Unsticking a brand

Unsticking a brand

Because we work with established organizations, most of our clients have an existing brand that needs to be refined, refreshed, or completely remade. Of the third category (brand overhaul), many have begun the process, some have even invested in and chosen a new visual identity before contacting Phrase Strategy.

In all cases, they’re stuck in some way and can’t move forward with the change they want.

The symptoms may look like this:

  • They’ve started a new website, but it never seems to come together or be “right”
  • They love their new design but don’t have the words to go with it
  • They’ve tried several ways to zero-in on the change they want, but it never seems to get momentum
  • They chose the visual identity that was “the lesser of all evils” or “the best of not-great”, and they aren’t excited
  • Stakeholders can’t agree on how to proceed and everyone seems to be speaking a different language

When organizations decide a re-branding or re-positioning activity is in order, the logo or overall “look-and-feel” is often the first target. That’s the opposite of how we work at Phrase Strategy.

In fact, we think that’s putting the cart before the horse.

Let the Horse Pull the Cart

We define branding as the matrix of perceptions, emotions, associations, and beliefs that surround an entity. We approach every project by getting the STORY right, first. That means uncovering the brand’s Essential Story, getting agreement on that story, and crafting the language to communicate it in a Corporate Phrasebook™.

Only once we’ve articulated the Brand Strategy do we move into roll-out, which includes logo/visual identity design.

A logo and visual identity is an expression of a brand – it is not the brand itself.

In cases where a client has already committed to a new visual identity – possibly even a new name – we still deploy our Essential Story Process to move the launch and roll-out forward.

Following are examples of the three most common outcomes of our work:


The Essential Story Process may reveal that the visual identity works well with no change required. We provide the positioning and messaging strategy, the language to bring it to the world. Here’s an example of a project like that. We may also provide the roll-out services, having gained a deep understanding of the brand and its intent.


The existing visual identity may need only minor modifications, as was the case with this association, this 50-year-old national company, this private business, and the majority of our clients. After conducting our Essential Story Process, we create the Corporate Phrasebook™, may tweak some part of the name, update the tagline, and may roll-out a new website and other materials.


Occasionally, the Essential Story Process reveals that the logo and possibly the name has run its course or does not support the new direction. We’ll develop a new visual identity informed by the Corporate Phrasebook™. Sometimes, this includes a new name, as it did with this firm. Other times, it’s a new logo with the existing name, as was the case with this high-tech company.

At Phrase Strategy, we’re tied to Essential Story, not to design. We know that, when the Essential Story is articulated, we can design an identity to tell that story. So, we work flexibly with existing brands. Our recommendations are always evidence-based so clients can move forward with certainty. Let’s talk about your brand!