Clean Out Your Brand Closet

messy-closet-280x193One of my favorite ways to procrastinate is to clear clutter.  I love to prune files, neaten drawers, and clean out closets.  (I’m less wild about picking up after my kids and husband.)

There is a joy to discarding unnecessary items and setting the necessary ones in order.  Sort of how Michelangelo must have felt as he chiseled away to “liberate the figure imprisoned in the marble.”

I bet some of you are thinking that I need to have my head checked.  More of you are wondering how you can get me to procrastinate at your house (good tea or red wine and dark chocolate help).

I’ve been organizing since I was a child, but in 2004 I upped my game.

That year I heard about Mary Lou Andre and her business, Organization By Design, a wardrobe management and fashion consulting firm.  Mary Lou’s book, Ready to Wear:  An Expert’s Guide to Choosing and Using Your Wardrobe, is a step-by-step guide on how to clean out your closet and update your wardrobe.

Do-it-yourselfer that I am, I read the book and dove in.  To my closet.

Mary Lou’s process is simple:   Try on everything in your closet.  Keep what fits, is in good condition, and is still in style.  Discard ill-fitting, damaged, or undesirable items.  Purchase what you need to fill in the gaps and update your image.

Logical, right?

If you’ve never cleaned out your clothes closet, you may be surprised at how much you have accumulated.  The tattered college sweatshirt that you haven’t worn in 10 years.  Business suits that gather dust in today’s more casual business environment.  A whimsical hat you bought but never found an occasion to wear.  Jeans you kept in case you were ever that size again.

These items don’t reflect who you are now.  So you don’t reach for them and they just take up space.

The first time I cleaned out my closet, I had 19 bags of clothes to donate.  No joke.  (Five of those bags were maternity clothes.)

Clearing the clutter in your closet makes it easier to see what you have and to make choices.

Not only have I found Mary Lou’s method helpful for managing my wardrobe, but I’ve also realized that it works well to help clients revitalize their brand.

Every so often, you need to clean out your brand closet.

Like your closet, your brand can accumulate clutter over time.  Different brand messages used in your ads and brochures and on your website.  Associations with products or services that are no longer the core of your business.  Product or service offerings that don’t meet customers’ evolving needs (and are dwindling in sales).

With all this clutter, it’s hard to know how and what to market to your customers.  If you find yourself unsure of what to say in your marketing communications, you are likely due for a brand review.

Set aside some time and dig into your brand’s closet:

  1. Assess everything inside.  Take stock of all that your brand stands for.  Talk to all your constituencies – customers, employees, management, board members, vendors, distributors, referral sources.  Anyone who interacts regularly with your brand.  Find out what the brand means to them.
  2. Keep what works.  Review your brand’s attributes, associations and messages.  Keep the few that differentiate  your brand in a positive way and that still ring true.
  3. Discard misfits.  Pare away any messages or attributes that detract from your core brand promise.
  4. Add to fill in gaps and update your brand image.  This is the tricky and creative part:  add or change attributes and messages to guide the brand to where you want it to go.

Like wardrobes, brands evolve.  Good brand management requires focus and guidance.  It is a combination of the existing equity among your constituents and aspirations of where you plan to take your brand.

Most brand revitalizations result in adjustments – to strategy, organization, offerings, marketing communications and logo.  Few result in wholesale changes.

When should you review your brand?  Most companies review their brands in response to declining sales or major market changes.

Call me if you need help cleaning out your brand’s closet.  I’ll be spending time this weekend switching my own closet over to my winter clothes.  (I’m a little late this year – don’t tell Mary Lou!)

P.S.  Make sure your brand stands for something.  USA Today recently rebranded itself to mark its 30th anniversary.  Its new logo is a color-filled circle that will change based on the key news stories of the day.  It may be innovative, but I say if you try to stand for every key news story, you stand for nothing in particular.  This is a huge miss.

Nothing I could say could be as pointed or as funny, however, as what Stephen Colbert said about the USA Today logo.

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4 Responses to Clean Out Your Brand Closet

  1. felice says:

    evelyn, good idea to toss those car dealership surveys. and if they call, ’cause they often call up front to ‘remind’ you about the upcoming survey mailing, i think i’ll just give ’em a piece of my mind. ps in your closet, did you find any of those silk ties in yellow, pink or blue that went with our big hair and suit shoulder pads?

    • evelyn says:

      Felice, glad you are on board with the attempt to get the car companies to see the light. I did not find any of those silk ties, but I did pitch some shoulder pad inserts!

  2. Hi Evelyn,

    Some crazy logo designing going on at times. You scratch your head and wonder who was the company liaison w/ the designer. Sometimes, it’s not the design firm, it’s the employees who won’t listen to the designer.

    Really hard to get a brand right. Easier with a small business because it ought to be aligned with the person’s personality and strengths. Companies can be harder because it’s more of a collective.

    I have to say, I love my Fearless Why Brand and marketing materials. It feels good and right.

    thanks! G.

    • evelyn says:

      Hi Giulietta,

      The logo design process can take some interesting twists and turns. I’ve seen situations where management has a pet image that they want to include, or becomes enamored with a particular element. I’ve also seen designers go in many directions that are beautiful or innovative but not evident to the uninitiated eye. It has to be a collaborative process and vetted at some point by the brand’s external constituencies.

      Glad you have reached a place that you like with your business.

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