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September 1, 2015

Whether a Silicon Valley startup or a family bakery, a company rebranding can be one of the biggest stepping stones to growth. On average, organizations and brands change their identities once every seven to ten years. A successful rebranding can help attract new customers to a product as well as give existing ones a new perspective on a company and its values.

Many companies are perfectly well suited using a traditional, static identity. These identities typically involve a mark that may be used in a variety of applications, from business cards and letterheads to coffee cups and can openers. A static identity is the type that most people are familiar with seeing. It’s the mark of a company that will remain the same no matter where, when or how it is viewed.

Yet there exists another type of brand identity that is becoming more common today. They’re called dynamic identities and may appear different depending on any number of factors when viewed. Maybe the mark changes to better match the context it is placed in, or perhaps it is affected by the current time or temperature. Listed below are seven examples of companies that have successfully adopted a dynamic brand identity.

Airbnb: Birth of the Bélo

After growing into a huge international company with a current valuation of $24 billion, it was time for the home-sharing platform to distance itself from its reputation as a scrappy tech startup. The company had evolved into a global brand that connected people to places and needed a brand identity that could continue to grow with it.

Airbnb released the Bélo in 2014 along with new brand positioning “belong anywhere”. The company released a free tool to let guests and hosts create their own customized Bélo, personalizing the experience of interacting with the brand. The Bélo itself received a lot of hilarious NSFW criticism from designers, marketers and the general public. If anything, the sheer amount of press the new mark received only helped spread awareness of the brand, and Airbnb kept a sense of humor and ran with it.

But a brand is more than symbols and the conversation around them. For Airbnb, “belong anywhere” was more than just the Bélo. When announcing the rebrand, CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky stated, “Our shared vision of belonging is the thread that weaves through every touchpoint on Airbnb. We have redesigned every single page of the user experience across the web and mobile to bring our new identity to life. Now we have a platform that reflects your feedback, and that can continue growing as we keep listening.”

Spotify looks to the past

The music streaming service Spotify sought to build a dynamic identity that better represented the large company it had become. Spotify recently repositioned itself as an entertainment brand and wanted to pull together the varied imagery supplied from its millions of artists. They needed a way to distinguish their brand from the same recycled images that record labels provided competitor music streaming services iTunes, Google Play, Rdio and Tidal.

Spotify looked to the past—specifically at jazz album covers and posters from the 1960s. These were often created using a technique that produced imagery with only two colors, which allowed the artist to save money on printing. Spotify mimicked this classic "duotone" style and successfully created a flexible system that would tie all of their imagery together.

Despite the fact that images were shot in different styles and by different photographers, the visual aesthetic gives the impression that all pieces belong to one bigger unit. To help facilitate this transition, Spotify created software called "The Colorizer" that allowed the company to brand imagery from across their 58 various markets. They were now able to associate millions of unique artist images with their new brand.

Lenovo thinks ahead

Lenovo is a classic example of a large tech company whose brand had gone stale and needed to appeal to a younger audience. In the last few years, Lenovo has adopted a consumer centric focus, especially in smartphones after the 2014 acquisition of Motorola Mobility from Google. To reenergize the brand, Lenovo refreshed its brand identity with a new typeface and endlessly customizable templates including graphics, photos, and colored backdrops.

Lenovo CMO David Roman says that the outcome of the redesign allows Lenovo to "make the logo relevant to the context in which it's used". Although not the most inventive in execution, the new identity succeeds in marketing Lenovo as a more consumer-friendly brand. The bold color palette and infinite possibilities of designing within the Lenovo box have given the brand a refreshed and more youthful feel. This “never stand still” brand identity is meant to be more than just a design element. Lenovo hopes its audience will see it as a window into the world, housing a range of images, colors and patterns.  

More dynamic brand identities:

When looking at familiar household name brands or newer tech startups, brands across the consumer spectrum are asking themselves if it makes sense to adopt a dynamic brand identity. A dynamic identity should aim to solve a problem that a static identity couldn’t. Because there is a high chance that only one version of a mark will be seen, it's critical that each iteration of a dynamic identity be able to work well on its own. But when well executed, a dynamic brand identity can position a company for exceptional user engagment and long-term growth.

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