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How to approach your "look refresh”

By Jeff Caporizzo
Sep 16, 2020
4 MIN. READ
To ensure a winning look refresh, start by asking the right questions and aligning on the definition of success. We’ll show you how.

There are few brand or campaign initiatives with more gray area—and challenges for delivering work that inspires and engages audiences while exceeding internal expectations—than the request for a “look refresh,” “design refresh,” or “logo refresh.”

“Refresh” is a broad term, and the thinking often runs along the lines of, “Since the work isn’t starting from scratch, it will move quickly and be inexpensive.” The opposite is often the case. Working with existing creative assets that have equity with target audiences, and making nuanced changes that will still have impact, can be detailed and expensive work. Additionally, a new look and feel are important to both internal stakeholders and external audiences. These are high stakes for your core team and the people you’re trying to market to, and you’ll need to set expectations early and thoroughly.

The takeaway is that succeeding at this ask requires a smart partnership and strategy with your creative and core team. It starts with questions, which if diligently asked and answered, will map the engagement to success. Let’s get into it.

What is driving the ask?

Why does your company or organization want to make a change? The best answer to this question would be a strategic answer—in other words, an answer grounded in the business, toward a specific goal and tied to research of some kind.

Perhaps your customers have been asked about the legacy logo or design direction in qualitative/quantitative research and the feedback demands a change. More specifically, perhaps you’re seeing downward trends of outcomes and key performance measures. Perhaps a competitor has stepped up its game in the way they come to market, and to keep pace your brand must respond. Perhaps your business, product offering, or process has changed in a significant way and the brand should reflect this, changing the conversation and perception about the company or product in the marketplace. All good reasons to make a change in a nuanced way that builds on the brand assets already in place, yet opens the door to evolution and growth.

The worst answer to this question is, “Well, our logo, look, or design has been like this for a long time …” or “Some of our people are sick of it,” and other answers in this vein. While it may not only be that some members of your company and organization have grown tired of the creative, you need to dig deeper and frame the ask to solve a tangible business or communication challenge as the first step in the process.

That may mean adding research into the work scope to get these answers, which may be challenging if you’re eager to charge ahead and start looking at creative mockups. Stay focused and remember the benefits of aiming before firing—it will pay off later on.

What does “refresh” mean for your organization?

It is important to drill down into the elements of the existing look and feel and get specific about what will change and what won’t. Will you be keeping the colors, fonts, voice and tone, tagline, and logo, or changing all of it? Will some of the legacy elements you want to keep so limit the effort in redesign that the change will be incremental and ineffective? Or are you changing so much that it’s like starting from scratch? These considerations will affect timeline, budget, and internal expectations. (Knowing the difference between “refresh” and “redo” is critical.)

Determining the creative effort and setting expectations are what this step is all about, so that everyone is on the same page about what “refresh” means.

If you’re wildly successful in this effort, what happens?

Talk about the endgame before you start the work—what does success look like? Your report card should include metrics that tell a clear success story. Did you move the audience to a specific action? Did you get the engagement you wanted on social? Did you grab the earned media you wanted? And so on—you need to demonstrate that you solved the original challenge defined at the outset.

Iterative testing with audiences is a great way to check your work and prove it is effective. Or, for example, you could compare the digital ad metrics for ads using the old look and feel versus the new look and feel ads, look at sales numbers, or organize specific follow-up focus groups. What you want to avoid is just anecdotal feedback or an echo chamber of only people involved with the project.

By framing your success in metrics, you move past opinion or preference to impact. “I like the new look” or “I don’t like the new look” is important feedback from internal and external audiences, but it can’t be the only feedback. You want to always connect the results of the

work back to solving the original problem. Design elements are brand tools that have a specific job—you can measure if they are doing their job and that should the evaluation of whether the “refresh” was successful or not.

Bottom line is that “refresh” can mean a lot of things—narrow that down. Define the refresh as a specific step toward something wonderful for your business, organization, campaign, or brand, and when that wonderful thing happens, celebrate together.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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By Jeff Caporizzo

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