Can (and should) your brand identity survive a critical transition?
If you’re at an inflection point, your business might have shifted such that your existing brand elements are no longer working in your company’s service. They might even be undermining your progress.
An inflection point is a moment of stark change that can strike any company: a management change, ownership or investor change, an existential threat, or a directional shift. When those moments arrive, what once was true about your company—including your brand identity—may no longer be accurate.
Let’s step back, think critically about your identity, and determine whether you need a change.
Brand identity ≠ your logo.
Before we dive in, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. And yes—we know we’re likely preaching to the choir—but brand identity might mean different things to different folks. To us, your identity is foundational to how people experience your company. It informs everything anyone encounters about you, and it shouldn’t be limited to your logo. Your brand identity should be a coordinated system that drives your look, sound, and feel across every medium and channel.
Ideally, your identity is a component of your company’s foundation and strategic framework . It’s an execution that builds on your strategies, and it should address visual and written standards at a minimum. Depending on how you engage with your audience, it can be helpful to incorporate additional elements, such as motion, environmental, or customer service standards. It’s about who you are and how you want to show up.
Times they are a-changin’.
Inflection points, by nature, are disruptive. They put additional pressure and scrutiny on every corner of your business, so you must ensure your brand keeps pace with the changes. You already know that an accurate brand identity is one of the most effective ways to create consistency across your business. When you’re at an inflection point, it’s also a powerful way to signal that a significant change is happening (both internally and externally).
How to know if your brand identity is misfiring.
No matter what kind of transition your business is experiencing, there’s a good chance it will put your identity to the test. If you’re going through an inflection point, here are four leading indicators that your identity needs to be addressed.
Does your brand identity match up with or violate your brand platform? Or your products? Or your direction? If it doesn’t align with the focus of your business, it’s fractured. When your brand identity is misaligned, it’s pulling in the wrong direction and will lead you, or even your customers, to the wrong destination.
That misalignment means your brand attributes, voice and tone, archetype, and visuals are all off base. It might also raise issues with your company’s mission and vision, creating a deeper conflict.
It’s communicating the wrong thing.
Your brand identity might have been an excellent fit for your company before this inflection point, but now it doesn’t serve your new or future business. You’re still communicating things as they used to be vs how they should be.
In times of flux, you need to assess whether your brand is an asset or a liability. Will it lead to inaccurate brand impressions? Be honest about what your brand communicates and courageous enough to move on from it.
You need to signal change.
What better time to shift your brand identity than when you’re charting a new course? It’s a powerful way to actively communicate that change to your audience—internally and externally.
It’s a little like when a tired shop puts a sign in their window: “Under new management.” Modern brands need to go beyond hanging a sign, and a freshly minted brand identity helps convey that shift.
You have or need a new name.
An inflection point that results in a new company name is a significant reason for a new brand identity. A new name has broad implications for everything from contracts to products to creative. In fact, there are very few areas of your business that it won’t affect. Getting your identity right from the outset can soothe the anxiety and uncertainty that a name change invites.
Name changes might follow a change in ownership, the retirement of a founder for whom the company was named, a merger/acquisition, or the adoption of a new business model. Whatever the reason, a corresponding update of your brand identity should follow.
Any org can face an identity crisis.
You can still benefit from a new or refined brand identity even if you aren’t in the midst of an inflection point. No matter where you’re business is at, here are some indicators that your ID needs some TLC.
It’s generic or undifferentiated.
Sometimes, your brand identity doesn’t stand out. You look and sound too much like everybody else in your space. Nothing cuts through the clutter. It’s just meh.
A new brand identity can address what sets your company apart and transmit that to the market.
It falls short in the quality department.
This is common for emerging companies or startups that quickly developed their identity. Perhaps it’s undergone several iterations, but those also feel slapped together. This hodgepodge of a brand identity can feel amateurish and lack a clear, unified voice. It’s time to up your game.
It lacks polish.
On the flip side, older companies can see their brand identity lose a little luster over time. If it’s starting to feel outdated or doesn’t reflect the innovation your company is known for, a brand identity refurb is in order.
It isn’t robust.
Your identity is more than a logo and a color palette. If that’s where things begin and end for you, it might be time to dig deeper.
A brand identity is only effective if it’s part of a complete system that lets you consistently and effectively execute it across your business. An overly simplistic brand identity limits your ability to scale and communicate.
It isn’t documented.
Finally, if you don’t have clear documentation of your brand identity, it might as well not exist. Without guidelines or standards, it’s challenging to maintain quality and consistency with partners, vendors, and new team members.
This commonly happens when your identity and how it is executed lives in the mind of one designer or marketer. Yikes. We’re getting sweating palms just thinking about it. Document that puppy!
Keep reading about brand refreshes, reframes & resets
Sort out your brand identity so it kicks a$$.
If your company is facing an inflection point, this is a natural point to evaluate your brand identity. Even if you’re not facing a critical moment of change, your brand identity is central to your success, so make sure it’s on point.
If you’d like to learn more about how Parliament can get your company’s brand identity where it should be, let’s talk .