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If a company has been in business for some time they generally have a stockpile of branded materials in addition to online content.

How should the company handle utilizing a new brand design or refresh?

The two schools of thought I'm aware of are:

  • Option A: Immediately stop using old brand items and regenerate all items with the new brand - both print and web. This works but can be costly.

  • Option B: Immediately refresh all online content. For print content, slowly integrate the new brand, replacing the old brand as items are depleted.

Does option B degrade the new brand?

Which method is better and why?

An example scenario: Company refreshes their brand. Currently in stock are $1,000,000 worth of trade brochures with the old brand on them. This stock customarily lasts for a year or more. But there are only a handful of old letterhead stock left and business cards are reproduced monthly. In addition, then need to order $500,000 of new product brochures immediately. Reluctant to write off the $1 Million in old brochures, which path is best?

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Certainly boils down to the CEO's approval, but Option A is really the best way to go. Branding is very important, and mixing messages with different logos is not only confusing, but it looks unprofessional. –  ckpepper02 Sep 4 '13 at 17:51

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Obviously the sharper the transition the better - but sometimes compromises are needed.

I was working at an organisation that had this exact issue. They were large, very budget-conscious organisation with lots of very varied branded products with very varied stock turnaround, and a new brand that was maybe 40% similar to the old brand. They did it in a graded way, and it seemed to work for them. This is a rough approximation with specifics removed:

  1. Internal launch date - new brand identity revealed to staff etc, but kept secret. From here on, anything new must be created in the new brand and held back from launching until date 2
  2. 'Soft' launch. Unveiled publicly, new website skind launched, new products launched, advertising campaign intended to create familiarity with the new brand. Fast turnaround stock replaced.
  3. Refresh deadline, whereby everything must be either new brand - fast or slow turnaround - or marked with a date. No old brand material printed unless it was dated and therefore archival/historical. The initial goal was to have everything new brand by this date, no exceptions, but that proved not to be workable.
  4. 'Hard' promotion. By this point, the new brand identity had been real-world tested and refined, based on experience and feedback. New advertising campaign, expanding on the new identity. Strict on straggling old-brand material after this point.

There were roughly 1-3 months between each step above.


It's obviously always a tradeoff varying based on the size and complexity of the organisation, the role the branding plays, and how big a change it was. The bigger the change in brand style, the less grading you can get away with. The more varied and complex the range of branded products and the tighter the budget, the more grading you need.

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I think that in an ideal world you would dispose/recycle the old materials and rollout new ones at once but this isn't an ideal world.

I would also say that there's actually three types of companies in this class:

  1. Mega corporations
  2. Large companies
  3. Small businesses

I would imagine only the large companies would be able to afford to dispose of their materials. They may have a fair quantity but with good logistics / record keeping they could do their best to plan for right as they're about to order new materials from the printer. USAToday I wasn't able to find anything on but I would imagine could do a one-day roll out. The day the new website launches they also use the new logo on the newspaper and start using the new letter head. Maybe the sign on the building wouldn't be up-to-date or some of their corporate shirts and such but for the most part they could do it.

For a mega corporation it is much more difficult because of all the additional items they may have. Pepsi for example rolled out its new logo over the course of two years. Think about the trucks, vending machines, shirts, hats, signage, all of it had to be changed. Doing it over night simply isn't feasible.

Small businesses may or may not change overnight depending on what they have. If its a professional service company it might be as simple as printing 500 new business cards, and using the new letterhead. On the other hand if they do have brochures they're probably going to continue to use them as they can't afford that kind of waste.

Pepsi Rollout on AdAge

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It really depends on many factors, such as the industry the company is in, the reason behind the brand refresh and various others.

Putting myself in the rather comfortable shoes of a CEO, I would immediately discount Option A for any company with a marketing budget less than at least $20 million, and even then writing it off would cost 5% of the budget. Basically, I wouldn't accept writing off that much stock unless the company is in the sports industry, and the stock is periodical - such as annual brochures, where writing off is expected anyway, and even then I'd wait until they were outdated.

If it's a company with a consistent rate of change as you sort of suggest, where promo stock lasts for a specific period and then changes after that anyway, then you need a really good reason not to just wait until 'change-time'.

I think Option B has far more potential, and in a large company where profit is key, it is the option that most with a vested financial interest will choose.

Now to explore the far more viable option, there are various approaches you can take with this.

An option I've seen employed in retail companies doing a brand refresh is to send new materials and install new branding on the more important/valuable sites, and send old stock to other sites that have yet to undergo the transformation. Bearing in mind that the transformation was significant though familiar enough to the old brand in colour scheme, that it would still be recognised if a customer at a new site went to an old site.

Another option that has been mentioned, is the soft launch approach, where new promotional items are released as the old stuff runs out or requires upgrading/fixing/servicing anyway.

An example of this is a company that legally endorses plumbers in the UK, called the Gas Safe Register. After undergoing a significant overhaul from the name CORGI, new van stickers and promo materials were sent out in batches throughout a number of years to the hundreds of thousands of independently contracting plumbers.

So it really depends on the amount of change from the old brand, the type of business that it is, who it serves, how it's physically arranged and the targets of the refresh.

For example, if the refresh was required because the brand is failing, then the decision should have been made prior to even starting the rebrand that all old material would go out of the window and there would be a big, attention-drawing, look-at-us-we're-new 'hard' launch event.

If the refresh is because a recent survey on customers revealed a general opinion that the brand is starting to look old, then there's no hurry. Soft launch by introducing materials when the old materials run out. It takes a while for any change to be noticed anyway.. but if you've changed everything from the font and colour scheme of the logo to the strapline etc you'd have to change it all at the same time, at least by site. So when a site runs out of letterheads and business cards, and say more than 50% of their branded materials, you should install the new logo throughout so as not to confuse customers at least locally.

Another option is to share remaining materials across sites fairly evenly, or send all old materials to sites that perform least well because of location or other factors.

So, I'll finish up with some questions you could ask to evaluate your course of action:

  • Is the business widespread enough to isolate separate sites?

  • Realistically, how fast does the change have to happen?

  • Is the new brand consistent/familiar enough to the old brand that they could exist side-by-side? Like is it the same purple as the old uniforms?

  • Why is it changing/refreshing?

  • What is the personality of the company? Are they fresh, slick, modern and up-to-date, living-on-the-edge like young Apple? or traditional, sturdy, well known/established, staple of public consumerism, wide customer base, not going to go out of business any time soon like Walmart?

And of course, the bottom line in business is always:

  • How much will each potential course of action cost? For which you'll need an accountant..

I hope this all makes sense.

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Small note: Gas Safe Register is not Corgi. Taking over a monopoly position is not quite the same as rebranding a single company. –  Andrew Leach Sep 5 '13 at 6:48
    
@AndrewLeach totally correct, I was mistaken. I read the case study from the company that created the branding for Gas Safe Register a few years ago and should've known that. Regardless of that though, the service of legally endorsing plumbers never changed, they simply gave it its own independent entity and brand, therefore I think it still stands as a good example. –  DumbNic Sep 6 '13 at 13:32

If the company decided to create a new brand design they should define a day x.

After this day all material (paper, web, business card, ...) has to change to the new design.

I would think to write something like "Our design has changed. This is our new look" or something else to announce the change to the customers.

Mixing old and new design does not help to recognize the (new) company. So in my opinion only option A is useful.

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