are not static, and nor should they be. Maybe your values have changed. Maybe you’re ready to break into new markets. Maybe your target audience is different now than it was when you started? Or maybe your business model is changing? These are all good indicators to take a step back and make sure your branding still makes sense.
You need to disassociate your brand from something negative.
Not a good position to be in, but sometimes things come up that drag your brand through the mud. That’s just business. Rebranding can be the fresh start you need to shake off the crap and start over.
These are all good reasons to take a step back to assess your brand. I also want to point out that you don’t always need a full rebrand! OK, so there are definitely circumstances that DO warrant a totally fresh start, but in a lot of cases a brand refinement does the trick.
If one (or more!) of these scenarios resonate with you, what can you do? Take a step back to make sure your business’ goals and values align with your visual representation. This is often referred to as a brand audit.
A brand audit is basically just a closer look at your brand to gain an understanding of where it stands right now, and to identify any problem areas that need to be fixed. It gives you valuable insight into your brand’s current strengths and weaknesses, and will help you create a strategic road map for the next step of your branding journey!
It may sound daunting, but it needn’t be a massive undertaking! The scope of a brand audit can range from a simple check of your visual assets to make sure they are cohesive and aligned with your brand values, all the way to a comprehensive look at your brand’s inner core, external communication, customer satisfaction – and everything in between!
Sometimes, a gentle nudge is all it takes to get things moving in the right direction! To help you get started, I have a free brand audit checklist to help you take a closer look at your brand’s visual elements and determine whether it’s all looking stellar, or if it’s time to shake things up a little.
Grab the checklist here, and if you end up using it I’d love it if you shared a story on instagram and use the hashtag #branditwithpetchy so I can follow your journey!
That’s all for today, I hope you feel inspired to take a closer look at your branding!
Until next time!