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Last week the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that after 42 years it would no longer be issuing its candy-colored metal buttons as proof of paid admission, replacing them instead with paper tickets. As with many things in life, with that decision came the sudden realization of how much something would be missed once it has been taken away.
While living in New York City for over 15 years, I have many memories of finding those little metal buttons everywhere. The little icons were such a ubiquitous part of NYC life. Yet who knew the colors actually had names? It was always a pleasant surprise when visiting the Met to see what the day’s button color would be, and a fun decision determining its placement. Depending on what you were wearing, it might look best on the collar, the strap of a handbag, a pocket edge, or even affixed to the cover of the book you were carrying. A default location was always calling on a buttonhole to do double duty. And a day’s visit would inevitably include the distinctive pinging sound of someone’s button falling to the marble floor.
In theory, you were asked to deposit your buttons in a clear plastic receptacle when exiting the museum but I didn’t know anyone who did. Either you simply forgot or you were prescient enough to think about amassing a full collection, either for the nefarious reason of a future paid admission or simply because they were beautiful little objects. Days later, while doing laundry you would inevitably find one of the little guys still affixed to a collar or pocket. And I’m certain I’m not the only person who, more than once, while waiting for a street light or a subway, noticed a glint of recognizable color near my feet, miles and boroughs away from Fifth Avenue & East 89th Street.
After finding a full set going for a starting bid of $200 on eBay, I spent an hour today searching through old storage boxes in my closets hoping to find just even one. I found two! One inside a jumbled box of little-used jewelry and trinkets and another tucked inside the empty matchbox from Lisanne one of my favorite Brooklyn restaurants which closed in 1989.
My buttons’ colors are Joker and Positano.
Some companies and organizations pride themselves with the successful longevity of their branding. A good brand indicates stability and confidence. But when does this all go sour? Case in point, may the Sherwin Williams Paint emblem depicting our mother earth being douched with petroleum-based paint be out of date? What a toxic clean up… it would put BP to shame.
Your brand can define the basis of your corporate and institutional culture, your philosophy, origins and strengths. When Partners in Design was creating a new brand for a nutritional school program in Washington State we knew that the public’s view of school meal programs was dismal. International food expert Jamie Oliver had just pronounced that America was poisoning its children. Our response was go back to basics… the food groups, be honest, and put a good face to it… the food icons are smarties and laughing (see below).
What rebranding does for your company internally is a watershed of benefits in itself. A great amount of self-discovery happens in the process of identity-finding. Rebranding pinpoints who you really are, what you stand for, and understanding your business culture. It also observes whether people see you, as you want to be seen. If there’s disparity, you need to change your brand to better target your market.
If your well-established brand still resonates with current and prospective customers, don’t change for the sake of it, or because it might help generate more sales. Don’t tinker with your brand of relevance for fear of losing customers who might no longer recognize the new you. Partners in Design has helped rebrand and create original brands for neighborhoods, retail villages, school districts, all sorts of services and widgets, so we have a few tips about when is a good time to rebrand, and how to look for the best branding team, process and implementation.
A brand is the sum total of what people see and feel about us when they see our institutional image, our marketing materials, and when they decide to interact with us. Now if you look at the example of Sherwin Williams perhaps this paint company should ask how their audience emotionally feels about this graphic… nostalgia or environmental global fear.
4 Good Reasons to Rebrand
You Need to Reposition The most important reason to rebrand is when your current brand is confusing, or worse, misleading your current or prospective customers. If your goals, products and positioning have changed, rebranding will send a clear message. Rebranding is not something you do because you want to, it’s because your customers don’t understand you.
Brand Confusion and Brand Promise Disappointment If people don’t recall your brand, or confuse you with your competition… you are then losing money and influence. Your identity should be unique and memorable. You may see your brand as representing you well and working, but how does the customer see it? Is this a shared perception? Not being on the same page may be economically disastrous.
Your Brand is Outdated Look at our example of the eager paint seller who sadly wants to encase the world in oil. A 50s perspective probably doesn’t work today. Engage in research to determine your brand’s relevancy. If your product range or services change significantly, ensure your existing brand matches the new reality. The same applies if you are targeting a new market — is your brand still effective in the new environment? A new brand that reflects this change would give your profile a massive boost.
Your Market Position has Shifted Many businesses still have the same brand as when their company started… is it still relevant? If it was done in a rush and on a budget, it may no longer represent your business. Markets change constantly, as do customer expectations, so brands can become outdated. Another good time to give your brand image a kick in the pants is during an economic downturn when competitors are tightening purse strings and the industry is talking doom and gloom. Rebranding at this time shows you are alive and kicking, and, more importantly, optimistic about the future.