Brand Renovation


21 Jul Brand Renovation

Headlight has just celebrated its fifth birthday, and to celebrate I thought I’d treat it to a makeover. My earlier DIY brand identity was looking tired and needing a lift. Besides, being in an industry of ideas, it’s important to have something new to say.


As someone who has worked on scores of re-branding and brand strategy projects across many different business categories over the years I thought I’d share with you some practical tips to help with this process.

Here’s my checklist of things to consider:

  1. Why are you refreshing your brand?

It is really important to have a clear purpose for any brand refresh and to avoid unnecessary acts of branding.

Is it to upgrade a brand that is looking tired and uncompetitive? Is it to signal a change of meaning or strategic direction for your brand? Is it to keep your brand contemporary? Also important is the scale of change. Is it a significant re-design or a subtle update that is required?

Knowing clearly why you are refreshing your brand sets the context for everything that follows. It is all-too-common for brands to be tinkered with based on the whim of a new marketing manager, or to react to competitive activity without solid consideration. The result can be confusion for consumers and the unintentional weakening of your brand.


A great deal of money was spent making the transition from Telecom to Spark. However, they did have a mountain to move in terms of market perceptions that were so entrenched that the brand was a byword for the category: as it used to be. In a market that is rapidly evolving the Telecom brand was a ball and chain that needed to be removed with radical surgery.


An eagerly anticipated brand relaunch is the post-Clarkson/Hammond/May Top Gear with Chris Evans at the helm. One of the BBC’s most successful brands has been forced into reinventing itself by the implosion of its talent. Time will tell what they will retain, what will be new, and whether the brand can make the transition.


  1. What is the idea of your brand?

Often people describe brands and businesses by what they do: they produce furniture, they do accounting, they make beauty products, they make food. This approach to brand descriptions is functional, generic and undersells the role of a brand in enriching a product or business with desirable human values.

Having a more conceptual understanding of your brand and the story it offers can provide a much more dynamic, and deeper sense of value. This will place your brand in the business of home comfort, or putting your business at your fingertips, feeling more confident about yourself, or maybe making the tribe at home appreciate your efforts more.


Air B&B is a phenomenal example of the internet redefining business models. Originally started after a couple rented out their front room with airbeds when San Francisco was booked out with a big conference. On one level Air B&B features an online accommodation booking system. But the concept of Air B&B is intended to be about belonging to a community of people, places and love. You can find more about the development of the Air B&B brand identity here.

Headlight is based on the idea of wayfinding. It helps clients find their path to growth, progress and profit. Headlight does this by a mix of investigative research, strategic problem solving and plan writing.


  1. What is your brand’s tone of voice?

Your brand is what speaks for your product or business through a tone of style of look, feel and voice. The question to ask yourself is: “how do you want your brand to come across?” Do you want to be friendly, cute, or authoritative? And what is the distinctive personality that defines the way your brand expresses itself?

Working to a clear and consistent tone of voice is essential if your brand is to be coherent. This is becoming more important as most brands now have a greater need to create content for digital and social media, and there are often more authors charged with speaking for the brand.



Swazi claims to be the world’s most durable outdoor clothing. It’s hunting style is a distinctive, no-nonsense, high credibility.


beers       cerveceriasagrada

The beer category has traditionally been shaped by conservative design conventions. There are medals, crests, and symbols of masculine strength abound that all try to say that: ”this is credible beer”. However, recent times have seen an explosion in design innovation as the craft beer revolution has taken off. Craft beer is all about distinctiveness and individuality; and this is borne out in the tasty brand palette of craft beer.

Headlight’s tone of voice is designed to be clear, insightful and inspiring. These traits make successful wayfinding possible for clients.


  1. How does your brand add value for people?

The role that your brand plays for customers, stakeholders and staff is important to consider. There are two sides to this.

Firstly, who is it that you are aiming to influence? Your target market will be best described in terms of people’s nature and what they are looking to have satisfied, rather than their demographics. For example, instead of 20-35 year old mothers of young children, it might be young mothers who want ways to show their kids she loves them. Or, instead of senior business decision-makers, it might be business decision-makers who are frustrated with an inability to grow and are looking for a step change in performance.

The second aspect of this question is the role that your brand plays for people over and above what your basic product does. This is also sometimes described in terms of ‘archetypes’, the DNA of which can be traced back to mythology, Jungian psychology and astrology. Archetypes are pure symbols of human values and traits, and as such are the keys to achieving a deeper emotional connection. The role of your brand helps explain who your brand is and why it might be chosen as the answer to the target market’s demand. There are many different archetypal roles, but some common brand roles include the navigator, the hero, the sage, the trickster, the outlaw and the caregiver.



XERO is a great navigator brand that makes the accounting much more intuitive, manageable and encouraging for small business owners, many of whom are reluctant accountants.



Harley Davidson is the ultimate outlaw brand that evokes freedom, independence and swagger for their target market of mostly mild-mannered middle aged professionals wanting to break out at weekends.


Plunket is a much loved caregiver brand that has been an invaluable support for generations of new parents.

Headlight is a sage brand, providing insight, direction and a path forward for clients who are unsure which way to turn, who can’t see the wood for the trees, or who simply want a second opinion.


  1. Where & how does your brand operate?

Brands need to be fit for purpose. They need to look the part for their intended use.

Unfortunately, some brands are designed in isolation and evaluated on screen or on plain paper. However, this can be misleading. A brand’s design needs to be considered in the context of where it is used and where it is bought. There are many, many examples of brands that stand out on a page but are lost on busy store shelves, or look awful against more compelling competitors.

Here is a simple illustration of brand fitness for purpose.

Say you are driving in the country and you see two signs by the side of the road for two farmers selling fresh eggs. Which would you buy?


Most choose the “fresher looking” eggs on the right because the design looks and feels organic. It is roughly painted by the hand of a farmer who spends more time tending to his chickens than signwriting. The eggs on the left look more like those from a factory, or maybe a battery.

And now image that on your trip through the country you are considering taking that flying lesson that you always dreamed about. Which would you chose for you flying lessons?


Almost everyone chooses the “safer looking” flying lessons on the left. They look more organised, formal and disciplined; everything that fresh eggs shouldn’t be. You would be risking life and limb with the random looking company on the right.


  1. How are you going to stand out?

It is vital for your brand identity to stand out and be differentiated from your competitors.

There are two ways to look at differentiation. On one hand there is the idea of being fundamentally different from your competitors. Some brands do bring genuine differences to categories, but they are typically category exceptions. Being fundamentally different can be a great thing in some circumstances.


Google revolutionised search. Trade Me changed how we buy and sell second-hand goods. Uber disrupted the way we use taxis.

However, fundamental difference can also be a limiter that restricts your brand to a niche position. There is a tendency for human nature to back normative behaviour rather than outlier behaviour.

The reality is that most categories are over-supplied with many competitive offerings that are not fundamentally different. Whether it is brands of beer, car marques, banks, clothing, accountants, advertising agencies or consultants, there are usually substitutable alternatives that are not inherently different.

This is not necessarily a problem. The second way to look at differentiation is distinction. This is where brands do a similar job to competitors, but in a style or behaviour that is unique.


This is where Nike is different to adidas, where V is unlike Red Bull, where Icebreaker is different to Kathmandu, where Lexus distinct from Mercedes, where ASB is different to Westpac, and Russell McVeagh is different to Kensington Swan.


  1. What is your brand going to do?

Brand management is rapidly becoming a much more dynamic craft. There is both the need and opportunity for brands to be much more active and 3-dimensional than in the past.

This has been brought about by several inter-related trends. The easy availability and relatively low cost of digital marketing and social media tools has dramatically opened up the scope of what brands can do in order to connect with consumers and what brands can bring to their marketplace.

Unlike the static, one-way communication of the past, digital and social marketing requires brands to generate a lot more content than ever before. Brands now need to have something to say, they need to be engaging, they need to earn the loyalty and attention of customers with what they do rather than just what they say.


share for dogs







The MARS Share for Dogs campaign was a great example of innovative use of digital tools. MARS encouraged people to share a video of cute dogs that was published on You Tube. The high volume of traffic to the video earned revenue from You Tube that became an innovative source of fundraising for the MARS’ Pedigree Adoption Drive charity.

Recent times have seen rapid rise the field of experiential marketing and activation. This is where brands provide opportunities for consumers to interact with them via events and experiences at airports, on the street, in malls, in parks and alongside other entertainment events. This brings a physicality to branding that can create indelible memories far beyond a static advertisement.



Tui’s brilliant Catch a Million Campaign has proved enormously successful as a branded experience over the past two years. It turned the season of live cricket crowds into an orange-clad brand medium. And its infectious Million Dollar challenge captured the participation of thousands and the imagination of many, many more. The promotion has become a welcome part of both the live match experience and the televised spectacle.


With thanks to the good folk at Goodfolk, who helped out with Headlight’s brand renovation.

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