Any chief marketing officer (CMO) that has led an organization through a successful rebranding strategy knows they must arrive at the table as an empty vessel. The role of the CMO is to be the heart and soul of the employees and key stakeholders. If you begin the process with any preconceived thoughts on what “should” happen, then you’ll only be doing yourself and the organization a disservice.
It’s an incredible honor to be the steward of so many in the transformational process of rebranding. I am fortunate enough to have led more than 10 organizations through a rebrand and I’ve often been asked to share helpful tips. While one can find plenty of scholarly articles on the official process of rebranding strategy, I thought I would provide a few non-traditional recommendations I’ve learned… sometimes the hard way.
5 Recommendations for a Successful Rebranding Strategy
1 Shift Your Focus from Creative to Research
I cannot stress enough how critically important research is to your rebranding strategy. It is often thought of as the part with the least “sizzle” in the process. Much to the contrary—strategic market research, both internally with employees and externally with customers and prospects, is the single most important component to inform your decisions moving forward.
I strongly recommend spending most of your budget on research. Make sure the agency you select conducts in-person interviews, phone conversations and online surveys to gather as much data as possible. Before we rebranded Ungerboeck to Momentus Technologies, we had more than 500 pages of research analysis to review. Most organizations that don’t survive a rebrand fail because they didn’t leverage what the research was telling them. The identity (although important) is really the cherry on top.
2 Be Bold and Courageous
Rebranding is not easy. Don’t shy away from making a grand change, but also be prepared for most people to challenge you. Change is hard and choosing a new identity is no different.
Therefore, my second recommendation for a successful rebranding strategy is to be bold and courageous in what you propose. Remember that all names are without meaning in the beginning. The meaning is applied through time and experience. Think of Google and Yahoo! I always say that most new names will feel uncomfortable and odd. Give it six months and it will feel as if the new brand has always been there.
3 Invest In Your Employees
Many organizations undertake rebranding activities to position themselves better in the competitive marketplace and only focus on the external brand. However, I firmly believe you cannot have a successful rebranding strategy without the internal work. You need employees to be committed to the success of the new brand and to comprehend the changes along with your new mission, vision and core values. An employee that is engaged in their role and the corporate brand is an invaluable asset to the organization.
If you are a CMO unveiling a new brand, my recommendation is to be open and authentic in your presentation to employees. I’ve spoken before about the importance of being your authentic self as a senior executive, but I want to encourage you to build trust as a leader, too. As the CMO, you are the first link employees have to this new world and if your employees trust you, they will trust the new brand.
4 Expect High Confidentiality
When you are ready to announce your new brand, it would be awful if the news headline included “after an embarrassing leak,” which is what happened when Warner Bros. Discovery announced a new logo. And most organizations will not be as lucky as Volkswagen when it was able to say it was an elaborate April Fools’ joke when the company leaked the new name for its U.S. operations.
Therefore, when it comes to your rebranding strategy, I highly recommend making sure there is great confidentiality up to the time of the reveal. You want your new brand and identity to make the greatest impact and the best way to do this is to keep your branding inner circle small and choose an orchestrated time with the user experience in mind to unveil.
5 Move Forward Swiftly
As noted in Forbes, the average rebranding process takes 12 to 18 months to complete from beginning to end. Rebranding can definitely feel like a marathon—especially in the research phase. However, once your new brand is publicly announced, I encourage you to treat your rebranding like a sprint.
My final recommendation for a successful rebranding strategy is to be swift in your switchover to the new brand. Once the new brand is announced, all future communications to the public (events, collateral, signage, etc.) should avoid any instance of the prior brand. You need to maintain consistency in your new brand so it can grow and flourish with your employees and the public.
The Result of a Successful Rebranding Strategy
In the end, how can one tell if your rebranding strategy was successful? There are a wide variety of factors to gauge your success and those are going to be unique to every organization. For me personally, success goes back to the people—the employees and customers. A rebrand breathes new life into an organization by uniting the employees and customers with a very clear value proposition. The brand is the personality of your organization. Continuity in messaging and consistency in look, feel and tone is a sure way to build the greatest equity possible.
By Laurie McGrath, Chief Marketing Officer.