The Sandstorm team recently presented at the ASAE Annual Meeting 2021 on “How to Declutter” a brand. In sharing the details of our work with the Food Export Association of the Midwest and Food Export USA - Northeast, we reflected on the journey and how we got there.
It’s not uncommon when undergoing a redesign project, that organizations quickly realize that the new design of the website can be less impactful if the branding does not align. Our partnership started out similarly -- focused first on a redesign and update of the website.
But through primary research via 1:1 stakeholder and user interviews, the team quickly realized there was a deeper need beyond just the website. There was a real opportunity for Food Export to rebrand itself to better connect with its target audiences.
Sandstorm and Food Export pivoted our plan to integrate these 5 Rebranding Steps with the website redesign, in order to invigorate the brand and give it new life:
Step 1: Research, Research, Research
Sandstorm quickly immersed itself in Food Export’s brand, culture, market, and competitive set through primary and secondary research. The team quickly learned that the Food Export Association of the Midwest and Food Export USA - Northeast brands were unclear.
Even the most established companies with a clear mission statement, vision and values, don’t always have a clear brand and brand platform. This can create confusion and without a defined brand, organizations often struggle with trying to communicate everything to everyone. For Food Export, this was evident in the pages of copy walls on the website and dense copy within its marketing materials.
Sandstorm’s goal was to create a clear, distinctive, and cohesive brand. Through 1:1, in-depth interviews (IDIs), the team was able to get a deeper understanding of the brand and positioning by not only speaking directly to its constituents but also reviewing the current market, industry, and competitive landscape.
Step 2: Define the Brand Platform
From there, Sandstorm defined the organization’s desired position in the market and developed a brand platform to guide the personification of the brand. This is comprised of:
- Brand Essence is the single, simple idea that lives at the core of the brand. And is the internal reason for being.
- Positioning is the core idea that ultimately sets you apart from your competitors. To work, it must be believable, distinctive, and relevant.
- Personality defines the character of the brand in human terms to shape the feel and tone of communications.
- Promise is the way the brand will satisfy expectations, fulfill needs and establish trust.
With the brand now established verbally, the team set out to align this with the visual elements of the brand, beginning with the logo.
Step 3: Refresh the Logo
Brand logo refreshes or updates can feel overwhelming, from aligning on new logo requirements or considerations to getting stakeholder buy-in, to the stress of a global internal and external roll-out. However, this is a critical step to ensure the brand will continue to resonate with its target audiences (current and future).
Logos do not need to change often, but they should be re-evaluated when:
- Business has evolved by either changing or expanding its offering
- New competition and market changes occur
- Speaking to a new audience(s) with new products or services
- Reflecting new brand platform to bring brands to life visually
- Aligning with shifts in industry and technology, as a brand’s logo can not only feel aesthetically tired, but the design may not be compatible with trends today
For the Food Export Association of the Midwest USA and Food Export USA - Northeast the latter two were major drivers behind updating the brand. Previous logos had gradients and details that were dated and did not translate to digital mediums.
As a result, the team underwent a refresh of the logo, which helped to not only modernize the brand experience but also deliver important consistency for how the brand should be used across Food Export’s ecosystem.
Step 4: Create the Brand Identity
With logos established, the next step was to complete the rest of the brand identity. The brand identity set out to capture the global opportunities that Food Export offers through use of vibrant colors, bold authentic photography and a layering of elements to create depth and richness to the creative. Branding elements, typography, imagery, font usage, primary and secondary color palettes, as well as example brand applications were developed and then pulled together in the brand guidelines. This serves as the digital ‘rulebook’ for all aspects of the look and feel of the brand and provides important brand consistency for all Food Export’s communications.
Step 5: Activate the Brand
With the refreshed visual and brand identity complete, the next step was to internally roll out the brand to get buy-in, input and generate excitement with key stakeholders, employees, and leadership, while delivering the assets they needed. From there, Sandstorm moved into the external launch of the brand, which was tightly integrated with the launch of the website and most prominent digital and print asset - www.foodexport.org.
The new site included personalization (key messaging, personalized pricing options, related content) while providing a much more tailored and focused experience. In addition, Sandstorm updated key brand and visual elements, while modernizing infographics and critical tools like its Program Guide, making it easier for its members to engage with the content.
Not only has Food Export Midwest and Northeast received incredibly positive feedback on the new brand and website experience, but the analytics show a significant lift in website session duration, overall clicks, and impressions, as well as a much lower bounce rate, so users are finding what they need much more easily in the new experience.
And the icing on the cake was winning a Hermes Gold Award for the work we completed on the brand refresh and website.
Check it out! www.foodexport.org