Rebranding: what you need to know before you start

by Rachel Cook

Let’s not beat around the bush. Rebranding your business is not a small undertaking. But do it right, and with the right people for you, and it can lead to big results. Take Keelham Farm Shop for example. Following their rebrand they’ve enjoyed a 79% increase in their turnover, customers numbers are up by 39%, and they saw a return on investment of 400 times the original budget.

I was recently asked by trade magazine Farm and Deli Retail to comment on what led to Keelham Farm Shop’s impressive success and what others should consider when thinking of embarking on a similar process. Read on to hear what I had to say…

  • When did you start working with Keelham Farm Shop?

    We began working with Keelham Farm Shop in 2010 as part of the Design Council’s ‘Designing Demand’, a national programme helping UK businesses to use design to enable growth.

  • Why did they feel a rebrand was necessary?

    Keelham Farm Shop is a fantastic concept and one unlike any other we’ve come across. It began life as a butchers opened by Harry Robertshaw, in 1929. When we began working with them the business was still run from the family farm in Thornton near Bradford, as it is today. Siblings Victoria and James Robertshaw, Harry’s grandchildren, took over the shop, and they wanted to stay true to its principles of bringing fresh, affordable food from local farmers and producers to the local communities, but they also had big plans for growth. They wanted to create a destination shop that is unlike a typical farm shop or supermarket, and needed help to communicate their story.

    Keelham already had a loyal customer base and great reputation, thanks especially to their butchering heritage, but Victoria and James wanted to grow the business sustainably and make it the best it could be. They had to define what the business really stood for and communicate it. And they had to have the tools to allow them to shout about it to the outside world – and that meant an appropriate and effective brand and design toolkit. It had to not just transform the business but also bring together and excite the internal team – they had to be completely on board with it for it to truly flourish.

  • How did you decide on the right brand identity for Keelham?

    As with creating any brand identity, it’s about getting to the heart of what matters to them and revealing it – and turning it up to 11/10. We spent time getting to know them, helping to create a strapline that conveys simply what they believe in, that ‘Food tastes better from the farm’. With their help we decided on the brand values – a set of guiding principles that underpinned every decision we made. For example, local is so important to Keelham (they stock products from over 400 local farmers and producers in each shop, as well as nation’s favourites and their own brand products), as is the farming heritage that allows them to supply their own meat, even today. So it felt right to bring animals into the identity, albeit in a distinctive style.

    It was also clear straightaway that everyone who works at Keelham is warm, fun and funny. So the brand had to embody that too. No po-faced hipster identities here – it was about being warm, welcoming to everybody, and making people smile.

    A broad toolkit was created, including over 100 icons (and still counting), a huge colour palette with breakdowns for print, digital and also Dulux and RAL references to help them to be consistent in the shop itself, as well as in print. A bespoke typeface was designed too, to communicate the rustic, homemade nature of what they do, as well as the personality of the people behind the brand and to make sure our outputs were consistent and recognisable.
    All of this said, the brand had to be loved by the people who would use it and see it – both staff and customers. If it was over designed it simply wouldn’t wash.

  • How did you bring the message to life?

    The new branding has been applied to the website, uniforms, e-comms, vehicle livery and throughout the shop. The visual language has also been applied to Keelham’s products. It’s essential their own products stand apart from the branded products on the shelf.

    The identity has been rolled out across the range with particular focus on their extensive range of jams and chutneys, achieving impressive results. The brand has also helped with internal communications and the development of team members, helping everyone to live the brand values at all times.

    The new branding was also rolled out across their new shop. We worked closely with them on every aspect of the new build, consulting on everything from build to finishes and interior decoration.

  • Why do you think it’s been so successful?

    We can only claim a small portion of this success, as without an amazing proposition we’d have no job to do.

    The public are good at sniffing out when a brand is trying to win their favour. Keelham’s success is down to the fact that their proposition is so fantastic they don’t need to bother with any seduction. It’s driven by real people who love what they do, not a huge corporation with shareholders to keep happy, and you can sense that from the second you step into one of their shops.
    Their products help too. Their brownies are out of this world. Not to mention their pizzas – all made with Yorkshire flour, home-cured Yorkshire meats butchered right there in the shop, local cheeses… If you can’t tell, we’re the biggest fans of their amazing food!

  • Are you still helping Keelham with their marketing?

    We’re proud to have built a fantastic relationship with Victoria and James and one that didn’t peter out after the initial rebrand was completed. They could see the value of what we’ve done for them too, so we work with Keelham month in and month out, providing support on everything from interior design to product design and naming, marketing support and content.

    Are there any benefits to choosing a marketing agency that’s local to the business?

    To understand a brand or business you need to be able to get under its skin. Lots of that can be done remotely but there’s nothing like being there with a client to understand the way their world works. Benefits include the ease with which you can ‘pop’ for a last minute meeting. This proved especially useful when the new Skipton shop was being built; last minute decisions are so common when a building is going up. We also like to head to the shop to see what promotions are going on, take pictures, try product, sample in the restaurant etc.

  • What should retailers look for in a good agency?

    Remember that, like any other relationship, it’s all about people. It’s so important to choose people you trust. You’ll be working with them day in and day out so they need to be your kind of people. Ask who exactly you’ll be working with so you don’t get fielded a pitch team who’ll then disappear off (something we never do). Look to find people who love what you’re doing as much as you do (or somewhere near). This passion will mean you’ll get extra from the people you work with. They’ll always be switched on for you, always thinking of ideas and looking for things you can learn from, brands you could partner with, suppliers you could meet…

    How much should a retailer expect to pay for a rebrand?

    The old ‘how long is a piece of string’ applies here I’m afraid. Budgets will depend on what you’re looking to achieve, what kind of agency you’re working with and what you’re looking for them to deliver for your budget. A better way of looking at it might be to ask what the investment might do for your business. Look at the additional profit generated for Keelham Farm Shop in the four years to January 2014 – it represents 400 times the original investment in design. The design fee was returned in a month. Having an idea of the value you could stand to gain is a mature way of thinking about your budget, as opposed to ‘how little can I get away with?’

  • Any tips for start-ups who maybe can’t afford a marketing agency yet?

    Ask yourself whether investing early in your brand could help you to get ahead more quickly; work with the right people and it will be an investment worth making, as evidenced by the return that Keelham Farm Shop saw. If you don’t have all of the funds up front, some agencies are now putting their money where their mouth is and may be happy to work with you on an investment basis or results-led bonus structure. But these are not the norm, and you’d need to think carefully about the risk for both parties.
    There’s also funding out there from local enterprise partnerships and other funding bodies looking to support local start-ups. Look online or speak to someone in the industry. Good luck!


    In the years following the rebrand in 2010, results achieved have been impressive
    • Annual turnover up 79%
    • Weekly customer numbers up 39%
    • Average basket spend up 25%
    • Sales of own-brand jams and chutneys up 77%
    • Four years of sales growth rate 10-20%
    • 97 new jobs created
    • Total staff up 170% from 56 (2009) to 151 (2014)

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