Let’s talk Branding, shall we? 

I think most of you know what Brand Identity means – it is your business image, reputation, recognizability… those ideas, notions, pictures and thoughts that auto-pop into people’s brains upon hearing your company’s name.  Examples: If I mention Peta, you know it’s an animal rights org, if I mention Iron Chef you think Kitchen Stadium, lights, and hot action in the kitchen. If I say Big 5 you might picture sports or camping equipment.  These entities all work to constantly cultivate and reinforce a positive, identifiable brand identity and brand awareness.  It takes effort to build a brand, so why might an entity want to go to the effort and expense of rebranding? Let’s look at just a few examples.

Evolution of Character

There are some times when companies want to rebrand themselves because of progress, time and cultural change, or as a result of a quickly acquired negative reputation.  After a plane crash that generated a lot of negative attention, ValuJet took on the name AirTran Airways after a merger, even though ValuJet, at the time, was more well known. Before the crash it was fine, but after the crash the name and reputation was crap, so they changed their name. The PrimaDonna Resort and Casino in Primm, NV changed their name to Primm Valley Resort after a horrific crime resulting in the death of a child happened in one of their bathrooms. Vegas in general, after trying to project a family friendly image for awhile in the 90s, apparently realized how ridiculous that was and returned to the adult sin city persona symbolized by the What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas!  campaign (which was actually What Happens Here, Stays Here, but everyone knows the Vegas version).

An example of a (much needed) progress and culture related change is Aunt Jemima, whose oldest roots are deeply racist, as evidenced in this ad from the Nov. 7, 1909 edition of the New York Tribune:

New-York_tribune._November_07_1909

 

Obviously, this racist brand identity is neither acceptable nor desired!  Aunt Jemima was originally created in 1889, it was only one hundred years later, in 1989, that the image of Aunt Jemima was finally changed to represent just another regular homemaker, and not something seemingly fondly reminiscent of the shameful days of slavery.  Here’s is the Aunt Jemima logo today:

Aunt Jemima logo

I’m not sure if Aunt Jemima will ever lose its racist connotations to those of us of a certain age and older, however today’s little kids, in 20 or 30 years when they’ve grown up and the older folks are gone, may not be aware of the history of the brand, as they will have grown up with the above image. In any case, this is a clear example of a great need to rebrand. Nobody wants their company to be known as “those racists.”

AAAAAaaaand then there’s my favorite example, Old Spice!  Old Spice used to be known as “my grandpa’s aftershave.”

Enter a virally successful social media marketing campaign that began with the commercial pictured below, and now when we think of Old Spice, we don’t picture our grandpas anymore. At least I don’t. Now I just think of…

Old Spice Guy

…that shirtless, hunky and humorous Old Spice Guy, riding a horse down the beach. Not your grandpa’s aftershave anymore, Old Spice revitalized their brand and brought it to a new generation of potential customers. Oh and the Old Spice Guy, Isaiah Mustafa, became an internet superstar.

 

Personal Rebranding – My Own Story

I recently rebranded myself. For this we need a little background history.  I never intended to be a solopreneur. Nope, I was happily working as Public Information Associate at my local water district. Then the real estate bubble burst, the economy went to crap and I became a statistic, laid off with no prospects in sight since most of the public agencies underwent a hiring freeze that lasted… well I don’t know, after about a year and a half of “no positions open at this time” I decided to go solo.

Before I came to that junction, the web site I had was created really to support my resume that I had been sending out to public agencies.  Because my work involved project management and collaboration with multiple entities, the cogs and gears theme really worked.  The audience it was intended for was HR reps at public agencies. My resume featured the same design, and the gears were live links to corresponding pages on the web site where I gave more details of the projects and collaborations I worked on.  You know, long boring stuff not meant for my current audience, but relevant to those who received my resume.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 3.30.44 PM

 

When it became apparent that my work path was changing, and I began to embrace solopreneurship, I knew it was time for a redo.  Redo my look, redo my web site, create something that was applicable to my new path. I had been using Google+ as my home base (thanks for being such a fantastic home base, Google+!) but now I was putting together a nifty new WordPress web site, perfect for easily posting content my audience might find valuable, and meant to accomplish an entirely different objective than the old site.

I took my time and thought about it, and thought about it, and thought about it.  And then I thought about it some more. I thought of many cool things, and although my brain said, yah, that works, I just didn’t feel any of them.

Then one day I was admiring a photo I took of the first beautiful beavertail cactus bloom of the season…

beavertail cactus bloom

…and it just came to me: Palm Springs. Desert. Blooms. Flowers. I’m all about the flowers, and the desert wildflower season. I name all my gaming characters after flowers. My favorite photo subjects are flowers and critters and scenery. When I went to Yosemite with my friend Jody, she got on my case because I kept asking her to move out of the frame because she was ruining the pictures, LOL.  She said stop taking photos of everything but us, so I had to relent and take some people pics, and years later I’m glad she got on my case because those photos are fun to visit. But I digress…

So, I got to use my pretty blossom picture, and the awesome colors desert blossom pink and cactus green and silver like my hair and black, a color combo I love, and my new look and tagline were born.

cropped-MeilaniMacDonaldHomePageHeader.jpg

They serve my current aspirations and audiences much better than the cogs and gears that were really telling a story of project collaboration, where when all the gears fell into place great things happened. And it’s much more naturally me.

And so I rebrand. My current look tells a different story, that of a small business that’s ready to bloom. Kinda like me. Kinda like the small biz owners, entrepreneurs and solopreneurs I serveTogether we will grow and bloom, and our businesses will thrive!