From Uber to CareerBuilder to Google/Alphabet (and SeaWorld on the horizon?), organizational rebranding has become a major topic.
Companies rebrand for a variety of reasons—whether mergers and acquisitions, reputational issues or strategy shifts, among other factors.
No matter the reason, rebranding requires a major decision—and is an expensive undertaking—that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
An organization’s ability to execute has a direct effect on future success, so the process should be strategic, collaborative and rooted in actionable intelligence.
Marketing is often at the helm of what is a cross-functional “mega-project,” and its task is to ensure smooth, integrated efforts.
Among the various areas to address, here are five essentials for a successful rebranding:
What has to change? How do you get there? For the answers, survey the following:
- Key internal stakeholders. Identify those who have a firm grasp on your organization’s strategy. Their insights can shape subsequent surveys of other important audiences.
- Employees. Collect enough demographic information (How long have they been with the organization and in what function, etc.?) to understand the context of their responses.
- Customers, particularly at companies to be targeted in your future strategy. As with your employee survey, it’s important to gauge their perception of your brand now—along with whether they associate it with any of your aspirational attributes.
- Market experts and analysts for additional insights.
Often, an important factor is whether rebranding will entail a renaming. Are perceptions of your organization so steeped in your old positioning/reputation that they can’t be peeled away?
After more than 15 years helping companies improve all types of business communications, we at Brainshark recently rebranded to demonstrate our commitment to the sales enablement market. (Many of these tips are therefore based on our experience.) Our intelligence gathering, conducted with a branding firm partner, confirmed that our roots in training and content, along with our history aiding sales, meant keeping our name would be an asset. However, it made sense to add a tagline to highlight our new focus.
In addition, an essential part of intelligence gathering is competitive analysis. Work with your team to achieve an intimate understanding of the market, including how competitors message and visually represent themselves, so you’ll be equipped for differentiation.
2. Positioning development
Next, to create strategic, competitive positioning, integrate the perspectives gleaned about your organization and the market into key insights.
One crucial question to answer: Do you want to take an extreme, new position, or straddle the old one? If the former, how much of a departure will the new positioning be?
Your previous analysis should provide helpful guidance. Also, strive for positioning that’s relevant and distinctive while addressing both the rational and emotional needs of your audience.
Another step involves collaborating on a positioning statement: an internal doctrine identifying your organization’s target audience, frame of reference, points of differentiation and value. Though those are concise (ideally one sentence), it’s important to measure the impact of each word so you can articulate and justify its inclusion to the organization at large.
3. Brand-identity creation
This phase is particularly exciting; it’s where strategy, positioning and what had previously been intangible vision get translated into a concrete visual identity and tagline, as appropriate. Here are some tips:
- Consider core values. It’s important to infuse your brand identity with any core values your organization has identified. (Ours, for example, are “energizing,” “knowledgeable” and “collaborative”—so, at every step, we evaluated our positioning and brand identity with those qualities in mind.)
- Do your homework. As mentioned, when evaluating positioning and a new visual identity/logo, research the marketplace with the goal of differentiating yourself.
- Don’t underestimate color and its ability to convey attributes, such as core values. Also, consider whether your palette will stand out from your competitors’.
- Location, location, location. Think about the different places/scenarios your visual identity will appear—as a logo on your website, as icons on Twitter and other social media sites, etc. You might have to craft different icons that are visually appropriate for the various scenarios.
- Test. Test your positioning, visual identity and tagline with target personas. Do they exude your core values? Speak to your audiences’ concerns? Capture attention? Hopefully a resounding “yes” will spur you to forge ahead. Collect feedback in a way that can be easily shared with internal stakeholders.
4. Content development
As you apply your new positioning and logo across your content and campaigns, be prepared for an ever-expanding list of items that will have to change—from your website to business cards to email signatures and much more.
Among the important content tasks: The creative team should develop style guidelines for organization-wide dissemination. You might also consider creating an internal “brand book”-synthesizing all the work around the brand to help forge an emotional connection. We created a brand video to convey our new identity and generate enthusiasm and to share on LinkedIn, Glassdoor and more.
5. Activating the brand
Content will also help power a successful internal rollout. Create and disseminate an FAQ, and make “brand ambassadors” from each department available to answer questions about the new branding and how to apply it. If these ambassadors have been involved from the get-go as sources of information and feedback, that’s even better, as it’s important to keep employees informed and to build enthusiasm.
To that end, try to build buzz as you reveal the new brand internally. For example, we held our annual companywide meeting at Boston’s Fenway Park and unveiled the new logo on the scoreboard. Employees were excited. Although the internal unveiling can take many forms, you can also build excitement with promotional products—notebooks, mugs, fleeces, USB drives, etc.—with the new branding.
From your public launch day onward, the entire organization must be brand ambassadors. Make sure they describe your organization in a consistent way—whether they’re pitching prospects or attending a cocktail party. Of course, make sure your customers are also in the know, with easy access to your blog post, newsletter or other communications that herald the change.
In tandem with the public launch, you should execute a brand campaign; remember, though, that all your subsequent campaigns, if done properly, carry the new brand, thereby lifting brand awareness overall.
The most important question (and the one at the heart of your rebranding): How do you know whether you’ve made an impact?
It’s important to get a baseline measurement of awareness for the new brand. Then, measure brand awareness at appropriate intervals to determine whether your marketing campaigns are delivering as hoped.
Throughout the rebranding, marketers should be prepared to wear many hats—communicating across departments to ensure the new brand is reflected, for example, in your internal software applications, in the product organization and, as appropriate, on your office signage.
If you plan carefully, make informed decisions and drive alignment along the way, your rebranding should deliver significant value.
A version of this article first appeared on MarketingProfs.