Thanks to FORBES for publishing this first.
Over the course of my career, I have been at the center of four company rebrandings. By rebranding, I mean a soup-to-nuts rethink of everything from brand name to the honing of a central message. None have been “pivots,” but rather bringing sharp focus to what the company is all about.
Across those four rebrands, I have learned a lot and am frequently asked about key success factors for orchestrating these major events. If you are looking for tips and ideas for your rebrand, consider these eight bits of advice.
Figure Out If You Should Rebrand
A rebrand involves much more work than you anticipate. It is only worth it if it will serve an affirmative business purpose.
Some people undertake a rebrand because they just don’t like their company names. In my view, that’s not a good reason. If your name is unclear, off-putting to the target or off strategy, those are better reasons to consider a rebrand. If your company is pivoting and the old name no longer works, that’s another good reason.
Before you decide if a rebrand makes sense, recognize that many people will be working on rebranding tasks when they could be doing other things -- for months and months.
For Naming, Be Clear And Specific
Leaders set objectives for a rebrand and brand name and then evaluate name options by the extent to which they fulfill the preset objectives. Find a name that explains what you are about. It makes everything clear and simple, and it helps sellers when they are first connecting.
The most recent rebrand for me was for the company I currently work for. We changed our name from Performance Horizon to Partnerize to clearly communicate that we are a company all about partnership in all of its forms. When an investor suggested the new name, there was an instant consensus because it so perfectly fulfilled our strategic objectives. By contrast, I have also worked on a variety of rebrand projects where the objectives were not well set. The result was months of indecision and a final choice that fully satisfied no one because it wasn’t a strategic one.
Create A Culture Of Responsibility
You need to give people responsibility and authority to herd the kittens. Involve representatives from every department, and get them communicating with one another. What are the key projects? The dependencies? The things that are most likely to screw things up?
In our organization, we used a process from an outside project management agency that requires individuals responsible for projects to set the key dates so that they felt accountable for them. A weekly check-in gave them the opportunity to identify roadblocks in advance of deadlines. The tool we used turned tasks red when a project was late or if the person responsible had to renegotiate dates within two weeks of deadlines. It earned the nickname “the sheet of shame,” and it kept people focused on meeting their commitments and long-term planning.
Manage To A Detailed Plan
A culture of responsibility enables a team to identify the key deliverables along with completion dates that make sense. The focus is on deliverables, not tasks. A good process enables the responsible person to manage the “how” as they wish while ensuring that the “what” is delivered on time.
Frequent check-ins can surface issues long before they affect timelines, and they bring up issues that might not have been considered before.
Be Realistic About The Press Attention You’ll Get
When big companies do things, the world notices. The rest need to recognize that a rebrand by itself is not newsworthy. Think about how you can bring news to rebranding. Is your rebrand driven by an upcoming major event? Did research help drive your decisions?
For the Partnerize rebrand, we debuted industry research on the meaning and importance of partnership and garnered significant press for the combined story.
Look To The Team For Inspiration
A successful rebrand galvanizes employees. Look to your internal team for inspiration on how to take the concept to the next level.
At one company, we reserved some rebranding decisions to the collective viewpoint of the team, as measured in extensive surveys. At a more recent rebrand, we took a more organic approach that considered all ideas as they bubbled up.
Consider ideas from all corners, and respond with appreciation whether you accept them or not.
Consider Your Clients
A great rebrand is exciting to your customers as well as your internal team. More importantly, the change shouldn’t mean a lot of extra work for them. Plan with their needs at the top of your mind.
At our company, for example, we left our application programming interfaces (APIs) at old online addresses even though they don’t match the rebrand, so that working with us would not require additional engineering time.
Remember That Launch Day Isn’t The End
If you’re really, really lucky, 10% of your target will learn about your new brand on launch day. Launch day is only the first step in fulfilling your vision. The rebrand you adopt needs to guide how you conduct business from that day forward.
For our company, every aspect of our go-to-market approach is changing to reflect our focus. It’s guiding the business we pitch, how we redefine elements of our product and our roadmap for the future.
The more the rebranding gets reflected in your business, the more successful you will be.