In today’s world, your brand’s greatest competitor is customer indifference. Our attention is a scarce resource, for which all marketers are fighting. That’s why launching a brand identity is an indispensable marketing opportunity. Smart communicators know how to launch a brand identity and use that chance to tell the story of their brand. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. Here is a story.
In today’s world, your brand’s greatest competitor is customer indifference.
Why do you need to launch a new brand identity, to begin with?
In April 2019, the Queens Public Library launched its new brand identity. It now has a new name, a new logo, and a new tagline. The general consensus seems like their branding agency Doublespace has done a good job. After all, the popular brand identity work review website Brand New commented as follows: “Overall, it seems like a solid and successful effort to infuse the library with some new energy.”
While the design community is busy evaluating the new brand identity, one thing escaped the attention: Why did the Queens Public Library need to have a new brand identity, to begin with?
As all organization launching a new brand identity would Queens Public Library issued a press release. In its official statement, the organization provided a logical and persuasive argument for a variety of topics, such as why they picked the colour purple, what the new tagline means, and why they changed their name.
Unfortunately, the media release failed to explain the pressing need that forced Queens Public Library to rebrand itself. It stated that the new brand identity embodies QPL’s renewed commitment to better serving all of its diverse communities across Queens. One council member hinted the potential problem: “To ensure that each and every public library branch across our borough is well-funded and thriving.”
A man always has two reasons for what he does—a good one, and the real one.J.P. Morgan
The real reason for launching a new brand identity
As you might suspect, libraries -like museums- are facing an existential crisis, because the old ways of doing business are no longer working. Accordingly, libraries around the world are experiencing budget cuts. Politicians and the public don’t know what libraries are about. Their old infrastructure is decaying. But most importantly, the public is questioning the relevance of a physical library.
The modern library is a public institution, whose origins go back to the Enlightenment Era. Since then, its operational model has stayed more or less the same: providing a curated collection of sources of information, selected by experts and made accessible to a defined community in a physical location.
In today’s digitalized world, however -especially with the rise of Google- access to information has been democratized. As a result, libraries lost their monopoly on the gatekeeper role. That’s why we are seriously questioning the relevance of a public library. Even if the public library is not yet the public pay phone in a world, where everybody has a cell phone, it is slowly but surely getting there.
Even if the public library is not yet the public pay phone in a world, where everybody has a cell phone, it is slowly but surely getting there.
Granted, within any community there will always be people, who would defend public libraries. But those people will be motivated to fight either for moral or nostalgia-related reasons. In the greater scheme of things, speed, convenience, and simplicity of digital options would win.
Don’t sell the solution. Sell the problem.
The above challenges are universal. One would assume that Queens Public Library is not an exception. If that were the case, then by launching a new brand identity itself Queens Public Library made a simple mistake. In the world of brand strategy, we call that “failure to sell the problem.”
William Bridges, the world-renown organizational development consultant, says that when change is introduced, usually, 90% of leaders’ energy and time is put into selling the solution.
However, most people are not in the market for solutions to problems that they don’t see or understand. They first have to realize that there is a problem. Once the awareness of the issue is established, then people need to be empowered to come up with their solution. If you do that, you don’t have to sell your solution. It is theirs already!
Usually 90% of leaders’ energy and time is put into selling the solution. However, most people are not in the market for solutions to problems that they don’t see or understand.William Bridges
The failure to sell the problem is not unique to Queens Public Library. Most of the organizations around the world suffer from the same issue. Gap had one of the most memorable examples of a rebranding disaster. So did Tropicana. Rhodes Islands had its own share of failure. Montreal, too, garnered negative reviews from some and inciting dissent and disdain amongst others. The problem is so widespread that the graphic design critic Armin Vit says, “In 13 years of writing Brand New and reading press releases, there is never an in-depth explanation, beyond a paragraph, of what the strategy is/was.”
Change your metaphor, change your brand identity launch
That is a systemic mistake, at the root of which lies seeing branding projects with the wrong metaphoric lenses. For the majority of the corporate world, a brand is a logo. Starting from that point of view, a “branding project is a design project.”
Such problems would disappear once we start treating “branding projects as a change management project.”
For a library, a museum, a city, or any complex stakeholder organization to embark on a branding journey, something must be ailing. Maybe strong stereotypes exist about the brand. Perhaps the organization is not attracting enough customer/visitor/user. Or maybe local stakeholders cannot agree on the most fundamental issues, halting the organization’s growth.
Regardless of the issue, an organization’s decision to rebrand itself is an honest and transparent attempt to overcome those challenges. That’s why a branding project would be successful only if the desired change takes place.
Use brand identity launch to create awareness of the need for change
According to Prosci’s ADKAR Change Model, the primary condition of change is AWARENESS of the need for change. The public needs to know why the brand is suffering. Stakeholders need to be aware of what’s going on in rival organizations. The community should understand that unless things change, their beloved brand would eventually deteriorate. Everybody should comprehend that the ultimate goal is not to find a logo but to modify the way everybody thinks and acts about the brand.
Unless the brand communicates the pressing need for change, stakeholders’ perception of the branding project will be something like this: “They are wasting our valuable resources instead of tackling real issues.” That is the sad truth.