Branding, just like leadership, is about making the right people like and trust you. And whether that’s an initial brand development or a rebrand, it has the power to breathe new life into your company:
- Staff will be clearer on your purpose, vision, and values.
- Potential customers will resonate with your personality and communications.
- Sales will get easier.
- Marketing will be more efficient as designers, writers, and creators for your brand will have clear guidelines.
Several points in a company’s growth may require a rebrand – like new leadership or ownership, a new vision, growing outside your current geographic area or particular niche market, and commoditization of your products and services.
When a rebrand is warranted, it might be tempting to brush it off and say, “Well, we have a marketing team for that.”
Tackling a rebrand is so much more than just making a new logo and brand guide and then tossing those things onto a website. It requires leadership at all levels, strategic thinking, and process-driven execution. Everyone needs to work from the same playbook, and it can help to have an outside voice to guide your organization through it.
If you’re flippant about the importance of doing a rebrand right, here are three major ways you can make it unintentionally fail.
Let Your Leadership Team Become Spectators
If your leadership team doesn’t understand why you’re rebranding, your internal leadership and your brand will constantly be at odds. “Brand” and “leadership” go hand-in-hand. They should inform the actions and behaviors of one another. In fact, one former faculty member at the University of Oregon’s brand-focused Advertising program claimed that he used the leadership literature—almost exclusively—to teach major principles of branding. Leadership determines how the company operates, and so the leadership team needs to lead and be involved in the branding effort.
“…since the effective delivery of the corporate brand promise is reliant on individual employees, each service encounter may potentially lead to variability of the corporate brand experience. This concerns not only the interactions between customer-facing staff and existing and potential customers but also those between the customer-facing staff and the back office staff.” (Foster, 2010)
One of the biggest ways to fail at a rebrand is not involving your entire leadership team. Just leaving the job to one department or manager is the wrong way to go.
Recruit the Wrong Team
Planning and teamwork is critical to any project, especially one that’s complicated and requires a lot of judgment and discernment (like a rebrand). While getting leadership on the same page is a big deal as you start the rebrand process, here are some common mistakes people make when it comes to executing some of the tactical parts of your rebrand:
- Provide unclear assignments: You must clearly identify who’s supposed to lead the execution of the rebrand. The leadership team will have a lot of meetings and discussions to talk about the rebrand, but someone needs to turn that into action. It can’t be someone who’s never done a rebrand, and you can’t just assume that whoever takes notes in a meeting will magically turn them into something meaningful. Getting this wrong will cause more problems in the process. Results will fail to materialize, the talk of the rebrand will drag on with nothing to show for it, and people might even start to root against the success of the rebrand.
- Hire an inexpensive (or inexperienced) designer: It’s tempting to assume that just because you have someone with the title of ‘graphic designer’ on-staff, the visual side of your rebrand is going to be amazing. But all designers are not created equal, and designing a brand’s visual identity is different than designing a nice one-sheet. A professional designer who’s done brand work for larger companies or high-stakes projects is more likely to use a professional process that considers design best practices for typography, textures, and logo creation. Your nephew who just got his design degree from the local community college may be a cheaper option, but that doesn’t mean he’s the right one for your rebrand.
- Internalize too much work: Some things should be kept in-house, and most of the time your internal staff will gladly take on whatever you ask them to do. But when it comes to creating highly-focused assets for your rebrand (verbal guidelines, values, personality traits, brand story, visual guidelines, etc.), using internal resources to produce them may cost you more (and take longer) than if you used an external person or vendor. For example, their $25/hr could take 40 hours and a bunch of your time while an experienced agency could charge $120/hr, get the same task done in 5 hours, and give you a MUCH better product.
Run the Branding Project Yourself
Even if you think you have the expertise to handle the creative direction for your rebrand on your own, you’re going to need help. Coordinating a rebrand by yourself is a confusing chore that will exceed all time and budget predictions you made ahead of time. And if you try to go it alone, you’ll isolate the rest of your leadership team (see fail #1 above) and likely drive yourself nuts. You can’t juggle your typical duties and add the complexity of a rebrand to your plate without something breaking.
Instead, you should be the evaluator. You should be fresh eyes on the work someone else is doing. You can certainly have a voice, but your “ownership” of the rebrand should be limited to specific points in the process where it’s prudent for you to flex that muscle. Set the vision for your vendor and delegate. A professional branding team will take those marching orders and probably cover a lot of other bases you didn’t even think of (i.e., validating your brand definition pieces through customer/employee surveys and interviews, strategize a roll-out plan for the rebrand, etc.).
It’s natural to let pride get in the way on this one. As a leader, you sometimes feel like you have to do everything yourself because no one else can do it like you do. That’s simply not true. Don’t fall into that trap.
That’s How You Fail. Succeed by Doing the Opposite
The purpose of a rebrand effort is to connect with your audience in a more meaningful way – to get them to like and trust you. The process isn’t easy. When you lack specific experience, fail to get everyone in leadership on board, pull in the wrong people to help, or try to D.I.Y. it, you’ll run into major roadblocks. Most of the time, you’ll save money and get a better product when you let someone else outside the organization take on the work.
Outsourcing the rebrand process puts you in the right position: as the evaluator of the work being done. From that seat, you can have a clearer picture of how the rebrand will speak to your customers and your team. If you get lost in the mire of the details, your brand (and a lot of other things) will suffer.