And when will it work?

By Emily Soccorsy

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is: How do I know if my brand needs a refresh? 

(We are also asked, “How do I know when this brand refresh is working?” I’ll get to that later.)

If you are asking yourself that first question in earnest, congrats! You are self-aware enough to know it’s probably time to improve your brand.

For those of you who are still poking at the question with a stick, let me help.

Many business leaders – especially those who have been at it for years — passively assume their brand is working for them. Until.

Until the moment someone makes a remark about the age, look or relevance of their brand.

First off, this remark is highly offensive or jarring to the leader, who most likely does not spend a good deal of time considering how aligned their brand presence is to their internal awesomeness, culture or ability to attract clients and talented employees. After the sting of the comment wears off, the dissonance it points to nags at them consistently.

That’s because the comment has revealed a gap between how the leader has viewed the strength of their brand presence and the actual perception in the market.

This gap is where audience/client/talent erosion begins to take root. And that’s scary. Particularly because it’s a blind spot.

Another eye-opening scenario: when a less competent but decidedly more current or slick competitor wins a big piece of business right out from under the leader’s nose.

Not only is this agitating, the impact on revenue shocks the leader into paying attention to the brand.

If these have not yet happened to you and you’re still not sure if your brand is ready for a refresh, consider this.

Does your brand’s digital presence fully align with your beliefs and values as a leader?

If you answered “no,” “not sure” or even hesitated, your brand is suffering.

In today’s economy, you as the leader are the most powerful Face of the Brand. What you stand for, believe in and how you do business is a direct reflection of the company you work for.

The whole concept of work/life balance illustrates that the way we used to think about work — as separate and unrelated to our “personal lives” — is not accurate anymore. As a leader, you are the brand. To align your beliefs with the vision, mission and beliefs of the organization creates a momentum-building synergy that carries powerfully to your audience.

Another telltale sign of a brand in desperate need for a refresh? It fails to pass what we call the Brand Test.

The Brand Test goes on 24 hours a day, every day, typically immediately after your company has been referred to a prospect, or when they see one of your ads or meet a member of your team. The Brand Test begins when your prospect (employee or client) Googles your company and visit your website, LinkedIn page, other social media profile or your company’s Glassdoor page. The prospect is attempting to verify what they have heard about your company with the resources most available, personal and reliable to them.

They are looking for consistency, positive comments and a connection to your organization’s brand. If you aren’t delivering on this, you are failing the Brand Test.

When you fail in that moment, a seed of doubt is planted most consumers do not have the time nor the impetus to override, even in the face of a very positive recommendation or personal meeting. Sales, growth, attraction — it’s all based on trust. Failing the Brand Test erodes that trust before you even begin.


How will you know when your brand refresh is working?

As a savvy business person, you want data to support your decision to update your brand.

We’re all in favor of looking at the hard numbers. However, before getting pounded to death by the avalanche of analytics available to you, start with human market research. The first human you research is you.

This will show you how well you are doing at making a heart-based connection with your audience — which is the most sustainable and powerful kind of relationship in business.

To do so, next time you have a meaningful, one-to-one conversation with a potential client, ask yourself some key questions, like:

  • Were you able to speak about your brand in a way that was clear, concise?
  • Did you talk about how your beliefs and values are reflected in the work?
  • How did this person respond in the moment? When you next followed up?
  • Did anything shift in the relationship?

If not, try again. Or, recognize your personal brand may need work.

A little fine tuning of the communication of your brand’s beliefs, standards and mission in a consistent and evocative manner will go a long way.

After you’ve completed this human market research, then check your analytics.

We recommend looking for red flags like:

  • Dropping visitor rate to your website
  • Low time on site
  • Low interaction rate (Likes, Comments, Shares) on your social media presence
  • Dropping or stagnant email list

We also recommend measuring the rate of consistently relevant content your company is producing.

If you have concluded it is time for a brand refresh, we encourage you to begin, as you did with your human market research. Whether you are the leader at the top of the org chart or the leader of your team, unit or division, what motivates you each day to do the work you do is the conversation you need to be having.

Articulating your core beliefs are the beginning of refreshing, or rebuilding, a brand that will matter for a lifetime.

Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster are cofounders of the intrinsic branding practice known as Root + River. Together with their defiantly different clients, they uncover then articulate the foundational elements of the brand. Then, they provide brand strategy and brand coaching as the brand is rolled out internally and externally. Obsessive about language and differentiation, Emily + Justin are also authors and speakers. Follow @rootandriver @fosterthinking and @emilyatlarge.

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