This article was first published on thebrandproject.com
Whatever the reason, you’ve probably gained some type of brand equity, whether it’s external or purely an emotional internal attachment. This means you not only need to take a structured, non-biased approach but also make sure everyone in your organization fully understands the strategic reason behind the rebrand. But we will get to that. First things first, a short recap:
What do we mean by rebrand?
A rebrand is meant to change the way an organization, company, or product is perceived and understood by the public, their stakeholders and their customers. And is done to increase business performance and growth opportunities.
This can be done, for example, by changing the way the company looks and feels, how they manage their customer journey, what products they offer, or how they communicate.
The two overarching scenarios that lead to a rebrand:
- An acquisition, merger or integration, or change of business focus – meaning a major change of the business practice.
- Declining business performance on all levels – resulting in talent drain, stagnation, negative growth numbers, and customer churn. As a result, needing to change the business to meet these challenges.
Not really sure whether it's time for a rebrand?
Then this article might be for you.
The step-by-step guide to rebranding:
1. Understand the strategic reason for rebranding
You guessed it, the first step and probably the most important step is to make sure everyone understands the strategic reason why you are rebranding. You will inevitably keep coming back to this point. Every single stakeholder involved must be on the same page or else you will risk internal confusion. Which as you might already suspect, leads to serious external confusion.
Pro Tip: Create a clear why, talking points, and FAQs, and distribute them throughout the entire organization. Transparency is key.
2. Define your brand team and governance
Taking on a rebrand is a massive job. You will either underestimate the time, resources and emotion involved, or you will clearly understand it, and as result, fear it. Where do I start? Who should be involved? How will I make time for this? This is the point where most companies seek external support to drive the process using a combination of internal and external competence. Once the brand team and governance are in place, you can start to create roadmaps, processes, milestones, and KPIs.
Pro tip: Create the governance based on how you think the operations will be run going forward and always include the CEO. Again transparency is key – make sure the roadmap is transparent and highlight key changes and milestones that happen along the way.
3. Analyze your brand
Once you’ve gotten the practicals out of the way and set up structures, you will start on your comprehensive brand audit. At this point, you’ve already decided that it’s in the company’s best interest to rebrand, so this audit is about understanding how much brand equity you actually have in the market. This includes an analysis on your current and future market, the competitive landscape, the visual universe you live in now, your internal culture, and your current and future customers.
Pro Tip: Try to keep emotions out of it. This is all about facts and you want to get as many of them on the table as possible.
4. Define or redefine your strategic brand elements
At the conclusion of the brand audit, you will have a pretty clear idea of the trends and gaps which means you now have a starting point to begin the process of defining or redefining your strategic brand elements. The brand audit coupled with your strategic reason for the rebrand will lay the foundation for this work.
For example, if your reason for rebranding is because of declining business performance and your entire business strategy has changed because of it, you will most likely spend more time aligning your purpose, vision, and mission to the new strategy. Maybe your reason is an M&A, and then you might spend more time on how to bring the new acquisition into your current brand portfolio.
The strategic brand elements include who you are, why you exist, what you want to achieve, how you’re going to achieve it, and who you are doing it for. This is your opportunity to go back into your brand platform and evaluate:
- Do we actually have a purpose and what is it?
- Are we hitting home on our vision statement?
- Are we talking to a new or different audience?
- How will new brands or sub-brands affect our current platform
- Does our look and feel manifest who we want to be as a company
- Do our products and services need to change?
Pro Tip: Have the right people in the room for these workshops and go into them with an open mind. This is about what is right for the brand and not what the team personally likes. Remember this should all be driven by your brand audit and your reason for rebranding- facts on the table!
5. Articulate your aspired position
Rebranding is about changing the perception of your brand in the minds’ of your stakeholders. This means you need to analyze the current space you take in their minds, and articulate a future position based on your new strategic focus. This will be the guiding principle for the growth and development of your brand.
Pro tip: Decide if you want to link your future position to your competition or your own aspired brand archetype. Not sure what an archetype is? Read about it here.
6. Articulate your brand experience rules
Brand experience rules communicate how your organization should act toward your stakeholders on a daily basis. It’s a way to operationalize on your mission and a way to align your brand experiences at all internal and external touchpoints.
These rules should orbit around the customer, define the actions that are required for creating the experiences that bring you further, and enable your organization to be “on brand” at any level, in any activity, and through all of your communication and actions.
Pro tip: Create brand rules that are unique to you. Make them super simple and achievable, yet aspirational. And watch this space for an article about how to make a great set of brand rules!
7. Develop your brand identity
Throughout the process, your brand identity is going to come up. And most likely it will spark a lot of opinions and emotions. You will, at this point in the process, have already analyzed your current visual identity and considered this when developing your strategic brand elements. And now it’s time to actually match your new strategy with the visual image you want to create.
This is where everything comes together and your aspired position and strategy are converted into visual assets. You’re creating something tangible that makes your strategy come to life. Maybe in the end you only change the colors, or you decide to just change the font. Either way, it is a process that should be based on your strategy.
Pro tip: Always ensure open and constant communication, and never forget 1) the strategic reason for the rebrand, and 2) the facts from the brand audit. Because, in our experience, nothing involves more emotions than a visual identity.
8. Clarify and adjust your messaging
Taking a new position usually requires a new set of value propositions and a new view on the way you represent your brand through communications. This means your messaging will most likely need to change internally and externally and be reflected in your overall communication strategy.
Pro Tip: Create a message map focusing on each target group, internally and externally. Don’t overwhelm your market. Start slow, make it concrete, and don’t overthink it.
9. Create comprehensive and holistic brand guidelines (not only how to use the logo)
This should be a center of excellence for all things brand. Your entire brand platform, design assets, and messaging should be readily available for the entire organization. You should not only just include the elements, but also include how to use these elements in different scenarios.
Pro tip: To make it accessible, use a digital platform to host your brand guidelines. Your brand is a living organism after all and should probably not sit in a static PDF or God forbid, a PowerPoint…where all strategy goes to die.
10. Implement the new brand strategy
Now, that you have settled on your new platform and defined the way forward, the fun really starts! Start with defining your roadmap on how to apply the new strategy to all communication touchpoints and then develop internal programs to get people aligned and motivated! Read more about this in our third article in our rebranding series: "Implement like crazy!"
Pro tip: Do an inside-out approach. Involve many different people in the organization in different departments in order to align the brand in every part of the company. Start your external rollout once your internal people are on board.
The rebrand emotional rollercoaster
Phew! You’ve now gotten through what we call the RER – the Rebrand Emotional Rollercoaster! We would be doing a disservice if we claimed there are not highs and lows when going through this process, but trust us, it is worth it! By going through these steps and taking the time to create the brand that truly fits who you are and where you want to go, you will save a lot of time, money, and risk of making unsubstantiated decisions.
From here it is all about implementation and aligning all touchpoints to create the experiences you strive for. If you are ready to focus on all things implementation, we urge you to read our third article in our rebranding series: "Implement like crazy!"
Want to read more? Read the other articles in the rebrand series: