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Refreshing a brand identity is hard. Agile made it easier

  • Posted on August 7, 2017
  • Estimated reading time 6 minutes
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This article originally appeared in MKTGinsight.

As the market propels us all swiftly forward, it’s easy for a chasm to form between a company’s brand identity and its vision. Bridging that chasm swiftly once discovered is essential to maintaining market leadership.

We recently faced this situation at Avanade. Our brand identity no longer reflected our digital strengths and our ability to help clients transform their businesses. It had fallen behind our vision. To be viewed in the market as a digital innovator, we needed to look like it, too.
 
A refreshed way of presenting ourselves to the marketplace would have the single biggest impact on our brand perception and awareness, both internally and externally. But the successful implementation of a new brand identity would depend in large part on the underlying approach we took; speed and agility were of the essence.
 
To help us realize results quickly, we leveraged some of the same principles, methods, and tools we use with clients—specifically, our agile approach and Scrum framework. We began adopting agile in marketing during the past year to help us move faster in today’s digital world. A large portion of our marketing team is now using it for a variety of projects, resulting in faster campaign execution and improved collaboration and transparency.
 
Taking an agile approach to closing the chasm between brand identity and vision made all the difference—not only in the speed of its resolution, but also in the quality of the outcome.
 
Agility guides emotion
Changing a brand identity is an emotional business. It’s not just about a new logo or color palette. It’s about the experience that people have when they interact with the company. As Jeff Bezos from Amazon once said, “A brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Small wonder, then, that the decision to change is difficult for many marketing leadership teams.
 
Taking an agile approach to our brand refresh would allow us to tap into that emotion without derailing our efforts. Plus, the brand identity refresh was considered an ideal project for agile because there was already a dedicated team in place that could execute the work efficiently within a set timeframe.
 
That work was extensive. Our logo is just one element of our brand identity refresh. It also includes a new color palette, graphics, images, and personality traits—bold, fresh, optimistic, and passionate—which help bring the brand to life. The scope of the brand refresh was broad, involving everything from updating our external website, to redesigning all our templates, to refreshing internal tools and external materials such as videos, points of view, and client case studies.
 
Working with a Scrum Master, the dedicated project team evolved into the Scrum Development Team. We identified key stakeholders who included myself as product owner, main stakeholder, and approver, as well as our board and executive committee. The team consisted of about nine people, including members from brand, creative services, communications, and recruitment marketing. A few additional members joined sprints that were particularly relevant to them. For example, as we got closer to the go-live date, we invited our social media specialists to join the last two sprints.
 
The team was provided access to Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS), which allowed them to work more transparently and collaboratively. In addition, the team also used Microsoft tools such as Skype for Business, Teams, and OneDrive to improve efficiency and collaboration.
 
Because everyone was fresh from the training on agile, the team quickly got comfortable with the practice of meeting and collaborating every day and adopted a more agile mind-set. The daily 15-minute Scrum sessions ensured transparency, communication, and accountability across the project’s 11 workstreams—which included visual identity, office rebranding, and the brand ambassador program. The sessions also helped us quickly identify progress and address challenges. In the weekly Sprint Planning sessions, the team defined and agreed on a core set of deliverables for that week, as well as how to achieve them.
 
Together with our Corporate Communications and Brand lead, I was a product owner with responsibility for reviewing progress and deliverables at the end of each weekly sprint. Using the agile methodology and seeing the process in more detail than usual—thanks to techniques such as Kanban boards and Microsoft Teams—gave me the confidence I needed in our ability as a team to pull off our brand refresh in a short timeframe.
 
Bringing our vision to life
We faced a few challenges along the way. For instance, the team was too ambitious at the outset and had to rethink what they could realistically achieve in a weekly sprint. We also had to learn what an appropriate Product Backlog Item (unit of work) was for us and how to break it down into increments that could be delivered or completed per sprint. For example, rather than addressing the updated templates all at once, we broke it down into elements like PowerPoint decks, email signatures, video opener and closer, and email banners.
 
Overall, however, the result of our agile approach was extremely positive: It helped us supercharge the brand refresh project. It enabled us to break down a large, complex initiative into manageable pieces and roll out our new brand identity over a period of several months rather than taking a single Big Bang approach. This way, we’re able to test elements in use and adapt as we go along. For example, we’ve evolved the “wave” element of our visual identity as we’ve used it in more ways.
 
Stakeholder feedback has been positive, with many noting the fast progress, clear goals, and strong focus on deliverables. The success has led us to adopt agile for other marketing projects such as campaign content development and client evidence creation. Ultimately, we expect to make it our default way of working wherever it makes sense.

Our refreshed brand identity has been well received in the market and is helping bring our vision to be the leading digital innovator to life. It reflects the experience that we want our clients, ecosystem partners, recruits, and staff to have when they interact with Avanade. Our new identity is reflected most visibly in our new logo, which captures the waves of change that are sweeping the marketplace. It symbolizes how we partner with our clients to help them transform their organizations in the digital world.
 
As clients work with us, we hope they’ll see our Avanade attitude come through in our bold thinking, fresh perspectives, optimistic approach, and passion for people, technology, and innovation. It’s all part of our new identity—made possible by agile.

Sheri Tate Twitter Orange Icon@IAmSheriTate

How long did the brand refresh take using Agile? I love this and have just studied Agile and will use it in Marketing too. 

August 9, 2017

Sheri Tate Twitter Orange Icon@IAmShierTate

How long did the brand refresh take using Agile? I love this and have just studied Agile and will use it in Marketing too.

August 8, 2017

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