How to approach a heritage brand revamp

Consumers can feel protective of established heritage brands, believes Juli Beard, Director of Research at Mindlab which has worked on famous rebrands such as Hovis’. She reveals how to approach a visual refresh while retaining that hard-earned goodwill. 

Should heritage brands avoid making drastic changes to their look and feel? 

Brands can’t remain static if they want to remain recognisable and relevant to consumers. For market-leading companies, understanding and evolving a point of visual differentiation is absolutely key to success. Stand still and inevitably competitors take advantage of the visual and messaging shorthand you have created, play copycat and catch up to the point where consumers no longer recognise you clearly. 

Even heritage brands can make drastic changes to their visual identity without alienating existing customers – as long as they have the right consumer insights to hand.

What are your top recommendations for well-established companies looking to modernise their look and feel? 

1. Understand emotions

The key to updating a well-loved identity is knowing your customers and potential customers. Which elements of your brand trigger a positive emotional connection? What, if anything, needs to be retained to ensure you stay true to your core, foundational qualities? And what can be stretched? There may be a number of ways of achieving the same outcome, so explore all the possibilities.

2. Stay true

Sometimes brands are distracted by wanting to do something new and fashionable and don’t see what they’re really good at or are even a bit embarrassed by it. If you have your own identity – if you own a space in the world already – don’t try to be like the latest brand on the block. Work out instead how you can fully embrace what differentiates you. How can you make those qualities appeal to more consumers?

3. Know your market 

It’s also important to know where competitors are positioning themselves, so you can spot any gaps, or lessons. This is especially true for challengers or own brands. Sometimes there is an ideal way of expressing something and it is easier for consumers if you lean into this, and it’s quicker than establishing your own set of completely unique visuals. Think of the way pain is depicted on paracetamol packets, for instance.

4. Explain

People are always going to be put off by change for change’s sake, so make sure you can explain why you’ve made any changes and put real energy into your launch.

This is the final of three articles with Juli Beard in the Mindlab Experts series. Take a look at her previous insights on visual brand identities. 

4 things all the best visual brand identity research projects have in common

The top visual brand identity trend you need to know about

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