You often hear of rebrands flopping — a new company name or logo falls flat, employee morale drops, media weighs in and creates a spiral of negative press attention. It's rare that we hear about rebrand success stories. The good news is they do exist! After going through one ourselves — amid a global pandemic, no less — I found a handful of elements to be key to making our rebrand appear as seamless as possible (despite moments of internal scramble!).
Don’t rush the process
Giving you and your team ample time to plan and execute
is one of the greatest gifts you can offer during a rebrand. Rather than backing out deadlines to meet a rushed deliverable date (as we’re all so accustomed to doing), work through a thoughtful
timeline that meets the needs and expectations of all of the players. This not only encourages collaboration from the outset but keeps teams accountable to holding up their end of the bargain and
applies the right kind of pressure as you approach the finish line.
All in, from exploration to launch, our rebrand process took just under a full calendar year. Though it’s important to note that doesn’t include early meetings with internal leadership and our Board to be sure we were aligned on the decision and were considering a rebrand for the right reasons. That should definitely be thoroughly explored and discussed before you jump in.
Bake in buffer time to allow yourself the opportunity to fully think through and sleep on tough decisions when necessary — Is this font and color palette practical for everyday use? How do we maintain continuity with our former brand assets while still appearing fresh and new? — and take on any unforeseeable challenges. This proved especially helpful as we approached our launch date and “business as usual” became a thing of the past due to the coronavirus pandemic. Team members were suddenly juggling more than should be asked of one person, including work responsibilities, childcare, and virtual learning hiccups all while mentally managing the stress of the situation. We couldn’t have predicted having to jump over this type of hurdle, but if you assume there will be kinks in the process and unexpected delays, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
Bring in the right external partners (because you’re too close to your business)
Check that “I know my business best” mentality at the door. The sooner you
realize that a rebrand calls for fresh eyes and a team of experts to be a success, the better. Know your strengths, but also know when you need to tap external specialists. This allows you to be the
client and guarantees someone will be there to push and guide you through the trenches. Yes, it will take time to brief your partners on the ins and outs of your business and effectively communicate
exactly what it is you’re hoping to achieve, but the end result will pay dividends. And you’ve got that generous timeline, so what’s there to worry about?!
Here are the partners you should be considering:
Creative: Even if you’re a creative agency, it could be in your best interest to bring in external partners to help bring your vision to life. Find a creative partner that asks the tough questions. If you leave a meeting with your wheels turning and more questions than answers, you’re probably onto something. Our partners got to the core of who we are by asking questions and asking them again, until frankly we were sick of talking. But with each creative presentation, we saw exactly what all of the talking was for. We saw ourselves reflected in the work, and it surprised us all in the best way possible.
PR: As with creative partners, if your PR partners aren’t peppering you with questions from the outset, you should be worried. These are the people who will help tell your story. Lean on them for a strong communications plan and messaging hierarchy to align internally on how and when to talk about the new brand. From assisting in effectively announcing the news to internal teams to drilling down to the why and to whom this rebrand actually matters externally, your PR partners help shoulder the burden of the impact of your rebrand.
Experiential: You have your new brand and you know how you want talk about it, so don’t skimp on bringing it to life! Bring in an experiential partner with a creative vision that marries all of the elements of your rebrand into a thoughtful and impactful experience. For us, this originally meant an announcement event that brought together clients, industry peers, and our internal team. Our partner presented ideas that brought all of our hard work to life, only to be postponed to keep our guests safe in the wake of COVID-19. We knew we had the right partner when she immediately pivoted to exploring alternate options. Your partners should be nimble and know to expect the unexpected, just as you are.
Engage your team ahead of the public announcement
As you get further along in the process and feel you can properly articulate where your brand is headed, gradually loop in
your internal teams. I’m closing on this tip because it is hands down the most important piece of the puzzle. You want your path ahead to be paved before announcing to the full company, but
there’s a fine line between sharing too early and communicating too late. Consider hosting an internal event ahead of the public launch — a team lunch, dedicated happy hour, or casual
all-agency meeting — to share the exciting news and celebrate with your team before it goes live.
Your team leads should be notified first with enough time to poke holes and internalize the new brand so they’re fully prepared to get their teams on board. Make yourself and team leads available to answer any questions. Hold dedicated office hours or an all-agency AMA to be sure everyone has a chance to ask clarifying questions and to ensure each team member feels heard and appreciated. You’ve had a chance to live with this news for months (nearly a year!?) at this point — it’s important to give everyone an opportunity to digest and get on board before shouting the news from the rooftops. Because, really, who are you without them?