5 Tips on Rebranding from a Billion-Dollar Expert
Rebranding is not for the faint of heart. After rebranding several billion-dollar companies, here are some lessons I have learned along the way.
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The decision to rebrand should be weighed carefully, as it can be a complicated and challenging overhaul for any company. Before you even think about altering your current brand, make sure you ask yourself: Who are you as a brand? What are you best known for? Does that mesh with your expectations of how you want to be perceived? Rebranding isn't a "fix" if you don't know what is broken or why.
Once you've decided to take the plunge, there's both an art and a science to getting it right. Here are a few tips from my experiences branding and rebranding several billion-dollar companies that can help companies of any size, miniscule or mammoth, successfully tackle the process:
1. Rally the internal forces to win the external war. Although rebranding typically focuses on winning over the outside world, it's just as important to capture the hearts and minds of those within your organization. (It is my belief that brand ambassadors start from the inside.)
Provide creative ways for team members to personalize the transition. You can do this by designing activities to get your employees to engage with the new brand in a personal way so they feel a sense of ownership.
One thing I've found helpful is implementing a launch week to get everyone onboard and excited. In a few instances, we created a brand book, explaining the origin and meaning behind the new brand, as well as giving employees tips on how to complete some of the more mundane tasks involved in making the switch. To do this, we incentivized staff with prizes (in one case, the grand prize was a trip) for daily tasks that ranged from changing email signatures and voicemail messages, to a photo contest designed to share images that capture the heart of the new brand, to filling out crossword puzzles that could only be completed by reading the brand book.
2. Find ways to create continuity. Even the smallest businesses can find it difficult to break the emotional ties to their old brand. Be purposeful in creating pathways from the old brand to the new.
Look for opportunities to bring elements that really matter, to your company and clients, to the new brand. It might be as simple as an iconic color, or typeface. Or maybe the new logo can retain parts of your former logo. In the rebrand that I recently lead, our team decided to keep the color green in our logo, as it was a shared element between us, and the company we had acquired. We recognized that something as simple as a color choice could ease the uniting of two cultures, and keep a visual consistency that made the transition easier for our employees, clients. and prospects.
3. Give your creatives room to fly. Rebranding should feel like a breath of fresh air for your business. Let your creative team feel like they can actually take that breath by shielding them from unnecessary bureaucracy.
Design by committee is a frightening prospect that most often produces tepid, and even downright awful results. If you hire good people who understand the message and the emotional meaning behind the brand they'll need clear direction, but not handholding. I've worked with a CEO who did not see important elements of the final creative product until the day before the launch. He trusted that I and our creative team understood the essence of the new brand, and had confidence that we could execute to this vision. The design ended up being perfectly in line with what people expected from the new brand, and everyone embraced it.
4. Allow yourself the time you actually need but don't be afraid to move. The rebranding process takes more time than most people realize. Winning over the necessary stakeholders can, in itself, take much longer than you anticipate.
However, do not wait to launch until everything is "perfect." You could spend eons waiting to make the leap, and even longer on the process itself. Sometimes you have to just jump. Decide what the minimal viable product is and make a move, knowing you can adjust and refine in the future.
5. Make sure your brand can evolve as you grow. A brand is more than just a color, logo or graphic; it is the essence of the company. Ideally, it will be around for years, so make sure you've got something that can grow and evolve, while remaining true to its essence. Think of the "Harry Potter" series. While the characters grew up and matured as the series progressed, they still remained fundamentally Harry, Ron and Hermione, just a bit older and more mature.
Rebranding is no simple task, to be sure. But by implementing these tips, organizations can alleviate much of the headache that surrounds this transition and create a lasting brand, complete with buy-in from internal and external stakeholders. When done right, a new brand can inject fresh energy, and give an organization opportunities to have new conversations, communicate new value, and reach broader audiences than before.