Like many businesses, ours sprouted from an idea, and like many ideas, we felt that it was good enough to pursue and place on a crowdfunding platform. Fortunately, our passion successfully translated into a compelling pitch and a wave of support flooded our Indiegogo page. In just three days, we reached our crowdfunding goal.
A year after our campaign, we realized that we had four things needed to sustain our business: Passion, funding, community and a solid product. Unfortunately, there was one thing missing: a strong brand identity.
We all grow up sometimes, or at the very least, we all realize that we eventually have to grow up. As budding entrepreneurs, we tended to our core product with “childlike wonder.” This approach gave us the opportunity to stay focused and create something genuine, but it wasn’t long before we needed a complete makeover. Our business was rooted in passion, but our outer layer was cobbled together like a Frankenstein’s monster.
So, on a quest to build a brand identity that matched our inner soul, we set out like wandering monks to find a new brand personality via a rebrand.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Consistency is king.
We all want to be certain about the choices that we make and that includes our consumers. With our initial visual branding strategy, we were missing the essential thread that tied our core values to a distinct aesthetic. The visual language we used misaligned with our style, resulting in an incongruent presentation.
Follow your inspiration, but don’t let it lead you down too many random paths — a lack of consistency shows a lack of confidence in your own identity.
2. Don’t be stubbornly trendy.
Find your own version of trends instead of blindly following them. Minimalism and flat design may have come to define 90% of consumer brands in the last 10 years, but that doesn’t mean that it will work for yours. Authenticity is the best possible result of inspiration. Don’t stubbornly adhere to trends as a way to seem relevant or you could find yourself undifferentiated and lost in the noise.
3. Marketing does not equal branding (and vice versa).
American Sociologist Charles Horton Cooley once said, “I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am.” Like staring into the looking-glass, Cooley states that the concept of ourselves transforms based on our surrounding social settings. While marketing finds the tone to speak to the ever-changing language of your different consumer groups, branding ensures that those shifts occur on top of a solid foundation.
4. Inspire action.
Base your brand identity in action and action will follow. Apple’s famous “1984” commercial extended beyond showcasing its core product and inspired a certain sense of character in those who would ultimately use it. It screamed independence and individualism. So ask yourself: What meaningful action is your brand inspiring?
5. Change is OK.
For our initial brand identity, we built an identity that represented “our taste” at the time. Of course, as our company matured, we began understanding consumer needs better and our brand evolved. Every new iteration, every new customer, every piece of input inspired action in us. Ultimately, our rebranding strategy was able to encompass something much larger than ourselves.
If you’re considering rebranding your business, remember that the identity of a company doesn’t belong to just its creators — it is a story that must resonate with your consumers as well. Although a product or service can serve a purely utilitarian purpose, a brand takes on the mission of representing the core product in a way that belongs to the customers who will use it. In taking our own leap of faith, our company discovered a little bit more about itself … and perhaps I did too.
Kent Yoshimura is co-founder & CEO of L.A.-based Neuro, a health and wellness company that creates approachable and functional gum and mints that you can take anywhere, anytime to refresh your state of mind and do more. Yoshimura also is a multimedia creative, filmmaker, and athlete. He currently paints large-scale murals as both a freelance artist and a qualified muralist through the L.A. Department of Cultural Affairs.