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Six lessons rebranding EnergySys taught me


In my first week as Head of Marketing at EnergySys, I sacked a design agency. In week two, of course I had to finding a new one to lead a comprehensive redesign and rebranding exercise, which itself took over a month. I've spent the last seven months or so involved in the rebranding process, and at the end of March, the new identity was rolled out online in a new web site. The process taught me a lot of things, and I thought it would be useful to share the insights it brought...

1) Be careful what you call it.

Using the word 'rebranding' gets design and marketing companies salivating as they suddenly imagine endless budgets. Stick to 'redesign' or 'new visual identity' and their expectations become a lot more realistic. Most good design companies know what branding is, and they almost instinctively add branding to their work. Poor design companies merely think they know what branding is, and it shows in the terrible quality of their work.

2) Be careful what assumptions you make.

The key issue that caused the first agency to be sacked was that they did not actually answer the brief - but did not convey this fact to us as the customer. They decided that at least one word from our list of six values to include in the brief was 'not appropriate' for our business. However, they only informed us of this fact when we met with them to ask why everyone in our organisation disliked their designs so much. About ten minutes after they mentioned this unilateral omission, we left their offices for the last time. Just for the record, the values we wanted our new design to embody were:

  1. Young
  2. Vibrant
  3. Quirky
  4. Different
  5. Fun
  6. Modern


Don’t ever try removing ‘fun’ from that list. ;-)

3) Listen to your gut.

There were a few design directions that we liked the look of, but which were quite conservative. We avoided these, and went with the more dangerous, adventurous and radical ideas. Although these sometimes led us into time-consuming and ultimately unsuccessful territory, the end result showed us that we were right to go with our instincts and shy away from conservative ‘safe’ approaches. Safe and boring design happens all the time - but it does not need to be that way. Reject mediocrity and you’ll be rewarded.

4) Listen to ideas you disagree with.

This point is really covered in the six words you’ve just read, but it’s important that, when you hire someone to give you professional advice, you listen to that advice, even when you disagree with it. You are not hiring people to agree with you and produce what you imagined. You are hiring them to argue the case for how best they can represent you, and produce what you could never have imagined.

5) Take your time.

In our initial design brief, we outlined a timescale of three months. There was no particular reason for doing that, and no specific deadlines we were up against external to the rebranding. It just seemed like a practical timescale - but it was not. We took longer to recognise the core values we needed to promote, and it took a great deal longer to simplify the messages and emphasis we put into a key animated infographic - which we later just called a movie. We also learned that we wanted to do different things with our web site after going through certain processes than we did when we started the process. In a nutshell, it took time to work things out properly. In time, of course, you can come up with good ideas or bad ideas, but it’s really easy to let bad ideas slip through simply because there’s no time. So give it time, don’t give in to short-term thinking, and it’ll come right.

6) Good design gives competitive advantage.

Finally, while all of this talk of design aesthetics and rebranding might seem quite abstract, and maybe vague and arty-farty, let me assure you it’s far from that: Last week, an individual understood in less than two minutes (watching the movie) that the numerous shortcomings their present supplier’s offering had were all specifically addressed by our solution. He immediately contacted relevant colleagues to resolve that situation, and contacted us to tell us what he was doing. Result. 

That’s what good design brought us - and that was within days of it becoming visible: More business.