July 17, 2015

Retail rebranding fails – skipping key steps

Retail Rebranding

When it comes to retail rebranding failures, a quote from Aristotle is a good place to start: “Well begun is half done.” So is Benjamin Franklin’s statement: “Haste makes waste.” I could go on and on.

Why are mistakes so common in retail rebranding? We were recently asked to assist a corporate branding team on a retail rebranding project. They took us through brand treatments for high visibility brand touchpoints and we quickly spotted steps that were skipped. Having worked on many retail rebranding projects, we knew they were setting themselves up for major delays and cost overruns.

How could we tell simply by looking at brand treatments? The graphic designers worked in a fantasy, two-dimensional world that didn’t account for the actual shapes and sizes of installation sites. Just like a clothing designer who assumes the same fabric pattern would look good on babies and basketball players. Without using real world, three-dimensional data and rushing to get started, the brand treatments were flawed.

The brand team took a step back after our meeting to regroup. They realized that with all of the variations of signs, buildings, and vehicles in their retail rebranding, the initial brand treatments wouldn’t work. They needed to collect more data and use a realistic approach.

Here’s what would have happened to the retail rebranding project without our input.

  • Lack of brand uniformity. One of the design elements was a pathway (stripe) that extended out from main area of the signs. While the stripe looked fine in the mockup, the trajectory of the stripe changed when used for different heights. Ironically, one of the major goals of the retail rebranding was brand uniformity.
  • Wasted time and money. The original brand treatments would have been manufactured and shipped to hundreds of retail locations around the country. The brand implementation crews would: (a) try to install the problematic signage as best they could; or (b) stop the installation and ask for instructions.

In retail rebranding, we have seen both of these approaches, which result in delays and wasted materials. At this point, brand treatments are reworked, replacement materials produced, and schedules changed. As Lee Iacocca said, “If we screw it up, start over. Try something else.”

Starting over not only wastes time and money, but stakeholders, like customers and employees, take notice. After all, it’s hard to miss a partially installed sign facing the street or parking lot.

These retail rebranding fails can be avoided by recognizing how design and engineering come together during brand implementation. I know, engineering seems out of place in a retail rebranding discussion. But right-brained and left-brained specialists are both needed to be successful. Engineering makes sure brand guidelines are realistic, and brand treatments work in the real world.

I’ll end this with a quote from Steve Jobs: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”