Design (Alone) Won’t Save Your Business –

+ Questions to Ask When Rebranding

For those of us old enough I must ask: Do you remember Enron? Those of us who are design history buffs will know who designed the logo for this company. I was actually quite surprised myself when I learned that it was Paul Rand, the notable designer who created the IBM, Cummins and the original UPS logo. All three companies are still in business to this day, with the former two still using the original logos he designed. And we all know what happened to Enron. While IBM, UPS and Cummins continue competing in their respective markets, Enron burned to the ground, due essentially to bad management. And design didn’t save it.

Design is a service, but it’s also a product. I provide the service of design, which is then packaged together along with whatever great products/services you yourself are offering. Included in this package is great customer care, great management, great employees, even a great online experience. All this comes together to create a sustainable and sound business. Of course, we can take design out of the package and the business would still flourish. However, what if you’re not the only business excelling at delivering on all 4 points (great customer care, great management, great employees, great online experience). Well, then it becomes “just another business”. So let’s place design back in to the package, and that’s where we see the value of design. But it isn’t about turning it into a pretty looking box, it’s about communicating a unique and effective visual message about your business, so that it won’t be “just another business”. Of course, you can have everything working really well, and the business may still fail or close, that however is sometimes beyond anyone’s control. An example would be if the original owner decides not to continue with the business, deciding against selling it or passing it on to someone else. But if you have bad customer care, bad product, grumpy employees, or bad management cooking the books, well…design alone will not save your business.

A while back, I stumbled on a paper from the American Express Small Business microsite that asked a series of questions for businesses who were considering doing a rebrand, or starting a new venture. I thought I’d share those questions:

  1. How do you want your product/service to be perceived in the marketplace?
  2. Who are your major competitors?
  3. How do they position themselves? How different is your brand identity and messaging from theirs?
  4. Beyond the obvious and necessary positive business values of quality, value, customer service, etc., what are the core values of your brand on an abstract or emotional level? For example: color, love, pride, texture, speed, etc.
  5. What are some of the non-financial ways that you measure the success of your business?
  6. What are the top three things that you want your customers/prospects to know about your company?

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