Critical Steps to Avoid a Rebranding Disaster

By Ray Baird

All too often companies enter into a rebranding initiative only to come out with battle wounds, unfinished work and personal defeat. While these experiences can be extremely painful, they can often provide learning that can be helpful.

Since branding is part science and part creative, it’s extremely important to understand the potential emotional pitfalls, landmines and undercurrents that can derail success and take you down. From our perspective, considering a few critical components can not only save the outcome, but potentially save your job.

No one ever enters a rebranding assignment to fail, but it’s a fact that many companies really don’t understand “branding” or the expectations around it. So, with that in mind, here are a few ideas to ensure rebranding success, turn you into the company hero and ultimately help increase your company’s commitment to future branding efforts.

Beware of the undertow. It can take you down.
Remember when you were young and first heard of the undertow concept. It’s tough to grasp. How could such beautiful intentions of entering the ocean be so dangerous? You need to pay attention to the signs that may tell you to hold back. Sometimes the blackball flag may be posted to warn against invisible dangers. Timing is everything.

Is your company really committed for the journey?
You must have the full attention and commitment of your executive team. Especially the CEO. Branding is a corporate initiative that must have the backing of leadership or it’s destined to fail. If the executives say, “let marketing handle it,” you may want to develop a strategy to get them educated and engaged. Never believe marketing can conduct a rebranding project alone. Bottomline – I’ve never seen this work. Either the company is committed or not.

Find the compelling reason. Develop the burning platform for change.
Branding is a complex and confusing subject. Before discussing any rebranding project you must clearly articulate “why” and “what” the rebranding will do for the company. If someone suggests creating a new logo as your new rebranding strategy, stop. Branding is a business strategy incorporating many strategic components and outcomes. Number one piece of advice – find the most compelling reason for rebranding the entire company believes in and can rally around: Here are a few that always seem to work:

  • New Acquisition: Nothing like a new family member to institute change
  • Major new product line or new market direction (strategy)
  • New CEO takes command
  • New research that proves your brand is not operating at its full potential (competitive disadvantage)
  • Failing growth expectations (stakeholders desire change)
  • Inability to attract top talent
  • Low performing employees

Sure, there are many more, but the point is you must have a burning reason or reasons for rebranding. Changing for the sake of change or because you think it’s time for something new can prove detrimental. Rebranding must be backed by strategic rational and research to justify the initiative.

Beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sniff out the brand posers – they’ll only let you down.
Rebranding is not something most marketers or executives encounter in their daily diet. That said – it’s always good to work with a trusted adviser with proven experience in your specific market and with your specific situation – select a brand strategy partner that’s been there and done that.

Secondly, branding is not a practice that most outside marketing firms, PR firms or advertising agencies have vested experience in. They may say branding is a core competency, but most often it’s not. PR firms do PR. Adverting agencies create ads. Marketing firms market products.

Brand strategy firms work under a different process with very distinct rules of engagement, research and testing. A quick way to unveil the truth is to talk directly with the head of brand strategy. If there is no one who wears that hat, you should know what to do. Closely examine your partnering agency’s process and insist to talk with the founder to clearly understand the assignment and journey.

Bottomline – you have to feel comfortable with the individuals assisting on leading the executive group. Also, demand to see a detailed timeline with specific deliverables and a fixed price – this way there are no surprises. And one last piece of advice, talk to recent clients and specifically ask what it’s like to work with the lead branding team. There’s nothing like hearing from recent clients to give you a true idea of what to expect.

Rebranding your company can and should be a wonderful experience. If you follow these guidelines, you can ensure your rebranding efforts will be a success. If you are looking for rebranding strategy partner, give us a shout.

Take a look at the ABM rebranding case study