Launching a new look, following in New Zealand’s footsteps

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3 things businesses can learn from the NZ flag furore

A strong brand is easily recognisable, reflects the organisation well and evokes an immediate emotional response. For example, if I see a stylised black swoosh, I instantly think of Lycra and a long-forgotten gym pass, and suddenly get the urge to “Just do it”. But a good brand also needs to move with the times and keep up with your organisation as it changes and evolves.

If your logo is not doing any of these things, it might be time to head back to the drawing board and consider a rebranding.

However, as New Zealand has just discovered, the road to change can be costly, fraught with infighting, indecision and dubious design work, and might lead you right back to where you started. So what can companies learn from New Zealand’s corporate identity crisis?

  1. First, ask yourself why?

Most New Zealanders admit that our flag is quite traditional and very similar to our closest competitor’s (just one star distinguishes our flag from Australia’s, which is confusing and does little to dispel the myth that New Zealand is a small cluster of islands to the east of Tasmania). But we also value the history and symbolism of our flag. It is something we have all grown up with and it is as familiar as gumboots and Pavlova.

Which is why, after many months of discussion, indecision and heated debate, not to mention $27 million spent polling all eligible voters, we are left to fly our old familiar flag.

First lesson. If you are considering a corporate identity makeover you need to carefully weigh up brand loyalty and familiarity with any potential benefits. Spend time talking to staff / clients / customers and be sure they are ready to embrace a new look before you begin.

  1. Get key stakeholders on board

You may not have a rugby legend like Richie McCaw to ‘fly the flag’ but all companies have influencers and individuals that people respect. If you can convince these key people change is necessary, others will soon get on board and be excited and supportive as you roll out a new look.

  1. Seek expert advice

When the project of choosing a new flag for New Zealand began, the public was asked to submit ideas online. While some ideas were quite professional, many were amateur and even absurd (a Kiwi bird with laser beams shooting out its eyes and a hand-drawn sheep with an ice-cream cone were among the initial contenders).

Crowdsourcing is great if you have a community fundraising project or tricky technical problem to solve. However, it is not such a great process for distilling the essence of your brand into a simple, stylish graphic. For this, you’re better to call in the experts.

So, write a clear brief, give it to a designer and let them lead the process of dreaming up an inspiring new image for your company.

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