Out with the old, in with the new

Rebranding your own branding consultancy is not as easy as it might sound. In fact, it’s probably the hardest task of all, says Paul Bean

We are consultants in this industry, so we know how things work and how they don’t. There is a certain level of expectation associated with everything we do, particularly if it involves our own creativity – and quite rightly so. In an industry where brand identity is such a visible indication of what we do, we need to get it right. If we don’t, what hope do we ever have of delivering solutions that will add value to someone else’s business?

For us, our long-standing company brand – Watt Gilchrist – was our most powerful tool to communicate our value and worth to our stakeholders. Since we were set up in 1892, we have invested time and money into building our identity, to cement our position within the design industry. Discarding it after such a long development seemed to challenge the fundamental principles of marketing. However, we realised that a change is, indeed, as good as a rest.

For us, the rebranding project was a gradual business evolution. When we were purchased by Sun Chemical in 2007, we requested a two-year license to continue operating under our group’s previous branding. Realising that a full corporate identity switch would take as long, we gave ourselves a period of grace to research, plan, evaluate and implement.

Being a creative group, we didn’t want to rush into any decisions that would not accurately reflect our offering, so taking the time out to reflect was essential.

The initial process began with a full business review. This was essential to re-establish our positioning – the one single statement that defined our brand relative to the marketplace – and our personality. We looked to the outside world to understand the competitive landscape and the current consumer trends, but we wanted our brand to reflect what’s on the inside, too. What we do, how we do it and how we think are intrinsic to who we are, and when there’s a breakdown between how a company operates and what it says about itself, there is a risk of damaged credibility.

However, as in any design environment, fluidity is crucial for progression. As important as it is to be true to who you are, fresh thinking and original ideas are essential for development. Not only does creativity stimulate your own bottom line, but it also alerts others to what you are doing and brings back a sense of competition. In the design industry and current economic climate, it never pays to rest on your laurels.

But creativity can’t be plucked out of thin air. It is a talent that is inspired by the people and the environment in which we work. We invested in each of the brand teams to strengthen the individual and collective company offer to our blue-chip clientele. We’re only ever as good as our last job, and our own rebranding project would be testament to that.

Research was the backbone of our strategy. Once we had established who we were and who we wanted to be, we researched our competition in the marketplace, in terms of company names and positioning. We claim to be a unique organisation, providing a matchless service to our clients, and we needed to remind ourselves of this. We also needed to strike a balance between the old and the new – our past and our future.

We have a long history as Watt Gilchrist and maintaining some element of this identity was very much part of our strategy. Sun Branding Solutions became the overall name of our company. We are part of Sun Chemical, after all, so it made sense. But to retain a vestige of our previous branding was also important. Within Sun Branding Solutions, we have four sister divisions, with a mixture of old branding and new, which reflects our forward-thinking approach, as well as pride in our past.

No matter what the rationale behind a rebrand, an in-depth, fact-finding mission is essential to plan and prepare for the changes ahead. Even if you think you’re experts in this game, don’t rely solely on your experience. Knowing who you are and who you want to be is essential, but it is important to consider the outcome from all angles. Rebranding your own business will never be the same as rebranding someone else’s.

Paul Bean is managing director of Sun Branding Solutions


Research – undertake a full business review, covering internal processes as well as the competitive landscape and current consumer trends

Plan – strike a balance between the old and the new, your past heritage and your future ambitions

Evaluate – consider the outcome from all angles

Implement – don’t rely solely on your experience. Rebranding your own business will never be the same as rebranding someone else’s

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