Today, we launch Rival’s new brand. In 2021, we launched as a fresh-faced upstart marketing & brand consultancy on a mission to build challenger brands.
2 years on and 70 projects later, we've built a roster of partners packed with some of the most notable brands in the world, which are truly changing their own categories and redefining their industries.
Alongside this, we’ve been building products (Curo and Enodo) to help brands stay ahead of the curve with marketing.
And as if that wasn’t enough, we’ve been building a modern media company providing the thinking that CMOs need to get marketing a bigger seat at the table, delivering over 400+ pieces of content & events, 20,000 downloads of our podcasts + whitepapers, and have built a WhatsApp community of 250 CMOs.
As you can tell, we’ve grown a bit. Naturally, that meant our brand needed to stretch, shift, and evolve in ways we didn’t expect when the brand was first conceived.
Whilst this article is about our rebrand, it’s more importantly a reflection of our lessons, observations, and frameworks for success if you’re about to embark on a rebranding project.
To start this process (and any brand-related process in fact), it was important to first define the “jobs to be done” to identify the practical implications and some of the loftier intentions and ideals we had for the next iteration of the brand.
For us it was clear:
- Elevate the brand design system to position Rival as a premium, challenger brand distinct from others.
- Simplify usage rules across digital, print, and OOH platforms for enhanced accessibility.
- Establish Rival as a branded house, with consultancy, media, and product as subsidiaries.
It’s often the case that a rebrand is sparked by a complete disregard or dislike for the existing brand, but for us, that just wasn’t the case.
As we initially had discussions around the brand, we realized very quickly that there was a lot we loved about the existing brand and elements which we had already started to build brand equity around - The pink highlight color, the VA icon, and the challenger ethos.
This actually led us to a statement of sorts to help guide the process alongside the jobs to be done we had identified.
Evolution, not revolution.
This was a fundamentally important distinction for the designers, Beth & Felix, who tirelessly worked with us to reinvigorate the brand and bring it closer to something that could serve our audience's needs and internal needs in a better way.
To kick off the process, we wrote a formal 2-page brief that covered everything from the jobs to be done to the guidelines as described above.
The format of the brief is pretty standard for those who work in or close to the creative services world so I won’t labor the point here, but I will elaborate on the one thing we did differently to help us get to sharper visual outputs faster.
We took careful steps to collate references of things we loved, but more importantly, examples we really didn’t like. It’s a process that is best done independently by all those who are involved in the branding process so that the group isn’t swayed by the “loudest voice in the room”. Collating visual references not only helps the designer, but it helps the client agree on what they like, and find common guard rails to the visual expression. Great brand designers can often spot commonalities amongst the references which ultimately can help triangulate the thinking from the outset and deliver ideas closer to the target.
Ajaz Ahmed & Stefan Olander, authors of the innovation book Velocity, said “No good joke survives a committee of six”. This is especially true when it comes to smaller businesses where there are a lot of voices to be heard. And it holds even truer when it comes to creative output.
To combat this right out of the gate, we established a SteerCo which was made up of Eric, Jenna & DuBose (the 3 co-founders) myself and Eniko to guide the process.
The roles in the SteerCo were simple, the co-founders were to provide timely feedback, and Eni and I had the responsibility of collating and communicating the feedback in line with the initial objectives.
The best methods we found to do this were through a series of process-driven documents. First through a Miro Board which broke down our current brand into elements like typography, icons, colors, diagrams, etc. We asked each of the founding partners to share their thoughts on parts they liked and didn’t like.
We then summarised these thoughts in a framework broken into 3 sections.
First, we grouped some general themes, to cover any overarching feedback which we felt reflected the comments. For example, a one point we felt the icons and fonts had become too rounded and too colorful which led to a vibe of feeling too playful. So the general feedback we provided at this point was the whole theme needed to be a bit more serious.
We needed to limit these “thematic” driven feedback points to no more than 3 themes. That helped the designer understand the general direction of travel and translate that into something actionable. It also forced the SteerCo to have hard discussions around which themes were truly important, and which weren’t. Following this thematic section, we dove into more specific feedback for parts of the design. We grouped these into either “execution points” or “conceptual points”. Where the execution points provided feedback on if we didn’t like the way a design element had been used and conceptual points referred to if we didn’t like the thinking behind a creative choice.
So putting that into practice here’s what it looked like for our font choices:
Stick to two font setups over three. Two are easy to understand and can be replicated without external design resource
Proxima Nova is extensively used elsewhere and does not reflect a premium brand that is different.
Delivering this type of feedback to the designer took us beyond the realm of “I don’t like this” to a much more productive conversation.
All of this was a great process to put into place, but inevitably there were still hiccups.
The first key learning we’ve had is that hiring the right type of designer is crucial. We were lucky to have an incredibly flexible and talented designer and creative director working with us. That was half the battle won. Working with the right people who understand the brand's ambition and journey from the outset is probably more important than the technical prowess and trumps any of the process documents. That being said, the process documents make feedback meetings a lot more bearable for everyone and keep everyone moving in the same direction ultimately. Big shout out to Felix and Beth from Robot Rabbit.
That being said, we still tripped up on our own feet a few times and occasionally needed to take a step back. This came about when we were defining specific deliverables such as icon sets or pitch deck templates.
While we tried to collate everything we needed, the minute we began to roll out the new branding across the website and other assets, we realized we had missed a few essential icons. And that’s completely normal so don’t worry if you’re in that position. But it is important to recognize and learn from that mistake.
If we were to embark on this process again, I would ensure the timeline and scoped work with the designer accounts for changes during the rollout period. On reflection, it would make sense to start rolling out the new identity and ensure the designer still has hours/days on contract to oversee the rollout and ensure that all the bases are covered.
The final key learning is around separating the deliverables. We assumed that we could combine the deliverables of a new visual identity with specific deliverables like diagrams and that was a mistake on our side. As consultants, we use a lot of diagrams, and these diagrams need a lot of input and back and forth, so they should form a separate scope of work and not have been included in the initial brief for a new identity.
In conclusion, the journey of revamping Rival's brand has been a transformative one. The key learnings and occasional missteps underscored the importance of hiring the right designer—one who not only possesses technical prowess but also aligns with the brand's ambition. While our process documents facilitated productive discussions, we recognized the need for flexibility during the rollout period. Future endeavors would benefit from a timeline that accommodates changes and ensures ongoing collaboration with the designer.
In essence, the Rival rebranding journey is a testament to the iterative nature of growth.
We hope you can take something from this and look forward to hearing your thoughts on our new brand.