Reimagining the University of London Press Brand & 10 Tips for a Successful Rebrand

In an industry that’s constantly moving, even established publishing brands need to be vigilant to make sure they are telling an up-to-date story and resonating with their audiences.

I was thrilled when the University of London Press (UoLP) got in touch as they started a transformative project to redefine their strategy, and wanted support for a full rebrand. This wasn’t about a new logo or colour palette; it was a complete review of the brand from its foundations up. A big project, a big opportunity… So how do I go about ensuring that the brand work I do is right for a business? And how to make sure it will mean something to their audience?

Here are my top 10 tips for a rebrand project, with examples from UoLP. If you have worked with me already or read this blog you won’t be surprised by number 5:

1. Why a rebrand? Understand the client’s aims.
Guided conversations and – once the project starts – detailed workshops are my preferred way to understand what the client wants to achieve with a rebrand/brand review. What’s not working? What is? What would a new brand help them to do? UoLP had been working already on an updated strategy and so were clear that the brand needed to support and communicate their new approach – a really clear target and something that I could consistently check against during the project.

2. Audit.
List everything you have, and be sure of any specific use cases. Gold standard clients that they were, the team at UoLP created a document listing everything they wanted the project to cover, but exploratory conversations were helpful in digging into the detail and making sure everything was on the list. Speak to the wider business to make sure you’ve noted it all – don’t forget that system that still uses fax and has the logotype on (yes, this is a use-case I’ve encountered, though not you, UoLP!).

3. Agree the deliverables.
What file types and assets will you need? The team at UoLP sometimes uses Canva to create marketing materials, for example, and I needed to create detailed guidelines for book covers to ensure consistency and to streamline the cover process. Consider the detail right down to the specific file format; be that the logo for that weird old system, guidelines for partnerships, or how the brand will be applied to any buildings or assets.

4. Use milestones and break the project down.
These are BIG projects. Divide things into stages; Audit, Market Research, Ideation… and allocate time (with contingency) to each. Milestones help keep things moving along, guard against client overwhelm, and allow time for review and adjustment if needed at each stage. We put milestones in place for our project, allowing plenty of space for the UoLP team to review, share internally and respond without feeling pressured and – crucially – plan their time ahead.

5. Build from the foundations up.
The team at UoLP recognized the importance of aligning the visual brand with strategic objectives and translating a firm foundation into a visual identity to communicate this story. Clear vision and strategy leads to a clear and engaging visual identity. Start with your mission, vision and values – and build up from there. You can read more on this in my blog post here.

6. Speak to your customers/audience.
…and listen to them! Nobody can tell you more about what your brand says or means than your customers. Focus groups are a great way to find out what they think, or share your progress for feedback. Knowledge of the challenges and goals of the Humanities research community meant that UoLP’s strategy – and therefore brand – has been informed and shaped by their customers.

7. Involve your colleagues.
There’s a lot to consider within a rebrand project. Making sure the whole team is involved means you can gather the right expertise and detail of need and application across your business. UoLP’s team is chock full of expertise and area specialists, and ensuring that everyone had a chance to feed in was critical. Brands also need champions – and are brought to life by the people that work with them – so involving your team early is really important to buy-in and ownership.

8. Consider your team set-up.
Keep the project working and steering groups representative of the business (not just the board – think about where and how the brand is used) and keep it as efficient as possible. Be clear on the remit of this group and what responsibility and authority they will have from the off. UoLP is part of the wider university, and has responsibility to the wider university brand. Making sure the representatives involved were part of the project from the off made for a clear understanding of what I could – and couldn’t – do, and gave me context that was incredibly important for the project.

9. Be objective.
It’s a tough one! Be prepared to review and let go of anything that isn’t working – even if it’s been there a while, you are fond of it or you’ve always done it that way. If it isn’t serving the brand, it’s time for a change. If you can’t be objective, bring in outside expertise. As you can see from the dramatic changes at UoLP, this was a team who were open and excited to review everything, and by doing that have created alignment between strategy, visual identity and the work the Press is doing.

10. Communicate!
Allow all colleagues the opportunity to see what’s going on, and give their view. Talk about what’s happening, share work and listen to feedback. I spent time at each stage with the UoLP project team discussing the work I had done, taking comments and walking through my decision-making and this was shared by them more broadly. Be transparent and clear with feedback, and you’ll reach the solution in a more linear way. If something isn’t working, say so. A good creative will listen and ask the right questions to move things forward.

11. Grab the opportunity.
Ah, a sneaky 11th tip! The chance to dig into a brand and (re)establish the why, how and what does not come around very often. By being open to change, engaging a consultant to add objectivity and expertise and using a detailed plan of requirements and project breakdown, our project at UoLP delivered the right solution and was a creative and fun experience for the whole group, and that’s exactly how it should be!

A huge thanks to the whole team at University of London Press – Paula, Kat, Jamie and Emma especially – for trusting me with their brand and for being open, objective and direct (the model client). I’m incredibly proud of this project, and look forward to seeing the new brand support the Press going forward. Visit their beautiful new website to learn more about their mission to support the Humanities.

If you’d like to hear more about how I approach a rebrand, or think I might be able to help you get your brand back on track, please get in touch.