SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) are major contributors to the world economy, which employ 60-70% of workers in most countries. With the advent of e-stores, the SME sector has surely received a major boost. For such an impactful sector, branding and design identity must surely be a priority.
It has been a common misconception that brand identity and design strategy are only for the big and established brands. This notion is slowly giving way and SMEs are coming ahead with pathbreaking design innovations that strengthen business strategy and boost ROI. With lowering attention spans, you ought to catch the eye of consumers quickly, and design is the primary element that will set you apart in this case.
So if you’ve been wondering whether your SME needs a design revamp, or how to go through one, or why should you conduct one at all, you’ve come to the right place.
Why would your SME need a design revamp?
Design is what practically makes your brand. When you say branding, the first concept to come to mind is that of brand identity. Brand identity refers to your brand’s visual elements (logo, color, typeface, etc.) that consumers see and build perceptions through.
Thus, as times change, your brand also must change and look fresh in the eyes of the audience. With increasing competition among SMEs for the audiences’ attention, it becomes all the more important. Here are some major signs that your SME brand needs a design revamp:
1. You’ve realized the need for differentiation:
When you started out your small business, you might have followed the bare minimum practice of pasting your logo on all assets in the name of branding. Or, you might have used online logo generators and design templates to do the trick better.
There would come a point of time when these workarounds don’t work anymore, and you realize that your competitors have much better designs. That is exactly when you should consider an overall design revamp, and show consumers some worth for their loyalty.
2. Your brand identity is outdated:
You must have come across this statement a lot of times: Good design can make or break a business. There is no stressing this enough. A good, modern design for your brand would depend upon a lot of factors, including industry trends, tech trends, design trends, etc.
Having said that, it is not easy to keep your design up with all kinds of trends. However, you would rather invest in change than get left behind. We have seen the most successful of companies revamp their design to keep up with time. For an SME, it becomes even more important.
3. Your company mission and vision have changed:
Suppose your SME business started out by selling polo t-shirts, and your entire brand identity revolved around that. Now, you are expanding into grooming products, a completely new category. Your brand identity must transform for the market to know that their choices are increasing.
In order to fit into the new space, your brand has ventured into, its look and its presentation must change, or the disconnect will confuse your market.
4. Your business is evolving:
Even if your company’s mission and vision remain consistent, your business is bound to evolve at some point. You will expand into larger markets, different segments, make more refined products, increase pricing, go international, and a lot more. Your brand identity needs to keep up with these positive changes. If you only look at the changes in logos of Starbucks or Pepsi, you’ll know how much redesigning helps brands. And this applies to brands of all sizes which are eventually going to become bigger with sustained growth.
5. When a PR fix is needed:
A lot of brands go through PR disasters. We can all remember Malaysia Airlines and the MH370 incident. A few years later, the airline, technically bankrupt, decided to not give up. They were reborn instead. They changed all their design assets. Of course, it was a full rebranding campaign.
Rebranding or revamping design are not the only things that can fix a PR disaster, and hence their efficacy cannot be measured. But a design revamp is badly needed when people associate with your current brand identity negatively. A fresh start begins with a fresh look!
6. Mergers and acquisitions:
When your company is merging with another one, or when you’re acquiring or being acquired, at least a partial rebranding is necessary. While people need time to get used to the new brand, they also need visual cues. The participating companies can together decide whether or not to retain a specific brand identity or come up with something fresh altogether.
Whichever way the decision goes, you will need a sound strategy to introduce the new design to the audience. The audience, too, might have changed now. Hence, a communication strategy needs to be in place.
If your SME is in any of these transition stages or facing any other situation that calls for a design revamp, here’s how you can go about it.
Design revamp for SMEs: Step-wise guide
This is a brief outline of the vast process that design revamps for SMEs is.
The Tokyo Olympics logo unveiled in 2015 had a glaring similarity with that of a Belgian theatre company. Since the latter was not a registered trademark, there wasn’t a lot for Tokyo to worry about. However, the public ridicule was memorable.
This is what happens when designers don’t conduct enough research. Your research shouldn’t just include markets, it should also cover competitors, the industry, and even beyond. Look at common elements found across the industry and incorporate them for adding recognition to your brand identity.
2. Outline objectives:
What is it that you exactly want to achieve with this design revamp? Put numbers to your objectives. Put up benchmarks based on your research. Decide how you want your target audience’s behavior to change. Decide what you want your newly designed brand’s value proposition to be. Determine the niche that you want your brand to be in. Setting goals and objectives will also keep you motivated and focused throughout the journey.
3. Conduct a design audit:
A design audit involves taking stock of all your design elements and visual assets to ensure that branding is consistent. It could also involve technical considerations such as how well is the UI/UX of a website or an app working. Additionally, it focuses on the experience that your designs are creating for the customer. Also, it is an opportunity to go back to your brand guidelines and your style guide to check for inconsistencies.
4. Prepare a roadmap:
Now you know your niche. The next step is to figure out how to stay in the niche and yet stand out from your competitors. The roadmap will begin with a cohesive application of objectives to paper in order to determine the branding strategy. This overarching strategy will decide the colors, patterns, shapes, etc. that you will use. This is where research from the previous phase will help you.
Plus, you will also decide how to overcome the gaps you had discovered in the audit phase. This roadmap can be anything from a flowchart to a detailed document or both. It depends on how your team prefers to function.
5. Start sketching:
Put pencil to paper and simply start practicing your creativity. At this stage, your creativity is not unbridled but driven by all the strategies you have put together earlier. Start with the logo. Sketch pages full of logo options. It doesn’t matter if all of them aren’t top-notch. You never know which idea can lead to something bigger.
Once you’ve finalized a logo, move onto other assets such as packaging. Keep in mind not just aesthetics but also the UX that you are trying to create. Next, shortlist a few options for each asset. In the next stage, you bring these to life.
6. Add color:
It’s time to vectorize your logo. It’s time to define your design assets by coloring them strategically. Go back to the strategy board again. Remember the colors you had considered keeping color psychology, industry practices, and brand identity in mind. Use those colors and watch the results.
Don’t forget to experiment with colors too. Try something rule-breaking too. Look at industry examples of off-beat colors and find out how it worked for them, derive inspiration. Remember that the colors of your assets will help your audience perceive the taste, smell, touch, sound, and other factors of the product.
7. Work on typefaces:
Typefaces are a key part of brand guidelines. Most brands use two typefaces- one for slogans and headers, the other for body text. Here is an example from Adobe’s corporate brand guidelines.
You know the basic rules of typefaces. Serifs for a more classy, formal look, rounded fonts for casual looks, calligraphic ones for showing craft, and so on. Once again, go back to the strategy board. Go back to your industry leaders. See what has worked before. You can adopt an existing font, or create a custom font. You don’t need to necessarily create your own unless none of the existing ones really work for your brand.
8. Apply it to assets:
You have all the puzzle pieces with you now. It’s time to put them all together now. Apply the designs and typefaces to all your corporate assets, products, and internal assets. This includes everything from stationery to packaging. You can make use of templates from the internet, but your own style should be preferred. That was the whole point of the last few steps, wasn’t it?
9. Test it:
The penultimate stage is to review all the products of your efforts with customers, employees, research groups, etc. Check how they respond to each asset. Note down valuable feedback. You can use ways such as email lists to conduct surveys.
If you find out that it is not working, don’t get disheartened. Go back to the drawing board and see what can be improved. Repeat the steps from there and test it again. Testing is not for the invitation of criticism but for improvement and refining. Until you are satisfied with the reviews, keep improving and innovating. Once that is done, you are ready to go live!
10. Prepare a style guide:
Once you know to take your designs live, prepare for the future by making a style guide/brand guidelines. Send it to all your designers and marketing staff. The brand needs to be redesigned in the eyes of your employees too. It will take some time to get used to the new designs, but guidelines will make the transition smooth for everyone.
Benefits of a design revamp for SMEs
Here are the different ways in which a design revamp can help your business.
A. It will help your brand stay current. Staying current assures customers that the brand is progressing and knows how to move ahead with them, move ahead the times.
B. It will help you expand your customer base. Even if you haven’t ventured into newer markets and segments, you are likely to find newer customers in the same market. People who hadn’t quite bothered with your brand will now sit up and take note.
C. A design revamp is a conscious effort to differentiate your brand from competitors. This differentiation gives customers assurance that your brand is unique.
D. A design revamp is a great way to highlight new products, new offerings, and services. It will give a boost to new launches. It creates an impression that your brand is not just diversifying but also evolving.
The ultimate goal of every business is profits. The direct impact of a design revamp on profits cannot be figured out with accuracy, but it surely becomes a factor. Giving your brand a dose of freshness while it is on the way to become bigger is a stepping stone to the top of the charts.
Do remember that a design revamp is not an easy or quick process, as we have just explored. It doesn’t make sense for the process to last for an indefinite period, but nor does it make sense to hurry it. Setting timelines with product launches, etc. in mind beforehand helps. If you need expert help with the design revamp for your SME, peruse our portfolio and get in touch with us.