You're Rebranding. Should You Change Your Company Culture?
The move to a new brand, name or visual identity generally signals a recalibration of a company message in line with new or refreshed business objectives. Anyone who has undergone a full rebranding -- company name, logo, tagline, website -- understands that it involves a significant commitment of time and resources.
In considering such a step, it makes sense to open other aspects of the business to review. Given the costs of a full rebrand, the ultimate outcome should support, and be supported by, the company culture, as a way to foster achievement of your renewed brand purpose or business goals.
In fact, rebranding presents a unique opportunity to examine a company’s cultural climate in light of its goals. Usually some form of change is needed to better align the workplace with its new branding and intended direction.
The problem is, the internal communications process can be nearly as challenging as the rebrand itself, and too often, it’s an afterthought. That’s a big mistake, because workplace culture is a powerful driver of change, and a rebranding presents an ideal opportunity to harness that energy toward renewed goals.
My company, TechMedia Network, recently rebranded to Purch. It required a full review of every aspect of the business, including company culture. Here’s how we made real changes from the ground up.
1. Evaluate the existing culture.
A well-executed rebrand starts with a brand audit, and it should include employees and stakeholders. How do they describe the company’s business and goals when casually discussing it? What does the brand stand for in their eyes? How do they characterize the culture?
A rebrand should take a hard look at the current culture and how it fits in with the overall business. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis with key company stakeholders will tell you if you’re on the right track.
What’s most important in this process is that you set the stage for honest feedback. That means defining culture, outlining why it’s important, and making it clear that candid responses are important to the process. Reassuring employees in particular that nobody will be penalized for bringing up “negative” stuff -- and meaning it -- is critical to getting the right level of actionable insight.
During our rebrand, I asked every single person in the company via email to send me their thoughts on our culture. Not everyone responded, but many did. I ended up with an 80-page word document that was immensely valuable in informing our new culture.
2. Be clear on what you want your revitalized culture to be.
During a rebrand, a company will create new messages that capture a retooled identity and direction. Even more important is the communication of corporate values that align with the company’s mission and strategy.
When you take the time to define your values in the context of your business mission, it brings a weighted sense of priority and importance to those tenets and helps your employees see how their individual roles and interactions with one another support the company’s ability to succeed.
Defining what’s most important to your company from the top down, both internally and externally, will form the backbone of your new identity. From this foundation, your employees will be able to build upon the framework and create the kind of working environment that supports those values.
Any company can (and many do) say they want to create a “collaborative” working environment. But it’s something entirely different to define collaboration as a value within the context of the mission and vision of the company.
I should emphasize, though, that defining your values and business culture is anything but one and done. Culture is a living thing and its development is never-ending. It should be regularly evaluated and updated as necessary. It needs inputs in the way of frequent research and check-ins with all team members to determine progress and whether changes are needed.
3. Actively sell it to all employees/stakeholders.
Once you have your core values in place, it’s time to put them into action. Hold-in person meetings to debut your vision. Open up a dialogue and field questions. Be upfront and honest about the new direction and how it will affect employees. Sell your vision with substance, not marketing speak. Nothing will sink employee buy in faster than empty jargon that isn’t relevant to their daily lives.
As a company executive, you need to look for opportunities to reinforce the idea of culture and the values that inform it. A good leader will bring it to life with real-world examples and encourage company leaders, both official and informal, to embrace them, hold others accountable and recognize good modeling of those values.
Don’t be afraid to use a little “hype” to galvanize your team and make change tangible. This doesn’t mean you have to take over someone’s house like Tim Horton’s did, but you’d be surprised how something as simple as a cool hoodie or T-shirt can amplify pride and seed credibility in the new identity. With our rebrand, swag went a long way in building positivity about our direction.
4. Execute on values and culture when hiring.
Once we had our existing employees on board with our values and cultural vision, I made it a priority in our hiring process. These things must be reinforced from the outset. The introduction of our values, and how we live and breathe them every day as a part of our culture, is a key part of the orientation process.
I meet with all new employees to introduce them to the company and to individually share our values and the expectations. If a potential or existing employee can’t live by your values and embrace your culture, then they probably shouldn’t be there.
A committed team will create a better environment for new and existing employees. The cultural commitment establishes workplace pride and a sense of community that can translate into greater productivity and better ideas.
At the most basic level, if you’ve rebranded or are considering it, these strategies will help you execute real change from the bottom to the top of your organization. Culture is such an important piece of a brand’s identity and it requires an enormous effort to get it right, so seizing the moment of a rebrand is an opportunity to go much farther than a new website and a beautiful logo.