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Friday, February 15, 2008

Branding, logos and image

I like the web page of DF Gibson Architects, P.C. in New York. Careful branding and design are important, especially for architects and other design professionals.

This posting on the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) listserve for Certified Professional Service Marketers (CPSM) raises interesting questions:

Good afternoon fellow CPSMers!
How often are people refreshing their brands?
We rolled out our new brand six years ago - new logo, tag line and colors based on market research results on who we are in the marketplace.
We are happy with it so we are not looking to do a major re-branding effort, but want to keep it current/fresh. Any recommendations on how often to tweak/update it? How to keep it current? Much appreciated!
Michael McCann, Director of Business Development at DF Gibson Architects in New York, filed two responses, both of which I found to be insightful:

Here is his first posting:

If you are happy with it and its recognizable (and successful), less than you think.
Look at the major companies that have been using their logo for a long time - Apple has been using the same "bitten" apple logo for 30 years, IBM has been using their logo for longer. The Yankees "NY" or the Cowboys Star are recognized by everyone everywhere. Many other corporate logos have likewise not changed much. Even the SMPS "box" logo is practically unchanged in 20 years. Of course there has been a couple of important changes in that time. It was once red and now it is blue.
Being said, it is good to revisit it every few years to see how effective it is. And, to make sure it is not overly dated.
This afternoon, McCann filed another response:

Was on my way out to a meeting when I posted yesterday, so I just wanted to add a couple of more thoughts. It sounds like your firm went through a very well thought-out and methodical plan when you created your current identity.
You should use the same approach to determine IF you need to update it and, if so, how.
The basic messages from my last post is that visual branding tends grow stronger the longer it is used. The basic elements should be timeless and reflective of core values. Any component of it should change only if there is a compelling reason - a "dated" look or change is company direction are examples.
I do feel that companies in this industry change their visual identity too often. And, while I have a few ideas why (and I have been guilty of this too), it is a topic that is better covered in different forum. It could present an excellent topic for a seminar, roundtable or article.

These are worthy observations. I wish I could say our own approach to visual identity branding has been so sophisticated! Before a recent update just a few months ago, our logo/design dated from 1996. The format had served us well over the years, but I thought it was getting a little dated, so asked our designer to come up with s ome options. He did, and we surveyed readers by email to attain a consensus on which of the alternative choices worked best. The entire 'rebranding' process took just a matter of weeks and I think we got it right.

Obviously, the process that is appropriate to a smaller business with limited budgets is different than a larger company with a sizeable, dedicated marketing department, but an argument can be made that simple is indeed effective and being overly concerned about logos and designs for branding is missing the point. I increasingly buy into Sonny Lykos's argument that the brand is the entire client experience -- how we treat, relate and respect our customers is what counts the most, and this is where we build our business.We're seeing how this works in practice with feedback and referral/relationships opening doors for new business in relatively new markets, even as established relationships are maintained.

Yes, refreshing the look of our publications (and soon, our website) are important, but I really think they are secondary to the way we conduct our business. And teaching your staff to return phone calls within the day is likely to be a whole lot less expensive than reviving a venerable and effective logo and graphic image.

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