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There are many reasons why a company might want to update a key element of its brand. Marketing elements get stale. From websites to corporate newsletters to blogs, there is a need from time to time to update and refresh an element without needing to overhaul the entire brand. There are also times when a company wants to reposition itself within an existing market. As a business evolves, it might identify an approach that has more potential to connect with clients. To make the shift in order to capture new opportunities, there can be a need to rebrand one or several key marketing elements. At other times, a company might rebrand some element of its marketing as part of an effort to enter a new market or geographic area. KFC did that when it changed the look of Colonel Sanders to look more oriental when the company expanded into China. It could be a matter of differentiating from the competition or acknowledging cultural differences.
Whatever the reason, most companies eventually give one or more marketing elements a makeover. It is a process that should not be taken lightly. This month, Madison undertook to give one of the long-established elements of its own brand a big redesign. Madison changed the design of Monday Mornings with Madison (MMWM), the company’s weekly column-blog. The masthead of the MMWM email notification — used for a decade — was retired and replaced with a new, fresh design, as was the blog itself. The goal was to update the look to reflect today’s aesthetics and align it with Madison’s expanding position as a growing leader in the real estate marketplace. Read on for a real case study of a blog makeover.
Managing a Makeover
Madison has written and published the Monday Mornings with Madison column / blog series weekly for 10 years… 515 issues to date. Since its inception, the work-life advice column has provided insights and information to help Madison’s clients be the most successful they can be today and long-term. Topics have included marketing, personnel and HR, skills development, technology, leadership, workplace issues and much more. The blog reflects Madison’s commitment to supporting its clients by providing consistent, useful content. So, when the decision was made to redesign the blog and email notifications, the goal was to freshen the look and feel while retaining the purpose and brand identity and continue to deliver more of the original business-focused content that it has produced for the last decade.
Here were the steps.
1. Determine If a Redesign or Rebrand is Needed
Change for the sake of change is not enough of a reason to warrant revamping some element of an established brand. Continuity and familiarity are important factors that contribute to brand loyalty. But, as mentioned before, there are many legitimate reasons for changing a brand element. Here are the questions to ask to determine why it is time for a makeover.
- Is the company trying to appeal to a new base of customers?
- Has something gone wrong with the company that is prompting the change?
- Is the brand too similar to that of a competitor brand? Is it no longer unique and able to stand out in a crowded marketplace?
- Has the company added new services to its lineup or moved away from other services?
- Is the company’s brand element a bit dated or stale? Could it use some updating?
Once the reason for the change is identified, it serves as a valid starting point for a deeper understanding of the goal.
In Madison’s case, its lineup of services was unique in the commercial real estate sector so there was no real concern about being confused with other CRE blogs or companies. Instead, the company recognized that as a growing leader in the CRE space, there was a need to update the look of the blog to reflect the company’s maturity and growing sophistication in its operations, technology, security, compliance and client engagement. The original design dated back many years and needed to be refreshed.
2. Create an Action Plan
In business, things work best when there is a plan in place. While companies all work differently, a successful makeover is usually the byproduct of a clear roadmap detailing not only the goals, but also the way to achieve those goals. A timeline is created to define the when and how of key milestones and project costs to eliminate surprises. The changes can be major or minor, from the updating of a slogan to the overhaul of a website or blog, so it is important to define tasks, costs, timeframes, etc.
In the case of Monday Morning with Madison, Madison’s leadership team wanted to update the look of the post eblast as well as the blog microsite itself. The goal was to change the look and feel of the blog, but not the content. The timeframe was to create the design and implement the change in a month.
3. Use the KISS method. “Keep it Simple, Sir.”
It is human nature to cling to the familiar. Many people are set in their ways. Thus, one of the things a company should try hard not to do is confuse customers with a brand overhaul that bears no similarity to the original. It is important for a company to show customers a certain amount of continuity…. so they are reassured that what they value shall remain. For companies that have added products or services, it is important the information is clear. Likewise, if there are products or services discontinued, that should be equally clear.
In the case of Monday Morning with Madison, the facelift focused only on the graphic design. There was a desire to communicate that the content quality would remain the same. The point was to keep some continuity between the old and new design, and keep the redesign simple and clear.
4. Feedback and Research
Do some fact-finding. Although feedback and research can be time-consuming, it is well worth the effort. Phone, email surveys, questions in a social media posts, or face-to-face meetings are all ways to gather input. This can come internally from select staff or externally from customers. This provides input on what works and more clarity on what to expect after the rebrand or facelift.
In the Monday Mornings with Madison facelift, the leadership, legal department, marketing department, and business development team gave their input. It was a more time-consuming process, but one that resulted in a more unified outcome.
5. Identify What Needs Changing
Giving a marketing element a facelift does not mean that every aspect of it needs to change. Often a partial redesign can suffice. It starts by identifying the parts that no longer represent what the brand represents. The parts that feel dated or don’t connect well with the audience need to be identified. The parts that still work well can remain.
In the case of the Monday Mornings with Madison eblast notification makeover, the team created, reviewed and discussed various design samples. They discarded designs that did not move the needle forward. Discussions focused on font, color, concept and organization to ensure that the look and feel aligned with the company’s forward-thinking direction. The concept — delivering solid content for clients to read with their Monday cup of coffee — was continued from the old design to the new, but with a much cleaner and more contemporary image.
6. Let People Know
Once the marketing element has been updated, it is time to communicate that to the customer audience. No point in putting a lot of effort, time and money into updating some brand item and then not announce it to the general audience. Communicate the change ahead to the staff so they are aware to expect it, and are informed if/when clients comment. Getting staff excited about the change also helps make them brand ambassadors. Employees should be told about the new marketing facelift and why it matters. The ideal is for employees to believe in and feel passionate about the change, and see it as a positive move. That change can then be communicated via social media, PR or whatever other venues make sense.
In the case of Monday Morning with Madison, Madison has opted to premier its new brand in a post on Monday Morning with Madison. Ta da!
When Madison created Monday Mornings with Madison, it wanted to provide information so valuable that people would look forward to reading it every Monday. The mission was to provide information that would serve as ‘food for thought’ for the week. Even after the makeover, the mission remains the same. Joe Chernov once said, “Good marketing makes the company look smart. Great marketing makes the customer feel smart.” Madison believes the very best marketing adds value and actually makes the customer smarter. Enjoy the new Monday Mornings with Madison. Different look. Same solid substance.
Quote of the Week
“Make your marketing so useful that people would pay for it.”
© 2018, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.