Have you ever met someone with an ugly baby? I have. The one ugly baby I’m thinking about had a huge head, funky ears, and it always looked like it was scowling at everybody. It was simply an ugly baby, but you could never convince the parents that it was ugly. If (for some strange reason) you tried, they wouldn’t hear a single word of it.
Similarly, have you ever worked with a client who has an ugly brand? Ugly brands come in many forms — outdated logos, ugly logos, ridiculous logos, incomplete brand identity, inconsistent branding message, and more. Convincing a client that it’s time for a brand upgrade can run some risks. They might take it personally if you call their brand ugly.
In fact, I had a client in the recent past who had a truly ugly logo. The rest of the brand was pretty squared away, but the logo was holding back the entire brand. When I approached them with the idea of updating, everybody but the owner was excited. Come to find out, the owner made the logo himself in Microsoft Paint ten years ago when the business started. So, he was quite emotionally attached to it. Nothing I could say, short of promising major profit increases with a logo update, would convince him that it was time for a logo update.
Despite your best efforts, sometimes you simply won’t be able to convince your client of the advantages of a brand upgrade. Hopefully, you’ll find yourself more often in a better situation with a client that listens to your ideas. Whether your client is open-minded or closed to the idea of a logo or brand upgrade, the following are some tips to make the “ugly baby” speech go a little more smoothly.
Don’t Call the Brand an “Ugly Baby”
Even if you don’t use the phrase “ugly baby,” or even the word “ugly,” the wrong approach would be to go into a client meeting with guns blazing. You never know who’s mom designed the original brand and/or logo, so you may be insulting someone on a deeper level. I readily recognize that this is fairly obvious, but I thought it was worth emphasizing: don’t call a brand an “ugly baby” to the client’s face.
Show ’em the Standard
I’ve found that it’s easier to convince a client that it’s time for a brand upgrade when I can compare his or her brand side-by-side to a much better/updated/complete brand. Break the brand down into basic elements such as brand name, colors, logo, taglines, fonts, tone, message, and whatever else is relevant, and present a side-by-side comparison to objectively illustrate the shortcomings of the current brand and the vast room for improvement.
When clients can see their brand next to a mature brand, it may convince them immediately that a brand upgrade is in order. At worst, it’s a tactful way to start a conversation about the possibility of improving their brand. Be ready; they may want your recommendations on the spot, so take advantage of this perfect opportunity to pitch a brand upgrade without ruffling anyone’s feathers.
Basically, this is like sticking an ugly baby next to a cute baby to help draw contrasts. Don’t be surprised if the client’s world implodes a bit as the harsh truth emerges from the comparison. Just be there to support and love on them… theoretically speaking, of course.
Show ’em the Money
Often, when dealing with decision-makers, you have to speak their language. The bottom line is their bottom line, and they often view design work as unnecessary and costly, especially if they already have existing designs in place. You may have to demonstrate fiscally how brand updates will translate to improved brand recognition, brand engagement, return-on-investment in marketing efforts, efficiency, and other reasonable arguments.
But be prepared — this is their territory and language. If you walk in with a less-than-insightful point, they’ll call you on it, and you’ll lose credibility. From that point onward, they might look at you as a designer looking to sell designs instead of a savvy consultant who offers truly valuable help that fits their marketing goals and their financials. So, do your homework before trying to talk money. Make sure you can show them some case studies or other research to support your claims. This is their world, so you have to play by their rules.
Show ’em a Timeline
No, not the Facebook timeline, although that could be helpful, too. I’m talking about showing them how other relevant brands have evolved over time. When you can demonstrate that other brands have changed and shifted as needed, it makes them more comfortable with the idea of change. If others have done it, so can you. If other brands have evolved, so should yours.
Make sure to keep it relevant. You may want to show how a direct competitor has evolved or some other brand in their general industry has changed. But, avoid comparing unrelated brands that don’t have anything to do with your client’s industry. Business people have trained to think in terms of analogies and contrasts (generally speaking, that is). So, be smart about whose timeline you present as an evolving brand, and make sure that it’s nearly impossible to dismiss the examples as irrelevant.
Sometimes you get handed an ugly baby and you have to pretend it’s pretty…somehow. But when it comes to working with an ugly brand, you don’t have to smile and go along with everyone else. Of course, a little tact goes a long way, but gaining a client’s trust and carefully illustrating the value of rebranding can enable you to help them make smart decisions. So, show ’em!
Remember your audience: business decision-makers. Side-by-side comparisons, the bottom line, and demonstrating how other brands have evolved over time are great ways to grease the gears. You may have to give them some time, but keep tapping away. Eventually they’ll budge or give you an “Absolutely not.” Until you hear “No,” keep helping them see their ugly baby for what it is.
How have you managed to get a client to see the light? Any horror stories of client melt-downs when they saw their beloved brand as ugly?
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