Years ago, with hopes to encourage tourism, VisitScotland shot an ad campaign with Shetland ponies in sweaters. After conducting research and discovering that Vrbo (“ver-boh”) is easier to remember and easier to say in other languages, the company retired its Home Away and VRBO (acronym for Vacation Rental by Owner) names. This past August, when Rice Krispies introduced a “shocking orange colored cereal” to hype Halloween – even Snap, Crackle and Pop dressed for the occasion.
These examples certainly aren’t massive overhauls of one’s marketing. Sometimes brands must be completely rebuilt, but other times a simple refresh can do wonders. We’re oversimplifying here, but these companies essentially outfitted a pony with a sweater, added food coloring to cereal and changed the pronunciation of a company’s name (the spelling didn’t even change). Yet all of these moves created press-worthy buzz and got the public not only talking, but also watching.
For my marketing colleagues, I am certainly not downplaying the copy, creative, and behind-the-scenes execution that took place to make these seemingly simple changes happen. But I share these as subtle yet impactful changes you can make to reinvigorate your brand and marketing efforts. At Private Advisor Group (one of Barron’s top RIAs*), we’re currently refreshing our brand, and wanted to share some of that journey with you, along with some tips to consider. Here’s hoping it sparks some additional creativity in your own marketing efforts.
Let Research & Your Gut Guide Your Journey
Changes to marketing are better guided when you understand current performance and are honest about brand gaps and opportunities. We started our brand refresh journey with the help of an agency. Together, we conducted a brand audit that encompassed a competitive analysis, surveys, and interviews with advisors, investors, and our own team members. Some key findings:
- We call ourselves “PAG, PAIG, P-A-G” and, in an industry ridden with acronyms, we’re adding to the brand confusion. Yes, you’ll still see us shorten it in legal documents and we’ll likely have the occasional abbreviation, but you’ll hear us proudly say “Private Advisor Group” going forward.
- Our brand was unintentionally coming across as cold, which reaffirmed our gut feeling.
- Our logo was tricky. Reprints weren’t as clean as we’d like.
- We needed to clarify core elements of our brand strategy, voice, messaging, and value proposition to reflect our position as a leading wealth management firm.
- We needed to revise our materials to look, see, feel and work with the refreshed brand.
- We needed to clarify and improve how one experiences and works with our brand with clear brand guidelines for our community of advisors and the partners we work alongside.
If you haven’t conducted a brand audit, it’s worth setting aside time with your team to make it happen. Time and budget permitting, I recommend having support from an experienced outside branding agency who can look at your brand from a fresh pair of objective eyes. There are checklists online but at minimum, ensure you have a clearly defined brand promise that is showcased consistently in your marketing. Anything portraying your logo and image should reflect a cohesive company and of course, your materials should be up to date. While pieces vary in terms of shelf life, an annual check is generally a good target. If you don’t have resources for a complete brand overhaul, I’d recommend auditing your website and social media at a minimum, as in financial services, new investors will frequently come to you via word of mouth and then look you up online before you’re added to their consideration set as a potential provider.
Feeling and Sounding More Like Us
Through this process, we found our voice. Our brand core is now more clearly defined with a fresh mission, vision, purpose, and messaging guides. This helps our employees and team articulate why we exist, what we aspire to accomplish, and what we do.
As a brand, you not only have to sound good, you also have to look good too! That’s why we further defined the visual identity markers of our brand. Hopefully you’ve noticed Private Advisor Group looking a little more colorful on many levels these days. We expanded our color palette from three to five primary colors and clarified how our neutral tones are incorporated.
Since inclusivity and accessibility are crucial to us (and to any strong brand), we introduced an accessibility table to provide appropriate color contrast for all users, but with special consideration for those with color blindness or other visual impairment experiencing low contrast. Pro tip: Adobe and a variety of online sites offer free accessibility testing.
Through our brand journey, we made subtle enhancements to our logo to strengthen brand imprints and ensure we’re leaving a more lasting impression. This will help with brand recall over time and make reproducing our logo easier across all mediums.
Further on the visual identity front, we introduced a script typeface to add more personality to what we do. We also introduced an icon library that is professional in style, but with subjects that can be whimsical and easily extracted in brand colors to show our heart and style. To further evoke authenticity and humanity, we abandoned old corporate stuffy black-and-white stock photos. Instead, we’re building an image library featuring color, real photos (keep an eye out for our team members) and the modern work and environment of today.
Defining your brand core—your vision, mission, and values— is the biggest opportunity for business owners. This can serve as a compass for nearly all decisions, creative and otherwise, that you make for your business.
Patience and Templates Are Your Friend
Business moves at an incredible pace. You simply won’t keep up if you have to produce everything from scratch. If you haven’t abandoned the old school ways of keeping your brand on lockdown to marketing team members only, it’s time to extend trust and give others the tools to be creative.
We did this ourselves, preparing common corporate messaging guidelines and graphic templates in popular business programs such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint so anyone in our organization could produce brand-compliant materials quickly and professionally. We’re still finalizing what’s evergreen versus customized and should be updated more frequently, but every time another element comes to life, it re-energizes us to focus on what’s next.
Offering additional guides and libraries along with templates helps increase adoption of your brand and brings it to life. This requires trust, a little testing, and a lot of learning. Admittedly, we gave too much freedom in some areas, which we’ve since adjusted. It also helps to let business partners know that marketing is always a resource so any highly public opportunities are guided by an experienced team ensuring that visuals, messages, and the brand comes across in the very best light.
I hope my fellow Schitt’s Creek fans remember season 4 when Johnny (Eugene Levy) forces David (Dan Levy) to run damage control for the potential allergy-inducing Rose Apothecary products they procured for the new and improved rollout of the Rosebud Motel. Show aside, two key marketing lessons worth noting:
- Johnny won’t stop talking about “the rollout” and that’s exactly what more marketers and business leaders should do. Talk about your brand, talk about how you envision it being executed and make sure your entire company is aware when special campaigns launch. Introduce enhancements and make a splash when new pieces go to market. This not only educates your workforce but also often generates excitement and inspires organic adoption across your organization.
- Schitt happens (insert wink). We’re human—try, learn and adjust. Marketers are creative; we edit color, copy, spacing, positioning, and more every single day. We say “done” only to revise again the next morning. Focus on progress over perfection. Sometimes you just have to let it roll (out)!
It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint
A closing note that maintaining that consistent image and getting your audience familiar and accustomed to key brand touchpoints takes time. A focus on consistency, quality, and adding value to your audience will make all the difference. Enjoy the journey!
The Stars of the Show
Special thanks to the marketing team at Private Advisor Group: Garrett Friedrich, Danielle Petrullo and Melissa Woods. None of this would have come to life without your brand knowledge, creativity, attention to detail and initiative. And special thanks to our marketing agency, StringCan Interactive, for their research, strategy, creative guidance, and ongoing marketing support. And as always, a huge thank you to our advisors and internal team for their dedication, guidance, feedback, and contributions.
We hope you love our brand updates as much as we do, and experience such a rewarding process yourself. Here’s to your success! If you are looking for a top RIA firm, please give us a call.
*Barron’s “Top 100 RIA Firms” ranking is based upon quantitative and qualitative criteria including: regulatory records, client retention reports, assets managed, revenue generated, technology spending, number of clients, size and diversity of staff, placement of a succession plan, and more. Investor experience and returns are not considered. Neither Private Advisor Group nor its financial advisors pay a fee to Barron’s in exchange for the ranking.