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branding, strategy

Rebranding Made Easy!

Of course the title of this post is ridiculous.

Rebranding is never easy. It involves a great deal of planning and strategy, a whole lot of hard work and some fantastic collaboration on a million different levels..

But, having gone through a major brand refresh and several small rebrandings, I have come up with these tips for, at the very least, making it just a little easier.

Define Objectives

The first step is defining drivers and key objectives. That means answering questions like, is this a brand refresh or a brand transformation?

Once you understand your drivers, you can focus more clearly on the objectives and deliverables.

For example, a transformation may included a new company name, logo, positioning, messaging and brand identity, whereas a refresh builds on earlier brand progress. That’s not to say that a refresh is easier. In nearly every case, a refresh is going to have a whole series of challenges built in that cannot simply be ignored and likely includes the creation of an entire brand system and architecture. Many times a refresh is needed because a company has not previously established a systematic approach to brand identity, architecture, or brand management. In that case, a color palette, graphic style,  naming convention and brand personality will need to be either created or changed.

Knowing what you need to accomplish, and clearly establishing that as a focus, will save you a lot of headaches during the next steps and the final implementation.

Determine Approach and Scope

The second key principle is agreeing on how to approach your objectives. What is the scope?  Over what time and at what cost?  Who will make decisions besides the CMO, Vice President or Marketing Director (depending on company organization)?

I have found that utilizing a simple three-phase process that is easy for staff to understand and support is the best approach. Under each phase you need to fully define what needs to be accomplished, who is involved, how findings will be reported and a process to make the important decisions.

Phase 1 is Brand Assessment and the point when you need to conduct all your research. Your discovery should intuitively guide you toward the establishment of a brand promise. In order to develop a brand promise you need three basic things:

  1. Develop or revisit the business plan, which should have a clearly articulated view of scale and scope for the business.
  2. A clear understanding of the customer base, with special focus on target segments.
  3. A thorough understanding of how branding can (and will) make a difference.
Other important considerations are ensuring that your audit not only brings external factors into focus, but also allows for adequate surveying of internal stakeholders and employees. You need to know everything about how the brand is or will be perceived, how competitors are positioned in the market and employee sentiment.

Phase 2 is Brand Development. While this is essentially the point when the creatives and copywriters go to work, that doesn’t mean that the brand manager can sit back and wait. Someone needs to be driving the progress, monitoring milestones and getting approvals. It’s very easy for things to get way off track in this phase as sub-phases become bogged down and deadlines start getting missed. The best approach I have found here is employing an Agile project management approach. Work in small iterations, ensuring that all participants are folded in when necessary and organized in a matrix management structure.

Make sure you explore everything and know who is managing the project phases and iterations and who is the approval authority.

Phase 3 is Brand Execution. Again, you may need to plan for sub-phases if you are rolling out an international rebranding or refresh. The key to success when deploying this phase is being prepared, having a detailed step-by-step plan and rock-solid internal communications. Do your homework in advance and make sure you weed out all potential pitfalls or roadblocks.

Get a Consensus

Another big step in working through a rebranding or refresh is developing a consensus on what to change. It’s not unusual for this to become somewhat controversial as the brand assessment will bring to light inconsistencies and variances in brand quality. Many times you will be faced with having to throw out what others have already created. And, while that is never easy, it will be necessary to move forward in a positive fashion.

One big challenge will be getting agreement on specific changes, especially the new brand promise. Be prepared to spend some time getting agreement on the various desirable alternatives.

Don’t Forget the Employees

Brand advocacy is one of the most important components for launching a successful rebranding or refresh. It is absolutely imperative to ensure that the entire organization relates to the new brand promise and personality.

One tactic I have used is developing key brand personality attributes that employees could leverage when relating to or explaining the renewed brand. These are best encompassed in an actionable acronym, something easy to remember and which clearly embodies the qualities of the brand.

Following that is engagement. Video is a great way to engage employees from different regions and create a sense of camaraderie and team spirit. We developed a video that showed employees discussing how they embody the brand personality attributes and how they saw themselves as ambassadors for the brand.

Combined with online brand education, training and town-hall style forums, these engagement activities will really help to get employees behind the new brand. When brand advocacy becomes synonymous with company advocacy, you are in a great position to harness the power of people to build brand momentum.

I hope you found this helpful. If you have insights from your own rebranding exercises I would love to hear them.

(Photo courtesy of

Developing A Brand Story

Developing A Brand Strategy

The Brand Gap


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