The RIA industry has seen unprecedented growth and M&A activity. With this rapid level of change, it’s only natural that more firms are exploring changes to their corporate identities or even totally new brands. The road to a rebranding can be a massive, expensive undertaking, but if done right, it can not only raise your firm’s profile in a crowded marketplace, but also clarify exactly what value you offer to clients and prospects.

About a year ago, our new firm was forged when Bronfman Rothschild was acquired by Sontag Advisory, and after the deal we undertook the daunting task of identifying a new brand strategy for two newly combined but well-established RIAs as they came together. How would that look? Would we refresh an existing name, or start with something new? In the process, we learned many valuable lessons about forging an identity in the independent advisor space.

Just What Is Your ‘Brand’?
We all absorb elements of branding as we move through daily life in our culture. It’s more than a logo, more than a slogan, more than a color palette. A brand is truly the full measure of who you are and how you choose to convey yourself to the world. It has visual aspects, includes written or spoken language, or even things as granular as your body language or your “tone of voice.” Some aspect of it should be present in everything a client or prospect experiences: in your onboarding documents, your everyday e-mail messages, your client appreciation events—it’s even reflected in your office space.

With this in mind, how do you know what brand will work for your firm? While it’s important to create something that resonates with others, it should also be “authentic” and credible. If you take some time to think through an identity that resonates with you or talk to a few of your closest clients and colleagues, they will also likely find that confusing and artificial brands are easily spotted.

The other key to a strong, well-executed brand is consistency. If you have a fabulous website and snappy new logo, the things that make them stand out should be present elsewhere. This is why you hear experts say you should “live the brand”—it means there should be an element of your unique personality in all key communications.

Does Your RIA’s Image Need To Be Refreshed?
Before pursuing a potentially challenging and expensive initiative to remake yourself, consider what your current “brand” really is. Chances are you haven’t thought about it in depth before, and it may have developed gradually over time. You can get a handle on it with a few questions:

Does the language on your website match how you communicate your value to prospects and new clients?

What consistencies exist across your client experience? Are those consistencies apparent within 60 seconds of reading any of your marketing materials?

If you were to ask clients why they like working with your firm, would you be surprised by the response?

Does the look and feel of your client materials convey the personality of your firm’s culture?

These questions get at the heart of the “why” statement around rebranding: If the message you send to the marketplace doesn’t match who you really are and it doesn’t set you apart, it might be time to consider changes.

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