A fresh take on the B2B brand refresh.

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August 2022

A glimpse at a recent rebranding in progress

B2B rebranding does not have to be a slow, expensive project. At StudioNorth, we’re leading clients through a refined process that builds consensus faster, delivers compelling results sooner, and costs significantly less to execute.

Here’s a glimpse at our new rebranding process. We can’t share the client’s name, because the outcome of the rebrand isn’t yet public. But we can share the steps involved and how they’re leading to a brand refresh that will connect better with our client’s audience—while costing less time and money than a conventional approach.

The StudioNorth rebranding process in action

Our client is a non-profit organization associated with an industry giant. The foundation’s mission revolves around helping employees, retirees, and their dependents with short-term financial assistance and university-level scholarships.

The organization has recognized that their brand needs a refresh to imply a human connection and build a larger global footprint—from its visual identity to the multi-dimensional platform that shapes their narrative.

Overview: How StudioNorth approaches a rebranding

Our process differs from others from the outset. Rather than starting with the proverbial blank sheet of paper and investing heavily on research up front, we start with a well-founded hypothesis, let client stakeholders react to it, and build from there.

We’ve found that this approach prevents the multiple cycles of review and approval that extend and delay most rebranding efforts. It avoids the constant pivots and responses that sometimes bring rebranding to a dead halt and—by reducing time and cost—it unlocks the funding often required to pursue a rebranding effort.

Here are the broad steps of the process:

01

IMMERSION

Learning as much as we can via internal research

02

HYPOTHESIS

A stake in the ground for brand pillars

03

WORKING SESSIONS

Distilling the core brand pillars

04

PLATFORM

Crafting a single, coherent narrative.

1.

Immersion: Learning as much as we can via internal research

Many rebranding efforts enlist long-tailed market research as the first step, investing significant time and money in a wide-net approach that gathers significant amounts of information before any of it is analyzed or applied.

In our view, that research is unnecessary and even counterproductive.

Instead, we leverage existing research rather than refuting it and forcing clients to redo it at the beginning of the process. We also conduct interviews with the client’s current leaders and critical publicly facing roles. We don’t interview prior or existing customers until the verification stage of the process.

In this client’s case, there was nearly a century of history to review, along with existing market research.

This immersion helped us formulate a hypothesis that launched the rest of the rebrand.

2.

Hypothesis: A stake in the ground for brand pillars

We launch our rebranding process with a hypothesis for one reason: It’s easier to get people to react to something than to draw it out of them.

To form this hypothesis, we sort through all the complexity of what we discover during the immersion phase to draw out the common attributes represented in three core brand pillars:

  • Client value: How an individual client might describe what they receive
  • Work experience: How clients describe what the organization is like to work with
  • Lasting impact: The overarching takeaway for the broader audience

We share this hypothesis with a client at the beginning of the first working session. It creates clarity, demystifies the development process, and shortcuts the potentially cumbersome internal work of trying to uncover what these different attributes might be.

3.

Working Sessions: Distilling the core brand pillars

The StudioNorth rebranding process includes two working sessions involving StudioNorth personnel alongside key client executives. By the end of the second session, we’re ready to formulate the new Brand Platform.

Over the course of the sessions, we’ll introduce our hypothesis on the three brand pillars, and via several proprietary exercises, hone and reshape them until the client reaches a consensus on these essential pillars.

The sessions also reveal the fourth brand pillar: a clearly defined brand personality that will drive the tone, voice, and visualization of the new brand.

But the value of the sessions is more than just the outcome. Involving the client in group sessions where everybody participates makes what could have been an overwhelming task collaborative, enjoyable, insightful, and even fun. It helps everyone feel like they contributed to the consensus, which prevents the discord and disagreement that might otherwise lengthen the rebranding.

4.

Platform: Crafting a single, coherent narrative.

Once the workshop has helped our client reach a consensus on the brand’s pillars and personality, the StudioNorth team regroups to combine and flesh them out into a complete, cohesive platform.

The platform is a grid with four quadrants, with three representing the brand pillars and one the brand personality. We also rephrase some terms to be from the audience’s point of view. Here’s how they read for our non-profit client:

  • Client value: Relief when I need it the most
  • Work experience: Compassionate and fair problem-solvers
  • Lasting impact: Support for the company’s employees in perpetuity
  • Brand personality: Caring, empathetic, respectful, and knowledgeable

We then extrapolate these statements into an internal-facing brand promise—a series of statements that underly the organization’s reason for being—and a public-facing value statement, which becomes the foundational basis of all future brand messaging.

These statements will set the course for a rebranding effort that—because it already has a strong client consensus behind it—will take far less time and cost significantly less money than a traditional rebranding.

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We could not be happier with the StudioNorth team and the way they’ve led us through this process. I could not believe how much we accomplished in a single afternoon! We’re all confident that our new visual identity and messaging will be exactly what we need to deepen our connection with our employees and their families.

Ready for a fresh look at your brand refresh?

Our process works for B2B organizations who need to move quickly where every dollar and minute count. It works because it’s rooted in a company’s true makeup, based on scientific, hypothesis-driven methods, and designed to build a lasting consensus among stakeholders.

Eric Meerschaert
Eric Meerschaert
Executive Director, Strategy
Eric gained his strategic background at Global 500 software companies and McKinsey & Co, where he learned that analytics, not instincts, drive the best B2B strategies.

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