For many companies, a rebrand opportunity is some cocktail of excitement, hope, dread, and annoyance. There’s the inspiring stuff — brand new logo, a compelling mission statement, and that one-of-a-kind catharsis that comes with a fresh start. Then there’s the challenging stuff — expense, disruption, and the impending doom of timelines. And interestingly, both aspects are exacerbated when you realize a rebrand is actually a two part process, and those parts are very distinct. The first of course, is the rebrand itself. This is no surprise. The other? Launching your brand. This is actually a marketing project, which should be considered separately from the rebrand process itself. It is equally — if not more — important than creating the actual brand. Let’s run over some key aspects of each project so you understand the nuances of these separate but interrelated efforts.
Project 1: Creating your brand
This is the fun stuff — when we build your smart, beautiful, and impactful brand. The material we make in this phase spans two distinct categories:
1. Core brand components
2. Brand tools
Core brand material is the very essence of your brand: your logo, mission, values, language, tone of voice, brand book and guidelines, etc. Simply put, this is everything that defines and expresses your organization. In a rebrand situation, you might be rethinking individual components (logo or positioning, for example) or the whole platform.
Brand tools, on the other hand, are the assets that support your brand: logo variations, slide decks, avatars, stationary — all the elements that represent and support your brand out in the wild. Each organization will have its own needs, of course. Fleet vehicles? Sonic branding? Signage? These are the must-haves for day-to-day operations. And don’t forget your brand guide — codifying how these tools are used to ensure consistency.
Project 2: Launching your brand
It’s this second project that carries the most risk and reward. Launching your brand is about capturing opportunities that will solidify your brand in the hearts and minds of your audiences. You can have the smartest, most on-strategy brand, but if you botch the deployment, everything else becomes an uphill battle. This phase is about marketing your brand to ensure that your audiences receive it well. This is easier for some organizations than others. In our work, we’ve noticed three types of rebranding experiences that have unique implications. To figure out what category you fall in, ask yourself:
– Who will care about this the most? Our internal stakeholders, external audiences, or both?
– Is our shift going to be big enough to surprise or delight external audiences? Should we explain it?
– Will anyone feel upset, surprised, or confused when they see our new brand?
Rebrands with internal focus
If your answer to the first question is “just internal stakeholders,” then you fall here. Your rebrand is driven by an internal need or force and primarily affects those on your internal team. You external audiences will accept the rebrand easily, it does not disrupt their lives in a notable way. Maybe over time your organization kind of lost its way, or you can no longer clearly define what it is that you do and why you do it. Maybe your mission is no longer relevant or your values need updating. Maybe you’re just bored or you feel dated. Whatever the reason, your opportunities are internal. This type of rebrand presents opportunities for employee engagement, renewed purpose, and team building.
The good news? There may be no need to even publicize it. In this case, your external audiences really don’t need a press release about the new logo on the door or updated positioning statement. The changes, and any questions they might spur, are easily handled in one-on-one interactions or with minimal fanfare.
Rebrands with external focus
If your answer indicated that external audiences will care or have the potential to be surprised or delighted, yours is a rebrand driven by an external need or force, and your launch plan should respond accordingly. These types of rebrands offer a significant opportunity to boost visibility, clarify messaging, and reposition an organization in the marketplace — without engendering audience angst. They certainly have internal benefits, but the external opportunities are what make this type of rebrand unique.
Most notably, this type of rebrand is for organizations with stakeholders who may not have an emotional connection to their brand; yet could be interested when you have something new to say. In other words, your audience won’t freak out if they wake up tomorrow to see that your colors changed. But they could be delighted or enthused by your new groove.
Despite not having to worry about emotional pressures or reactions, your organization still needs to have clear language on why you chose to rebrand. This ensures continuity with your audience and avoids operational confusion. Further, you have an opportunity to capture mindshare and strengthen your market position if you launch carefully. Your launch plan should focus on seizing opportunity to engage and excite.
Rebrands with emotional connections
The third type of a brand launch is for lifestyle brands or organizations that have an emotionally connected audience. Brands that are an extension of their audience’s personality or ones that are tightly integrated into their audiences’s lives.
If your organization bases its identity around the people you serve —or conversely, if the people you serve see their relationship with you as part of their identity — you have the most marketing work to do. When undergoing this type of rebrand, you must heavily consider the external pressures and reactions from your audience. Tweets and Facebook comments from arm-chair experts and grumpy folks, complaints about expense, and the existential “but why?”s. Your launch plan not only needs to tell the tale of why you rebranded, but it also needs to be ready to promote, celebrate, and when necessary, defend.
Let’s talk about some of the considerations that will help capture those opportunities.
Budget for rollout and promotion
This is the most important thing to consider. Your budget is going to dictate everything about your brand promotion strategy, so think about it carefully and think about it early, and remember that it’s going to be more than a few dollars. Promoting your new brand is an investment with grand returns, if done properly.
Marketing materials and language: The materials created in this phase are wholly different from the core brand materials and brand tools made in Project 1. Materials like blog posts, social posts, web copy, press releases, collateral, swag, and campaigns take their own library of marketing language — the language that properly explains your rebrand and its benefits to all stakeholders. These efforts are ephemeral but must hit the perfect tone. If you’re promoting a full rebrand, borrow from the brand language created in Project 1. If you’re promoting a visual change only, your tone of voice will be familiar, but the messaging will revolve around the benefits and reasoning of change.
Audiences: You need to establish who you’re going to tell about the rebrand and how you’re going to tell them. (psst: internal audiences first!) How and what you tell your staff is going to be different than how and what you tell the people your organization serves.
For example, your staff needs to know the elevator pitch and how to talk about the rebrand outside of your office. What other tools do they need to help the rollout be successful once they are in the brand ambassador role?
Fanfare: Consider these factors: How much fanfare do you need in promoting your new brand? Do you need to deck the halls for a launch party? Or will a simple explanation on your website suffice?
Also, think about earned media and how much you’ll be able to get.
Rebrand story: The story for your rebrand should be apparent and accessible. It should signal confidence so that your audience feels empowered to carry the story forward. Of course, it’s a rebrand story not a rebrand sermon. It should include an interesting, relevant narrative, the thinking behind the rebrand, and where the rebrand is taking you.
In the end, opportunity
For us, unveiling a client’s new brand is like watching a kid open their birthday presents. The end product is something to take pride in; it’s the expression of who you are as an organization; it’s a fun journey. Just remember the journey isn’t over when the new brand is delivered — in many ways it’s just starting. The crucial work comes when it’s time to cut the ribbon and present your new identity to the rest of the world.