What to expect when you’re rebranding

I’ve heard more than one CMO over the years jokingly refer to his or her corporate rebrand project as, “my baby.” And with good reason: like the lead-up to becoming a proud new parent, these types of projects are generally characterized by a whirlwind of excitement, planning and preparation, apprehension, and advice (both solicited and unsolicited)–culminating in a celebratory introduction of the new brand to those nearest and dearest.

Grafik has helped dozens of clients successfully plan and execute rebrands over our 45 years as a branding agency. If this is your first time leading a corporate rebranding and you’re wondering what to expect, we’ve compiled the following suggestions to help you prepare for the months ahead.

Chart your existing brand’s DNA. Pull together the most recent stakeholder and sentiment research, brand and strategic planning documents, as well as communications materials to help your agency partner understand organizational goals, value propositions, messaging and visuals that are currently in play. (Important to note, we did say agency partner. A key factor in rebranding is the ability to deliver objective insights, and running a rebrand through internal channels makes that nearly impossible). 

Identify key stakeholders. It is essential to give stakeholders a voice in this process. Doing so results in greater internal buy-in and external validation as you solidify a positioning strategy. When possible, we recommend engaging internal audiences such as leadership and key personnel as well as outside sources such as customers, prospects, and/or partner organizations. If it won’t be possible to engage customer segments, consider your internal sales team as a source for client perceptions.

Prepare to listen. The proof is in the pudding. In many instances, a findings briefing will reaffirm organizational beliefs, but in some instances it can surface major disconnects between internal and external perceptions. Be prepared to hear, and listen, to results of the upfront research, as it will impact how your agency partner approaches the positioning opportunity. 

Know your peers. An effective positioning strategy should not only be authentic and credible, but also distinct. It is through this process that we make sure everyone knows why your company is unique. This will require a close look at how key market players present themselves both through their messaging and visual expressions. Take the time to identify who your competitors are today and who may be competing for mindshare in the future.

More importantly, know your audiences. Defining value for varied audience segments will serve as a foundation for your future marcom efforts. Knowing who to talk to and understanding what they care about will be critical to creating messaging that resonates with each segment. With a little extra preparation, your agency partner can surface key messaging opportunities within the upfront research effort, so be sure to come prepared with a list.

Bring the strategy to life visually. The best visual identities create significant equity for a brand and instantly differentiate it from peers. Informed by the attributes and pillars surfaced during the upfront research, your agency partner will help bring the new brand to life. To prepare, consider how your internal team will manage the brand moving forward—will you be using external design resources or a combination of both? If the intent is to roll out and maintain the brand internally, make sure you build in time for a training session with your creative team.

Apply the brand. The implementation phase of a rebrand will focus on crafting the touchpoints every stakeholder has with your brand. The number of touchpoints is based on how your audience segments become aware of your offering, how they become educated on the value of your organization, and ultimately how they decide to become a customer, and/or employee. While some companies only need a website, stationery system, and basic marketing collateral, others may need advertising assets, mobile applications, trade show booths, and an assortment of marketing and sales tools such as brochures, one-sheeters, white papers, and more. Take the time to identify your needs and communicate those with your agency partner prior to identity exploration, as it may impact creative recommendations.

Introduce it to the market.  It’s time to celebrate! As you consider launch, it is important to begin with internal audiences, identifying opportunities that educate and enable employees to experience and adopt the new brand as their own. This may include in-person and/or virtual experiences in key office locations coupled with tangible elements such as new employee swag. With your internal team prepped and onboarded to the new brand, we turn our attention to external launch, which may include paid, organic, and earned media opportunities as well as formal announcements. To prepare for this phase, it is important to identify what your internal team can handle and how you will leverage your agency partner. Budget discussions will be important in determining the scale at which we execute. 

In summary, a rebrand, if approached thoughtfully and strategically, can position your organization for limitless growth but it isn’t a decision to be taken lightly and certainly requires an investment of time and budget. If you’re looking for guidance or need support navigating this process, reach out and let us know.

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