Jose Palomino

Brand Reinvention: Tips from an Old Town

October 2, 2012

Photo by Suede Bicycle on flickr

What do you do when it’s necessary to reinvent your brand?

No, it’s not the ideal situation to find yourself in. Ideally, you’ll hit on a branding idea that make sense with your business, your messaging, and your customers. Ideally, it will evolve with the times and flow seamlessly with new product and service launches. Ideally, your brand will remain recognizable and renown throughout the ages.

But, as we all know, life is not always ideal.

Sometimes you’re forced to reinvent the wheel. Maybe your company is switching gears. Maybe you need to reach out to a new (or more focused) customer base. Maybe you need to change with the times.

Whatever the reason, sometimes we have to face the difficult task of starting over, thinking fresh, and rebranding our company.

So I ask you again: what do you do?

A small town in England recently faced the re-branding conundrum in an interesting way. Although not exactly a business (though certainly, there are businesses involved), their process provides great insights to those facing this issue.

A Little Background…

Shrewsbury is a country town in England with 96,000 residents. Slightly obscure, it hasn’t exactly been a tourist hub (when was the last time you heard someone say, “We’re off to London for a week, and plan to stop at Shrewsbury”?). It’s not really “known” for anything, and that was the problem.

Wanting to branch out and become a destination point, the town decided to hire branding firm &Smith, as well as London’s We All Need Words. That’s when things got moving.

Playing to Your Strengths

The great thing about the town is that it does have unique traits – there are things to offer tourists. It may be obscure, but Shrewsbury is absolutely crawling with history. The street plan has basically been unaltered since the Medieval era, there are more than 660 historical buildings, and the town plays host to one of the oldest horticultural events in England – the Shrewsbury Flower Show.

So there are some apparent strengths, and the branding strategy was to capitalize on those areas.

In the end, the town adopted a customizable logo – available to every single local business. Fast Co. Design reports:

After slinging around ideas, they chose a slogan (“A Shrewsbury One-Off Since ______”) that focuses on authenticity – something Shrewsbury has in excess. The logo, printed on rubber stamps and stickers, gives shop owners the latitude to personalize the slogan to fit their wares. ‘Since 5:15am’ for a pastry chef, or ‘Since 1552,’ for the town’s castle visitor center.

The branding strategy was relatively simple, but it was well constructed. You need to make sure you play to your strengths when you create a marketing strategy. For Shrewsbury, that meant focusing on their history, their old-world look and feel, and their authentic, quaint town.

Now What?

So how do you play to your strengths? Your first step is knowing – inside and out – what your company (or town, or product, etc.) stands for, and what makes it great. No, really. A lot of companies overlook this step, or at least glide through it flippantly. Ideally, you would be playing to the strengths of your I3 value proposition.

You need to answer:

  • What is your value proposition? What makes your company valuable to customers, investors, your employees, and you?
  • What makes your company innovative?
  • What makes it indispensable?
  • What makes it inspirational?

Starting from this place to brand or re-brand will ensure that everything makes sense – from the CEO to the messaging to the sales department. Branding must be integrative to everything your company says and does – to everything it stands for.

And before you’re ready to release your branding strategy, make sure your employees have bought into it. Drew McLellan of Drew’s Marketing Minute makes an excellent case for including your employees in the branding process. He writes, “Discovering and then building a brand takes a village. And you have to start by including your own villagers.”

That’s exactly what Shrewsbury did, and that’s exactly what we must be doing, too.

  • Have you ever had to re-brand your company? What was your process, and did you see results?
  • When have you been a part of excellent branding? What made it so great?

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