Let me give you a sneak peek to the end of this story: a brand refresh is much more than a new logo and positioning line. And it takes vision and courage to update an established, successful brand.
This is the story of Midco’s brand refresh. Note that I am careful to call it a refresh instead of a new brand identity. More on that later.
It was 2013. L&S had been conducting research to gain consumer insights for Taco John’s. We were learning all sorts of things about their beloved brand as they prepared to venture into new markets.
Curiosity got the best of Midco’s Chief Marketing Officer and the Midco team. What would we learn if we did this for an established market leader? And so this journey began. We set out to find what people thought of Midcontinent Communications and if any emotional connection existed with the brand. Initial focus group findings created more curiosity, which led to conducting more focus groups across Midco’s footprint of South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. We listened to people everywhere, in new markets and in established markets. They all told us the same thing, in a nutshell, “Yeah, they’re good, we trust them. They’ll always be around.”
While trust and stability are good things, that wasn’t a very exciting review for a company that has been largely responsible for entertainment and technology in our region since the 1930’s.
There was so much more to their story than what was being told.
So what do you do when you know the “what” but need to execute the “how” with so much to do and so much at stake? You assemble your team and forge ahead with the knowledge and confidence you’re doing the right thing.
INSIGHTS, INSIGHTS, INSIGHTS
Listening to people takes courage. They most often they do not pick up what you’re putting down, so it can be hard to accept their opinions and perceptions as your reality. Our Consumer Insights team conducted focus group after focus group, asking questions and listening to what people had to say, and more importantly, what was left unsaid.
Once we understood what people gave Midco credit for, we created three brand personas to explore, each of which was built on attributes already associated with their image. Here is where it’s important to note the distinction between a refresh and a re-brand, also described as an evolution not a revolution. Midco stood for good things that people already believed about them; we didn’t intend to wipe that clean and start over. The three new brand personas were tested, results were discussed, and the decision was made to move ahead with Trailblazer. It felt both authentic and aspirational, moving the company and their culture to new heights.
During this phase, we worked to clearly define the new brand persona, with much thought and discussion given to defining personality traits (who we are, who we are not), most relevant key attributes, and harder yet, creation of a brand promise and values statements. This phase takes time but it is so important to build a solid foundation. These things would be communicated to hundreds of employees, and serve as a touch point for all that we do. It is in this phase you can see that brand work goes far beyond advertising. A company serious about their brand knows that it must come from within.
A NEW LOOK
With the foundation firmly in place, we began building the outward-facing assets most people associate with brand image – the color palette, the logo, the catchy new positioning line, the ads and the fun! But wait - before things got too crazy, more testing took place. The intent of this round of testing was to make sure people were, in fact, picking up what we were putting down.
Successful new brand launches are most often tied to something of significance happening within the company. In Midco’s case, timing had much to do with the launch of gigabit Internet service coming in 2016 and 2017. Making America’s Fastest Internet five times faster? Hell yes, because that’s what they do.
During all of this, Midco’s commitment and involvement from the top was remarkable. They know image goes beyond what people see - that it’s something people experience even in the smallest of transactions. They know culture plays a huge part in living the brand promise, and have gone to great lengths to get in front of each and every employee to share their story. All of us at L&S are honored to help them blaze new trails.