Why a rebrand should be viewed as a symbol of change, not a change of symbol

In today’s world, it seems as if companies are going through some level of rebrand every five to seven years. First off, this is just crazy. Brands should be able to evolve and adapt, but barring a merger or acquisition this is a sign that the rebranding efforts are falling short and lack the vision and rigor necessary to build enduring brands.

A rebrand really is a special opportunity to tell your new story in a compelling manner, and every effort should be made to get this right so you don’t have to rebrand again in a few years. While every company has certain nuances that require a tailored approach, we have identified a universal set of core principles for a successful, long-lasting rebrand.

7 Keys for a Successful Rebrand

Define the “case for change”

It is important to clearly understand the underlying reasons for engaging in a rebrand. If you can’t develop a compelling argument for undergoing this process, perhaps it is not the right time. Further, without this foundation it will be more difficult to measure and track success since there is no clear “trigger event.” If you are engaging an outside agency for this work and they do not ask this question on one of the initial calls, get rid of them.

Ensure senior leaders are involved

Most rebrands fail because marketing teams are fighting an uphill battle against senior leaders, either trying to get them to understand the benefits of a rebrand or securing the necessary funds. Engage senior teams early and often and be clear about the role you need them to play. Buy-in should be a key part of your, or your agency’s, process; if leaders aren’t fully engaged and supportive, then employees are unlikely to take your initiative seriously. An engaged, supportive senior leadership team will ensure the success of your rebrand, and make everyone’s life easier.

Establish success metrics and track performance

The days of brand and marketing being fluffy are over. There are many approaches for measuring brand ROI, and this step is critical to create strong proof points for why your dollars should be put towards these efforts rather than people, R&D, etc. We recommend establishing success metrics, and conducting a benchmark study at the outset, that can be replicated post launch for direct comparison. New techniques in marketing simulation allow marketers to test different scenarios in a virtual market to demonstrate how brand metrics translate into actual decisions. Immediately after your new brand launches, you may want to consider more frequent testing (quarterly or bi-annually) and transition to annual testing once the new brand becomes established in the market. This will allow you to identify immediate wins as well as areas that may need to be tweaked.

Take a holistic approach

There are many times when we get requests to think about a single piece of an organization, or handle one-off scenarios, as they come up. This is not the best use of time or resources. When you deal with individual pieces, you inevitably miss other factors that could influence the ideal outcome. And, when you take a step back and review this approach you end up with a lot of disconnected pieces that “made sense at the time.” In one case, a client requested new product and entity logos as needs arose; despite our attempt to evaluate all scenarios to get a complete view and develop criteria, we ultimately had to handle them individually. After a year, the client had a family of inconsistent identities, which meant we spent a lot of time and resources reinventing the wheel each time a new project came up. There may be budget constraints or other reasons that certain pieces are off the table for the time being, but always consider the bigger picture or long-term goal so those factors can at least be taken into consideration.

Develop an implementation plan

Early in the process, it is important to understand all the steps and costs needed to complete the rebrand and get into market. Not just design costs, but resources needed for production, training, media plans, etc. to get you to the point when you are fully in the market looking, feeling, and acting like the new brand. Doing this early will help you secure the necessary funds so there are no hold-ups or surprises later on, as well as help your team understand the ideal time for launch.

Engage your employees

A rebrand should be viewed as a symbol of change, not a change of symbol. This means ensuring your people understand the brand and are champions of the change. Your people are the ones responsible for bringing the brand to life and delivering on it, day in and day out. Your new brand should not be a surprise to employees on launch day―rather, you want internal audiences excited and already engaging in on-brand behavior.

Develop a strong brand governance system

A less obvious, but critical area that frequently leads to the unraveling of a rebrand involves instilling the appropriate ongoing brand management practices; the people, processes, and tools required to ensure consistency and compliance. If these elements are absent or made cumbersome, people will go off on their own (and, off brand!) and you will be right back where you started. A cross-functional Brand Council greatly increases buy-in and effectiveness, and ensures brand is used as a filter for decision-making. One of the best investments a company can make to safeguard a sustainable rebrand is by implementing an online brand asset management system to drive engagement, education and consistency while also creating significant marketing efficiencies for the marketing team tasked with managing all of the assets.

Lessons Learned

I once worked with one of the world’s largest chemical companies, who missed the ball on many of these learnings. While there was a strong case for change, the story was never communicated in a powerful enough way for senior leadership to understand the implications of not following through on these best practices. While the executive team ultimately gave approval to move forward, they kept at a distance throughout the process, not fully understanding what was involved in the rebrand. Ultimately, the brand strategy and visual identity were defined, but resources became scarce and lacked a defined plan and budget for implementation meaning that they were never able to realize the full potential.

Unfortunately, the scenario I describe above happens all too often. It is amazing how failure to address just one of these factors can throw everything off. Whether you are taking on the rebrand yourself, or engaging an agency to help you navigate the journey, use these seven principles to ensure your rebrand doesn’t end up lost at sea.

Have questions about your rebrand? Learn more.

Gunnar Jacobs is a Senior Director at Monigle.

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Gunnar Jacobs
October 31, 2014 By Gunnar Jacobs