The Rebranding Finish Line
By Jonathan Amen
Reading up on rebranding, are we? Well, it is a fascinating subject with myriad facets to consider whether you are a seasoned marketing professional or just trying to get your head around the process and pitfalls.
You can find plenty of info (guides, rules and even "Do’s & Don’ts") on how to go about rebranding, with details on the strategy and research, planning tips and checklists, not to mention helping you decide if rebranding is even a good idea. There is a good reason for all of this discussion—it is not an easy process and is fraught with challenges. Here is a great one all about the fear surrounding a rebranding and how to get over that hurdle before you begin.
I’m not going to add to the fray of how-tos, but what I am going to highlight is one area that in our experience is severely overlooked when it comes to planning and implementation of a rebrand, and which should definitely be part of your gameplan.
Who moved the goal posts?
Let’s say that you’ve made it through the rebranding process with incredible planning and engagement with the leadership team, not to mention that incredible design partner that led you like a trusty sherpa to deliver YOUR outstanding new brand. For discussion, let’s consider that it might consist of new vision/mission/values statements, reimagined positioning and messaging, a squeaky fresh logo, a unique visual identity with the eye-popping color palette you always dreamed of (or with a color palette that “just pops!”). Everything is coming up roses, right?
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the finish line you just crossed—more like the first leg of the triathlon—and here comes the rollout, implementation and adoption phase. And as with any transition, it is all about the success of your change management plan and tactics.
And other questions you may not have considered.
One thing we’ve learned (which may seem obvious), is that no two clients are alike. The same adage applies to the brand rollout phase. Taking the extent of the change (refresh to complete overhaul), the size of the company (a handful of employees to thousands in a handful of countries), the resources allocated (a shoestring budget to a gala event), the optics of the rebrand ("we’re turning a corner" to "we’re turning our backs"), are all considerations that should factor into the rollout plan and helping your internal audiences manage this change.
Of course, don’t forget to look at some of the tactical questions you may confront.
- How will you get the new assets in the hands of the people who need them? Or keep them from the wrong hands?
- Some ideas: intranet, virtual storefront, IT distribution.
- How will you introduce new materials, turn over relevant existing materials, and sunset those that don’t fit?
- Some ideas: leadership presentations, message and feedback boards.
- How will you get people to use the new materials? Scratch that—how will you get people to use them the RIGHT way?
- Some ideas: brand training and guidelines, message boards (check out this one that uses software to confirm materials are brand compliant: templafy.com).
- How will you get people to adopt it into the culture and live the brand?
- Some ideas: launch events, road shows, brand champion book.
Unfortunately, this last question is even more overlooked than some of the others and is by far one of the most critical. Internal adoption is key to being able to live the brand and effectively convey it both inside and out of the organization.
If you expect to realize any of the value intended in the rebranding effort, you will need a team of brand champions who will help educate and communicate the brand essence. The more brand champions that you have communicating your story, believing and creating positive brand experiences, the stronger your brand will resonate with your audiences.
A simpler version (by comparison) was all that Smart Policy Works needed for their brand launch. Presenting the visuals but also the reasoning behind them was one way to get everyone on board with the changes.
Your own brand Olympic Training Center
Let’s talk tactics for a minute and get to a tangible solution to address this common gap. One of the most beneficial tools for creating this type of promoter is through a training tool often referred to as a "brand champion book."
We consider this a storybook of sorts, pulling together all of the key ideas and core messages of the new brand and conveying them in easy to digest statements, along with the most expressive visuals of the identity. It answers questions like: What is the new brand all about? Why is it important to our audiences? How do we talk about it and express it ourselves? It will help to create the ah-ha moments and to lead the adoption of the new brand.
Brand champion books will often introduce the logo and key design elements, such as color, and break down where the end result came from and why it is relevant. It inspires staff to see how the new uniform will look on the field. But make no mistake, this is not a technical document nor should it double as a brand standards guide. These books can, however, be fashioned in myriad formats, sizes, shapes, materials—printed or digital. At the end of the day, it all comes down to creating a compelling and inspiring story that introduces the who, what and why of your brand.
Once you have this powerful tool, it can be shared with all of your internal audiences to help convey those ideas and used by executive leadership to walk through a launch event or for boards of directors as talking points to communicate with key stakeholders. They can even be used as the basis for external launch campaigns, and in ads and overview brochures.
And the fans went wild
Let’s just ride these sports analogies all the way into shore, why don't we. If there’s one thing you’ve picked up from your rebranding research or experience, it’s that it is not easy. You’re going to need to do a bunch of preparation, ask some tough questions of yourself and others, as well as engage and collaborate with a slew of people.
Following a strategic process and having a trusted creative partner will get you in a great position, but you won’t have won until you’ve properly shown this new greatness you’ve become and have a group of cheering fans.