Back when I was doing my honours year at University, I came across a story from a previous honours student who was also majoring in corporate identity. She was writing her thesis on how a rebrand would affect the employees of a company, with the hypothesis that the new look would help breathe new life and energy into the employees while creating better unity that would in turn increase job satisfaction and productivity. But as it turned out, things hadn’t gone that way.
The business in question was a tech company that has recently increased in size thanks to an acquisition style merger, and the newly formed group went through a rebrand including a new name, logo, identity and messaging. The honours student went about distributing and collecting staff surveys to see how they liked the new brand, how it made them feel, plus a range of other questions that would in her mind support her hypothesis.
This was all good in theory, until she started going through the results data.
At first she thought she’d some how entered the data into Excel incorrectly, as all the graphs were pointing the wrong way … being a graphic designer who was more used to using InDesign and all it seemed quite possible. But the more she looked into it with the lecturer’s assistance, they began to realise that not only was the data entered just as it should have been, but what she had stumbled upon was turning out to be a very interesting and important case study.
Without drilling into too much detail, the summary of the findings was that many, if not most of the employees were very unhappy with the merger and how it had been rolled out. The new branding—which was very grey, very cold, and very corporate—only proved to symbolise and reinforce the negative feelings that the employees now felt towards the restructure.
This total flip on the hypothesis completely took the student and the rest of the honours class by surprise, with the final thesis instead telling a tale of how the rebrand had added fuel to the fire of discontent and upset.
There’s two parts to this story that stick out and prove why branding is so important and intertwined with HR—whether it’s for a small business or a giant corporation.
The first is that branding affects your employees just as much (or sometimes more) as it affects and speaks to your customers. It’s often been said without the people who work in the company there is no company, so taking the extra time, care and research to make sure a new or updated brand reflects the mission and values of the management and staff is particularly important.
The second is without careful consideration, research and ideation, a rebrand can actually do more harm that good when it’s poorly executed or incorrectly targeted. It’s all very well to sketch up a fancy new logo and some slick typography, but if the messaging and connotations that the new brand gives off is not aligned to the ethos and story of the business, then a drop in morale and productivity can ensue.
The good news is that brands are ever-evolving and nothing is set in stone. So while it would be ideal to avoid a branding disaster in the first place, it’s never too late to address any problems that a brand might have and get the brand story back on track.
The company’s employees will benefit and so will its bottom line!