The task of rebranding a small company can be relatively easy. It typically involves surveying your five employees and handful of other stakeholders (i.e. -- your spouse), then choosing a new logo, color scheme and tag line.
If you have limited resources, entrepreneurs can consider crowdsourcing ideas for a new brand identity. And while this idea has prompted ire from the creative community (many of my colleagues included), it at least provides entrepreneurs with a comparably inexpensive way to generate ideas.
If, however, you have a long-term objective and really want a strong and enduring brand, it is worth the investment to engage a reputable branding agency who can take you through the steps necessary to best create a brand that meets your organization’s culture and goals.
Russ Meyer is a branding expert with Siegel+Gale, a global brand strategy, design and experience firm, and as global director of strategy and insights has worked with a number of large organizations in rebranding efforts. Meyer worked with CVS and its recent rebranding from CVS Caremark to CVS Health, an effort to focus its brand identity on the company’s commitment to health and wellness.
Last year, Meyer worked with Hewlett Packard and its effort to establish Hewlett Packard Enterprise, an important and growing part of the company’s business that focuses on enterprise IT products and services (such as servers, storage appliances, networking gear and cloud solutions).
In March, Meyer and his team worked with Flywheel Sports, a New York-based indoor cycling boutique that, after five successful years in business, wanted to introduce a new, fresh and sleek design, new logo and an inspirational tagline, one that embraced the company’s core values and encouraged empowerment and authenticity.
According to Meyer, while the rebranding process for large companies can be complex and time consuming, entrepreneurs of any size company can learn a great deal from their efforts. Here are his five tips for executing a successful rebranding strategy.
1. Rebranding is not just brainstorms and shiny new looks.
Brands like Gap and Uber have been slammed in the press and by the public for rolling out new visual identities without substantive reasons for the rebrand. Companies, therefore, should consider taking a "user-based approach" before haphazardly setting out to do their own.
Meyer and his team are passionate about understanding why a brand needs something new. Like many entrepreneurs, their business clients usually have a sense of the needed rebrand change, but nine times out of 10, they are identifying only symptoms of the problem rather than the problem itself.
To find the root problem that the intended rebranding will solve, Meyer suggests engaging in real fact finding -- qualitative, quantitative and even ethnographic research -- in order to first understand the brand's existing place in its market and with its customers. By understanding this first, you can develop an approach that will affect change and help the brand not just make a new promise -- but also keep it.
2. The planning stage is not a stage.
In today’s world, every industry is changing -- and more rapidly than ever before. Engaging with the task of rebranding in a linear manner, starting with planning and ending with an executed outcome, is no longer realistic.
Increasingly, Meyer and his team include their clients at each step of the process, working side by side with them and receiving feedback in real time. At the same time, Meyer finds that what happens in the world changes quickly, impacting the inputs and implications of the rebranding work. Therefore, the team is always iterating on plans and outputs -- all the way until the rebranding is launched.
Meyer explains that when working with a brand, the “thinking” and the “doing” have to sync back and forth.
3. Rebranding should focus on only one audience: people.
When it comes to identifying a brand's position, Meyer finds that clients often get bogged down in the nuances of messaging as a business-to-business (B2B) brand versus a business-to-consumer (B2C) brand. Traditionally, marketers in particular have seen the role of B2B marketing as very different than the role of consumer marketing. Meyer's experience has shown, however, that no matter the product or service, the end consumers are all people.
We are all exposed to, and affected by, the levers and channels of consumer marketing. Meyer finds the real value in B2B companies is having a consumer mindset that is out in the world and interacting with people as people -- not just with people as "customers."
When it comes to branding, emotional engagement, evocative imagery and a compelling story are all effective, no matter your end user.
4. Everyone has an opinion -- but not everyone makes decisions.
Developing a new brand experience and visual expression have massive implications for both internal and external audiences. The outcomes of these engagements will be felt by every stakeholder, from employees to consumers to investors. For this reason, identifying the decision-makers early in the rebranding process is critical, perhaps more critical than any other part of the kickoff. It leads to getting buy-in and ultimately getting the work out the door.
Key decision-makers differ from company to company, depending greatly on the organization’s structure and culture. In a democratic, horizontal structure, it is best to include as many people as possible in the rebranding process. If the culture is more leader-driven, the reality is that only the CEO’s buy-in should be the focus.
In the end, if you are unable to get your idea accepted and, more important, embraced by the person or persons who ultimately make decisions, it will never make it out of the proposal folder.
5. Be the voice of opportunity, not change.
By its nature, a rebranding campaign means change, and change is often equated with risk. As any entrepreneur understands, change is never easy and can be particularly hard for some to accept. A significant part of the rebranding task, therefore, is simultaneously putting stakeholder’s anxiety at ease.
Meyer's focuses on continually advocate for the opportunity rather than only look at the change and risk. He emphasizes and encourages entrepreneurs to come up with options, present their strengths, and stand by their ideas as agents for helping an organization solve its core challenges and transforming itself.