Epilogue: Love at Hindsight

Today is the last post in a series on rebranding from #ahasmembers Robert and Stacia Guzzo of Handcrafted HoneyBee. First off I want to say thanks to the Guzzos for giving so much information to share with other makers out of the kindness of their own hearts. Writing this series was A LOT of work and they gave and gave and gave so much. Secondly, if you've ever thought about doing a rebrand, today's post gives a recap of what it's like to go through the process and the sort of reshaping and reframing of your new business relationship, as it were. A new brand is very much like a new relationship!

If you've missed any part of this series you can catch up below:
read the prologue here
Part 1 (where they talk about their need to change) here

Part 2 (why it takes awhile to get a rebrand right)
Part 3 (what it's like finding a designer)

Part 4 (creating compelling content)
Part 5 (creating and using your brand guide)

Part 6 (creating compelling packaging)
Part 7 (juggling two brands at once)

Part 8 (building a homepage)
Part 9 (launching their new site)
AND read their designer's advice on getting better with graphic design here

Whenever people ask my wife Stacia and me about how we met, it is almost always followed up with the question: “Was it love at first sight?” We just look at each other and laugh.

Don’t get me wrong–we’re very much in love. When we tell the abridged “How I Met Your Mother” tale, the two of us can slip into a comfortable, almost intimate patter, full of gentle ribbing & sweet sarcasm. It’s actually kind of disgustingly charming.

To people that don’t know the whole story, our relationship has the appearance of inevitability. But it only looks that way in hindsight. Every step of the way, our commitment, our choices & our actions played an essential part in the unfolding of our love story.

Wrapping Up the Rebrand 

Over the course of about 10,000 words, I’ve shared a journey with you that spans the better part of a year. Throughout it all, I’ve tried to emphasize the hard work & intentional steps that a rebrand requires. The outcome was far from inevitable. 

We began this rebrand with a strong focus on our “why.” It was a vision of the future, the seed of an idea.

Everything that followed—our content, our visual identity, our packaging, our website, even our product lines—sprouted from that seed. And those investments in our brand have started to bear fruit. In the kind replies of our newsletter readers. In stellar customer reviews. In awards & press coverage.

But the sweetest fruit? The notes.

Handwritten notes from the kinds of girls we set out to serve. Letters & cards with messages of thanks. Stories of their dreams. Pictures of them using our kits with friends and relatives.

It’s something we never received before the rebrand. And it reaffirms the decision to switch course for our business. The fruit borne of that initial “Why” carries seeds of its own, a deeper, fuller understanding of why we want to be in business.

It truly was a love story. We didn’t fall for the visuals. We didn’t fall for the pages upon pages of customer & market analysis.

We didn’t fall in love with the brand itself. We fell in love with what the brand could accomplish. With how it could help us to serve people & make their lives better.

We fell in love with our Why.

Relationship Advice for Your Rebrand 

The details & specifics of this story belong to Handcrafted HoneyBee. But here are some take-aways that you can apply to your business, whether or not you are considering a rebrand.

1. Embrace Change

Change is inevitable, in life as well as in business. Your brand is constantly redefining & clarifying itself as your business grows. It’s only natural for a brand to mature & evolve as your business progresses.

So what separates brand evolution from an explicit rebrand? The scope of the change & your intentional response to that change.

Maybe your business goals have changed. Maybe your audience has migrated away from your chosen niche. Maybe your focus has shifted. Or maybe you’ve discovered that you aren’t speaking effectively to your current audience’s struggles & dreams.

If that describes your situation, then you have a choice. You can purposefully design a new brand identity to embrace that change.

Or you can do nothing and allow your brand to be redefined for you. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

You must intentionally work to remain relevant in the face of major change. Otherwise, you will almost certainly be rendered irrelevant by the audience & customers whom you are no longer serving.

2. Love Thy Customer, Know Thyself

You may have heard it said, “People don’t buy products. They buy better versions of themselves.” But for your business to be really successful, you have to want your customer to be her best self.

If you want to speak directly to your customer in a way that will grab hold of her attention, capture her imagination & profoundly help her, you must authentically want the best for her.
You have to love your customer.

I’m talking about the kind of love that says, “I’m going to focus on you like you’re the only person in the world.” That says, “I’m going to help you find the best solution, even if it points you away from me.” That says, “I want to know everything about you, because I can’t think of anything more interesting to me.”

If you don’t love your customer, then you won’t have the energy or the passion to sustain you for very long. If you don’t love your customer, how can you ever expect them to love your brand?

And in that love, you will find your purpose. You’ll identify your goals. You’ll define your mission. You’ll begin to understand how you can best serve your customer.
You’ll clarify & refine your brand.

3. Do Your Homework

But knowing & loving your customer is not enough. You need to understand her world. What social media does your customer use, and what messages resonate best with her? What other brands does she love, and how do they try to connect with her? What problems & issues concern your customer?

Determine your fundamental business model. How do you plan to make money, so that you can continue to grow and serve your customer even better tomorrow? Is that business model compatible with your customer’s values? Is it compatible with your values?

Define your market space. Are there complementary brands that are reaching your customer in similar ways to your brand? Are there standards, norms & expectations in your chosen industry, and how will that play into your customer’s expectations for your brand? Are there regulations & legal restrictions that you need to follow?

Most importantly, you must precisely identify what makes you different from every single other brand out there.

I cannot stress this enough. The only way for your customer to find you and value you is if there is something that you, and only you, can offer them. If you cannot clearly state what makes you unique, you have more work to do before you can effectively rebrand.

4. Seek Professional Help

You want to know the single biggest mistake we made with our original brand identity? Thinking that we could do it ourselves. Or rather, I should say: thinking that we couldn’t afford to hire a professional.

We were looking at our brand visuals as an expense. As something that could be “good enough” if we did things ourselves.

So we designed our own packaging & labeling. We created imagery for social media posts. We used off-the-shelf fonts and stock graphics. Then we worked it over some more and a little more…and a little bit more, tinkering and fiddling to make our homemade designs better.
We tried our best. But our best wasn’t good enough.

If I’m being totally honest, our attempt at design was all over the place. We were failing to curate a single coherent identity. People didn’t know what we stood for or what they could expect from us. We were confusing people more often than we were connecting with them.

All of that changed when we started thinking about our brand identity as an investment in the future of our business, instead of an expense to minimize.

By working with a professional design firm, we had a lot at stake financially. We had to get things right the first time, and the design visuals needed to be built to last. No more tinkering.

The other big benefit of working with professionals was that we purchased our freedom. We could focus on the parts of our business that absolutely required us, and leave the rest in the hands of experts. We gained back precious time to focus on making our business the best it could be, rather than wasting time over-working for “good enough.”

5. Focus on Goals, Define Success

The benefit of smart goals came up time and time again throughout the story of our rebrand. By having a clear set of business goals, we were able to tell our designer what we wanted to accomplish, rather than how we wanted to do it.

By leaving the “how” in our designer’s hands, we gave her the freedom to approach the problem like a professional. She could apply her skills & expertise to deliver the best design solution possible to meet the goals of our rebrand.

And it wasn’t just for the development of the visual identity. We focused on our goals when developing our content marketing strategy, when crafting our unboxing experience or when designing the website. Every step of the way, we asked ourselves to identify the single goal that we wanted to achieve on each piece of content, every package & each webpage.

Our goals also helped us to describe to our design team what a successful outcome looked like to us. By defining the terms of success up front, we could track progress and measure return on our investment.

Goals & outcomes. It’s what separates the professional from the technician. It’s the difference between an effective rebrand…and a mediocre one.

6. Be Patient

This is the hardest lesson.

We had to be patient as we did all of the initial market research and brand development.

We had to be methodical as we searched and courted the right designer.

We had to wait until the new designs were printed & ready to sell–all while we burned through the cash we saved up for the rebrand.

We had to be flexible as we migrated from old website to transitional website to final website.

We had to be confident that new people would find us, given enough time. And that the new brand would resonate with those people.

Because work and preparation and intentionality are the necessary ingredients for success, but things still take time.

After all…you can’t hurry love.

This is Only the Beginning 

What does the future hold for our rebrand? I don’t know. I cannot say whether we will succeed or fall short of our goals.

All I know is that we could not have continued in the direction we were going. At best, we were stuck in the doldrums, adrift and without purpose. If we are to fail, I would rather fail daring to dream big than fade into a quiet end.

Regardless of what is to come, I know that we have learned so much. We have grown as business people. We have found ourselves by seeking to serve our customer the best way we can.

Through relationships. Through stories. Through big dreams.

Through love.

 

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