A new brand in five days

We have just released phase one of our new site – and it’s dressed in the brand we have been developing over the past couple of months. So how can I justify that title…? Well, I’d like to tell you a bit about how we have approached this project, and how the key decisions were reached in five intense, challenging and rewarding days. 

The direction for the new brand was set in July at our summer party in Leipzig, where we had our company day, part of which we devoted to generating our brand purpose and vision. Everyone contributed. The options developed there directly connect to what we now have.

We also spoke to clients to get their perspective on us and how we work. We analysed the competition to help develop our positioning. And we discussed how to distill the way we work into a set of simple principles. We also had a pretty clear brief for the new identity, in terms of what we wanted to retain, what needed to change and what the new brand should be doing.

So we had a lot of pieces that worked well on their own but needed a way to bring them together to form a new brand identity. In many agencies, this is a process that takes a long time and is carried out behind closed doors – up to the point where there’s a big reveal – “Ta da!!” where it either stands or falls. There are pitfalls with this approach, particularly that it takes a long time to get anything in the hands of a customer. It also runs counter to how we do things at Red Badger, where we look to validate our thinking as soon as possible. So what could we try?

The answer came in the form of a design sprint – a process that takes you from identifying a problem through to prototyping and testing a solution in five days. This is something that was developed at Google and has typically been used in product and service design. But we thought we could take the process and adapt it for brand creation. In our case we think it proved to be really powerful. Check out the Sprint book for more detail on how Google Ventures have defined the process – it’s really good.

Here’s how it worked for us

We formed a team of seven, blocked out a week in our diaries and found a space we could use (pretty much) for all that time. I was the facilitator and we picked a decision maker, to ensure we didn’t get blocked and we could always keep moving forward. There are some other things you need to prep before hand, but the priority is getting the right people together in one place with dedicated time.

Day 1 – define a long-term goal and build a shared understanding

Defining our long-term goal ensured we thought deeply about what the rebrand needed to achieve and reduced the risk of working on assumptions rather than a robust shared understanding. This was how we defined our goal:

“The brand will help clients feel confident that we will work with them to solve their problem the right way and actually deliver user value.”

We then thought of all the ways it could fail from which we distilled a list of questions we could answer during the week. We then drew a map, with audiences and key players on the left and our goal on the right, connected by a series of simple steps. 

In the afternoon we interview people from across the business to get their perspectives, and to ensure the accuracy and relevance of our goal and map.

These rich inputs gave us the confidence to pick our target for the sprint, the thin slice of the project that we will prototype in the coming days. In our case we chose our site’s homepage. 

Day 2 – the through-line idea

We started the day looking for a simple idea that could communicate the value that Red Badger enables – something that would ideally synthesise the most important inputs from the previous day. We each worked separately, generating lots of options. In reviewing them we found there was a lot of overlap and recurring themes – but the surprise came from Karima who had looked at the parallels between Badgers and how we work… we wondered where this might be going, but once she said “they’re black and white” we all said “yes!” and realised this could be something. We’re all about simplicity, making indistinct shades of grey into actionable black and white. (In developing the brand after this sprint, the description of the through-line idea was expanded to “Black and white and red all over”, with the red representing our warm, vibrant culture.)

In the afternoon we looked at other relevant, if not directly related, brands for inspiration – each person presenting their own selection to the group. Then we started to work on solutions for the homepage, using a sequence of rapid fire noting and sketching exercises.

Day 3 – structuring and storyboarding

In the morning we looked afresh at yesterday’s sketches, using stickers to highlight the elements we thought most interesting and relevant. Each person briefly described their sketches to ensure nothing was missed, and then we voted – with Sari as decision-maker having the casting “super vote”. As a group we then decided on what we’d take forward into the prototype and what we’d save for later or discard. 

We began to develop the core idea into ideas for content and a way of talking about Red Badger. The latter was focused on writing an elevator pitch – something we thought would be vital for the homepage. In storyboarding we looked at how the story would be told on the site and what would be prioritised.

Day 4 – wireframing and prototyping

At this stage we were a little behind schedule, as you would be looking to start production at the beginning of the fourth day. We weren’t quite ready, we decided to invest a bit more time in turning our sketches into a more detailed wireframe. While that was happening, it gave us time to get a stronger point of view on the visual elements including typeface, colour and layout principles based on our through-line idea. We saw the “black and white” idea being about creating contrast, so we looked for ways to do that in messaging, typography, colour usage and layout. By the end of the day we had all the elements we needed to build the page.

Day 5 – testing with real customers

So we had our first testing appointment with a real client at 12:30 which gave us a few hours to skin the prototype. It was possible because the vision for what we wanted to create was very strong, detailed and specific. While some of us concentrated on the prototype and refining the messaging others completed the interview questions we would ask in testing. Armed with our prototype we went to our first of a set interviews with decision makers employed by our clients.

So what did we learn?

We knew from previous client interviews that the existing brand was no longer truly representing Red Badger – and big thing that came through very strongly was that the new branding was a really good fit for the Red Badger they know and work with. We learnt what content and messaging really resonated – and what didn’t. We also realised that we weren’t featuring our tech expertise as strongly as we should be. These and many more insights we taken on and developed in the following weeks as we progressed our approach – one that had been validated by our primary audience. We have primarily focused on our site and as we have added new pages we have continued to test, keeping the feedback loop as short as possible. We are documenting the brand as it evolves on brand.red-badger.com

And what did we learn about Design Sprints? This is a process developed to solve problems in products and services but we believe that we have shown it can work for brand creation too. A huge learning for me is that a brand built this way, through co-creation and collaboration is not design by committee – it’s a really powerful way to get to something relevant, interesting and testable – fast. I’m very keen to use this process again, but as with any good recipe, you need to look for ways to adapt it to ensure it will work for your specific problem.

We’d love to hear if you’ve tried the same thing, did you have a similar experience? What parts of the process did you need to adapt? We’d also love to hear your thoughts on our new brand, let us know!

With thanks to Monika Koziol and Karima Saad who captured a lot of this following the sprint.

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