A company’s brand is critical to how it operates and to its overall success.
A company’s brand should reinforce corporate strategy, image, accomplishments and aspirations. Some brands carry a legacy that might not match current market dynamics and corporate strategy.
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Businesses that don’t evolve over time cease to be relevant and in some cases, go out of business. The evolution of the brand is key to a company’s relevance. A primary responsibility of any chief marketing officer is to know when it’s time to preserve and advance a company’s legacy by transforming its brand.
Often, marketers face resistance and many times a downright rebellion in this effort. Any senior marketing person will tell you that there is no shortage of opinions or experts.
How do you preserve brand equity for a company while establishing a new image? What will be the perception of loyal customers and long-term employees? These are all important questions to consider and thoughtfully address.
No company wants to alienate long-standing, loyal constituents. Keep all parties informed throughout the process about what you’re doing and why. Communication is key to letting constituents feel some ownership of the brand so that they can ultimately become supporters and advocates. Educate all parties involved about the process with context and explanations. A brand transformation offers a time to start anew and make something bigger and better than it was before. Here are a few ground rules:
Be honest about current brand perception.
Companies don’t get rebranded because they are exactly where they want to be. A dose of reality is necessary to embark on a successful reinvigoration of any brand image.
When evaluating the necessary changes that must be made to the company’s brand image, understand who the company’s customers and audiences are. They may be a different target market that you have not targeted in the past.
Consider how your organization is perceived and how you want it to be perceived. Also consider where your organization has strong value and where it’s weak. Rebranding requires brutal honesty and that’s bound to be unpleasant at times however it is necessary. Having objective, third party assessments can help distinguish between fact and fiction.
Conduct a primary brand awareness and preference survey, look at NPS scores and data, review industry and financial analyst research, assess competitors and conduct customer and employee interviews. Using this information will help establish a brand reality that’s fact based.
Get the CEO on board.
This will set the stage for gaining the CEO’s sponsorship. It is critical that the company leadership, especially a CEO, is willing to accept the brand truth, no matter how difficult that may be. The CEO must understand the need for rebranding, support the process and comprehend how these efforts map back to the overall business strategy. If the CEO isn’t fully engaged and on board with the rebranding efforts, most likely they will fail.
Don’t carry the disadvantage of experience.
It’s really difficult for members of a management team to go through any business transformation, especially rebranding. Given their role in building the brand, managers can sometimes be defensive. In many cases, this group has a “if it ain’t broke” mentality.
As a result, some companies opt for an incremental change instead of the more dramatic one that may be necessary. Consultations with a branding agency, with an objective set of eyes can add value. And if you’re a new chief marketing officer, you might be the one to offer the fresh perspective. Take advantage of that.
Arrange for organizational buy-in.
At the end of the day, key internal constituents beyond the CEO must understand, support and be engaged in this process. But too many cooks in the kitchen can lead to mediocre results. Figure out who are the key players beyond the CEO. This can differ between organizations, but engaging the sales and product organizations is usually a good start. CFOs can also be an important ally.
Keep in mind that not everyone is going to agree on the need for a rebranding or the end result. Involving key constituents early and often will lead to support for the outcome, especially if they understand the how and why.
Follow a logical sequence of events.
Developing a plan of action to change the brand requires a structured process. It’s not just about color palettes and new logos. It’s important to align the rebranding plan with the corporate strategy so that the process and deliverables support it. You don’t have to do everything at once. A phased approach often leads to better results and a more manageable budget.
Know what you don’t know.
Don’t assume that you must know every single step of the rebranding process. Consider bringing in an outside firm that can bring expertise and objectivity. Think about hiring an agency partner that specializes in branding and pay particular attention to its process, previous success and articulation of what representatives need to be successful. Don’t just hire an agency whose staff tell you what want you want to hear. Hire one with team members who aren’t afraid to give you a little tough love.
Consider letting someone else tell the new story.
There’s something to be said for letting your story tell itself. Sometimes the right avenue is to consider a spokesperson or character unrelated to the company to be the deliverer of your new brand message. A third party delivering the company’s message can provide greater flexibility, using humor or a relatable story, and can feel less self-serving.
Many will expect immediate success from a rebranding process, such as a huge increase in customer demand. This may not happen. Let constituents know what to expect and determine baseline metrics for measuring success.
Rebranding a business takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work to create an image that fits your goals. Having this image resonate with your employees, executives, customers and other stakeholders takes diligence.
Need help? Learn more about Rebranding Your Company.