Co-written by Michael Belton & Kevin Young

Branding is more than just putting wall wraps and logos on buildings or in your school’s hallway. While logos, mission statements, taglines, slogans, colors, and design concepts are the main things we think about when the term “branding” gets thrown around, they aren’t everything. 

Your brand is also how you communicate yourself. It’s your voice and personality, and what people think and feel when they interact with your organization. It encompasses the experiences students have in your hallways and parents have with your faculty. Branding is all of the interactions your external constituents have as parents, students, social media followers, alumni, donors, and even prospective families. 

Your brand is more than just a school or school district. It’s an experience. Do you have a positive brand image that exceeds expectations? 

A rebrand may seem like a tall task, and it is, but here is a breakdown of the five major steps it takes to have a successful outcome. Understanding the steps and expectations of the process will give you peace of mind when rebranding.

1. Brand Audit

The first step is to take an honest internal brand audit. What are your logos? What are your colors? What does your social media and website look like and say? Is your language consistent with your mission statement?

Your brand is your identity and has the power to create pride and advocacy within your community. Do your marks, current visual design elements, brand voice, and experiences convey that?

2. Research

The second phase is the research phase. Survey your external and internal constituents about your current marks. What do they see? What do they like or dislike about your existing design elements?

It’s important to set up focus groups to learn the perception of your brand. Who are your key stakeholders and approvers in this process? Give them a seat at the table. Their insights will help to identify whether the goal is an evolutionary rebrand that includes minor tweaks and adjustments to your current marks, or a revolutionary rebrand that completely overhauls your current visual elements. Sometimes both evolutionary and revolutionary changes can happen in conjunction with each other during the rebranding process.

Another key, and often overlooked step in the research phase, is understanding your brand’s history. Does your school or area have a notable past or narrative that could tie into your visual identity and build positive brand equity?

3. Design Phase

Now for the fun part. In the design phase, the research phase comes to life. Did your focus group and surveys come back with only needing an evolutionary change? If so, expect subtle changes. However, if a revolutionary change was needed, your designer will have the opportunity to bring to life a whole new look for your visual identity.

In this phase, you’ll also identify your colors, tone, design style, and typography while building a hierarchy of marks. An excellent place to start with a hierarchy of marks is to have a primary logo, a secondary logo, a spirit logo, and a wordmark. 

4. Reviewing

Once you have received the creative from the design team, solicit feedback. It is important to refer back to some of those same external and internal groups for their assessment of the work presented. Did the design team hit the mark? Were the changes too drastic? Did they express the desired tone accurately? All of these questions and more need to be addressed based on what was established in the research phase.

Don’t expect the reviewing phase to be a one-time process. There will be several revisions to be made. You’ll go back and forth between the design phase and the reviewing phase to fine-tune and reach the desired identity. When making changes, be transparent with your design team to eliminate unnecessary revisions and edits.

5. Rollout

It’s time to show your new visual identity to the world and put your new brand to work! The roll-out phase is crucial to launching your new brand. It should be done in a way that promotes positive reception and garners buy-in from your community. Be sure to develop a style guide that contains the do’s and don’ts for your new brand. It should be followed to the letter to protect the integrity of your brand. 

Make sure to update your social media channels, website, and major signage during the rollout phase. Leaving old logos can confuse your constitutes. 

Work with your local media to maximize exposure for the marks. Start with a simple press release with the new marks along with your style guide. Another tip is to include your brand influencers, likely the same people from your focus groups, to aid in the launch of your brand. Share your new brand on launch day and encourage social media posting to increase brand awareness.

Now that you’ve got all the steps, it’s time to get started on a successful rebrand!

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