Although a rebranding is most visible through the use of a new name, logo, tagline or some variation thereof, a true rebranding is more than just visual.
It is a marketing strategy meant to communicate a differentiated identity in the minds of customers, employees, competitors, investors and other stakeholders.
Most of the “rebranding” we read about is not much more than a logo tweak or what I like to call a “brand refresh.” Social media has allowed everyone to judge the slightest efforts companies have undergone to rebrand, and unfortunately that audience can often be more critical than appreciative. So, before you fall into that vortex of commentary, make sure you understand what you ultimately want to accomplish, the steps to reach your goals, and, frankly, if you want to or need to do a rebranding at this time. If your target audience has or is changing, you’d be smart to change along with them. Same goes if your competition is eating a little too much of your business, or if you just can’t use the brand you’ve bought or inherited any longer.
However, if you’re thinking of simply changing your logo and calling it a rebrand, I beg you to stop right now and consider Radio Shack’s failed rebranding effort. The consumer electronics chain rebranded to “The Shack” but failed to update their product offerings and brand philosophy with their new logo. You have to go “all in” when you rebrand, but there are clear steps that will help you navigate the process.
Know what you’re trying to accomplish: A rebranding is about aligning with the business’s long-term goals and must support the overall business strategy. An important first step for you is setting measurable goals and determining a baseline measurement. This is a great time to call your favorite researcher or compose an online survey to understand the brand from both an internal and external perspective. Questions to ask include:
- Are your customers relating to your brand?
- Do your customers remember your brand and its meaning without being prompted?
- What do your non-customers think about your brand?
- Is your brand distinguishable among the competition?
- Do respondents find something unique about your brand that you can leverage (or fix)?
- Do your employees know what the brand is trying to promote, and do they feel it is delivering on that promise? Do they feel they are delivering on the promise in each of their interactions?
- Is the brand truly aligned with the vision and mission of the business? Are any of these elements believable?
In this step, you should evaluate existing marketing strategies, materials, media and communications. It is critical that you engage not only your key management but your line employees as well, to gather internal perceptions and explore the variety of possible positioning changes.
Lather up: If you think I’m going to tell you to trot out your SWOT analysis, I have a different approach I would love you to try. Borrow a page from medicine and try a SOAP Note, a terrific concept introduced to me by my friend Laura Petrolino, chief client officer for Spin Sucks. SOAP Notes are used by healthcare providers to document—in a consistent way—notes about a patient. It can also be applied to marketing communications and allows you to review subjective inputs (such as the ones you collected in the previous step) as well as objective observations in order to formulate assessments and, ultimately, plans. The process goes a little like this:
- In the subjective portion, you want to gather a comprehensive report of what is going on. What do you see happening? When did it start? Can you isolate the problem, origin, etc.? Has anything helped alleviate the “symptoms?”
- Then you move on to the objective portion, which is the follow-up to the subjective observations. Subjective: “We’re getting negative feedback.” Objective: “What type? Concerning what?” Now you have some level of measurable detail around the observations.
- Next is the assessment phase. Petrolino advises, “If you have a team work on the project it’s always valuable to have everyone do their initial assessment alone and then review each other before you work together to work on a more detailed assessment or the overall strategy.”
- Then, you put together your plan with objectives and vision which you can then share with your creative resources.
Get creative: While the graphics development portion of rebranding may seem like the “fun part,” it can also be the most difficult because it requires you to give solid business-based direction. A key component of success at this stage is to clearly understand what you’re trying to say with your new graphics and language. There are a few ways to get a great start on this portion. You can utilize a creative brief. You can have some fun and think about who your brand would be if it were a pop culture icon.
Once you have given your creative partners your plan, brand insights and ideas, you must step away and let them go. After reviewing a few graphic approaches and making some edits, you are ready to show them to a select group of folks for input.
Consider another call to your research friends to perform a series of iterative focus groups to glean the stakeholder reactions and interpretations of your new look and feel. If you’ve never experienced this type of process, it can be quite eye-opening, but it does require more than sitting behind a two-way mirror. As you work through focus groups, your very talented creative team will be adapting the graphics and language to reflect the most appropriate input. The next group will see something slightly different and so on. Within a handful of groups (sometimes less), you’ll have your new look and feel.
Planning the rollout: From your e-mail signature to the logos on the paychecks and the sign out front, rebranding can suddenly seem overwhelming. The only way to manage it is good old-fashioned checklists. You must take a full and detailed inventory of every logo item. In fact, this step may very well be taken care of earlier so that you can develop an appropriate budget and rollout calendar which may have to align with capital improvement budgets.
Additionally, you may decide there are some things that may not really need a logo. I’ve heard the legend of companies that bring in elves in the middle of the night to change everything. Like magic, everything is shiny and new when employees arrive for work the next day. The truth is this may be a gradual process for you. If you’re too fast, you’ll blow your budget quickly. If you’re too slow, you risk making an impact and possibly just causing confusion.
Communications will be critical in this phase. Whatever the reason you embarked on this journey, you will still have customers and employees who are loyal to the existing brand. They deserve to be informed about the transformation. You will want to assure them the change will not negatively impact them, the service or the commitments you’ve made to them in your prior brand promise. Keeping this information at the department or executive level can backfire, causing frustration to everyone.
An internal rollout is crucial to transforming your property and creating excited brand ambassadors. Don’t skip this step. Many marketers make the mistake of making the internal rollout a mere memo or pre-shift meeting with a t-shirt or button. It should be a celebration. It should say, “You want to be a part of this.” You want employees proud to share the news.
Finally, ensure you have developed a proper brand style guide that will assist your staff and vendors in the proper application of the new brand elements.
Rebranding is not for the faint of heart. It takes many moving parts to go from considering rebranding and actually doing it successfully, but with careful planning and attention to detail, the benefits can be great.