Whether you’re a non-profit organization or a for-profit corporation, there will come a time when you’ll want to consider rebranding. Few consumers, for example, would want to join, buy from, or donate to a brand that didn’t have a relevant, fresh, up-to-date look. Because a rebranding doesn’t happen often, many marketing or communications departments that serve as stewards for “the brand” can find themselves at a loss when it comes to how to approach rebranding or repositioning. With that said, let’s define a rebrand. Many consumers will recognize a logo change. But what they don’t realize is that a full rebrand may touch every aspect a consumer interacts with. In a rebrand, an organization is looking to change its corporate image or the consumer’s perception of the company. To make this change, a rebrand should involve not only the logo, but also the imagery, content, and the tone of messaging. Think of it this way: You love your favorite brand not just because of the logo, but for what makes the brand unique.
MOSAIC has worked on a number of rebranding efforts over the years, both large and small. Here are 8 steps that you’ll want to consider as you go through any rebranding process.
Step 1: Understand your rationale and scope.
In other words, why do you want to do a rebrand in the first place? Usually, it’s not just prompted by an outdated logo, although that may certainly be part of it. Typically, companies rebrand for a number of reasons including:
- You’re hoping to expand the brand to be attractive to a new target demographic, (For example, targeting a younger or more diverse audience)
- You’re looking to differentiate from the competition
- Your mission/values have evolved
- Your ‘look’ is simply outdated
- You’ve experienced a merger
- Your current brand has been tarnished by a negative event (e.g., Arthur Andersen’s evolution to become Accenture)
As for scope, more significant rebranding efforts will often require a name change. The process of choosing a new name is never easy and is often fraught with other challenges, especially if one is chosen through a committee process (see the step on meeting internally.) You have a number of questions to consider, including the following:
- How much of the old brand (which has its own equity) do you want to keep? Is it a full break from the past or only a slight revision?
- Do you want to keep some look and feel elements from the old band to help smooth the transition?
- Are you creating a new brand based on the acronym for what people actually call you versus what your official name is? (The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development simply became ASCD because that’s how the audience referred to them. Another example is when Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC.
Step 2: Do it yourself or hire an agency.
After you’ve determined the rationale and scope of your rebrand and decided to move forward, the question becomes is you want to execute a whole rebranding yourself or hire an agency, or another outside source to help you. It’s certainly not unheard of for companies of all sizes to simply do it themselves, although it’s much rarer these days, simply due to the specialization and deliverables involved. That’s why even small organizations turn to agencies for help– because they have neither the time nor the resources. Agencies will also help you think through many of the next steps: your audience focus (new or existing), designing different options, preparing a style guide, providing you the tools and organization you need to spread the word internally, and launching externally. Finally, companies turn to an agency because they are an outside source with a “fresh set of eyes.” An outside group may be able to think more objectively and see the challenges from an untarnished view.
Step 3: Thinking through your audience target.
The foundation of all good marketing is audience focus. And your brand is no different in that respect. As mentioned above, many rebrands happen because of the need to attract a different audience than the one(s) you currently have. Understanding the needs of this new audience goes hand in hand with shifting your brand toward a more compelling (and typically modern) look and feel. Everything will be affected by what audiences you want to attract: design styles, colors, naming, messaging, tagline, photography, content, and more. This makes it critical to do your audience research upfront. In particular, make sure to do a few things:
- Conduct interviews or focus groups with current customers, as well as those potential audiences you’d like to attract moving forward.
- Create surveys around challenges or pain points these audiences face, and figure out how you help those groups solve those problems. That also should be reflected in your brand.
- Finally, compile the information and create personas around your various audience types. If you don’t have the bandwidth internally for this, an agency can certainly help you.
Step 4: Create your internal brand team.
All the steps are certainly important in the process, but of those, selecting the right people to be on your brand team is a critical step. That’s because this group will be the individuals who provide all the initial feedback on the designs and who steer the agency’s design team in a particular direction. They will need to agree on any new name as well. There are no set rules for how many should be on the committee or exactly whom to choose but it helps if the individuals have a particular design aesthetic and are leaders in areas that use the brand a lot – marketing, communications, sales, design, etc.
Many ask us too: Should the CEO be on the committee? After all, he or she is the ultimate arbiter of whether a new rebranding will work for the company. The answer is, it depends. Is the CEO really hands-on? How involved are they in the day-to-day operations? If you don’t include the CEO on the team itself, then it’s certainly important to keep them well-informed of the developments and the designs as you make progress. In short, make them feel like they’re a part of the process. The worst thing in the world is for the brand team to spring the final designs on the CEO and have them reject your hard work out of hand.
Step 5: Create various options and produce a style guide.
Now that you have your brand team set, your audience focus identified, and your rationale and your scope determined, it’s time to create the options. Hopefully, if you’ve hired a good agency, they will execute the rebrand based on the information gathered from the previous steps. We would recommend a few things as you do this operationally:
- Create an initial set of options. Start with the obvious and most identifiable aspect of the brand, the logo.
- Think about the narrative you want that logo to tell. A good design will have a “story” behind it (e.g., what do the upward strokes mean? What does the particular symbol represent? What story are the colors telling?)
- Have ongoing check-ins with not just the brand committee but the ultimate decision makers (CEO etc.) as you go. Plan for multiple rounds of feedback.
- Create a focus group with external users (particularly those of the core audiences) to get their feedback as the rebranding progresses as well.
Once you’ve finalized the design and everyone is signed off, you’ll want to start the work on creating the style guide. The style guide will:
- Determine the major and alternative brand colors.
- Provide the official logos in varying recommended sizes and versions, supply logo files for use on a light and a dark background, establish what uses are allowed and what’s against the rules, etc.
- Define the typography (fonts etc.) that can be used.
- Define the use of photography with the brand.
- Define standards around other visuals (graphics, video, illustrations, icons use)
- Define rules for language, messaging, and tone of voice.
- and more!
Step 6: Selling the rebrand internally.
Even if all your decision-makers sign off and love the new rebrand, you still have to sell it internally to employees. After all, your employees are the ones who have to “market the brand” every day. They, like your CEO, have to believe in the new approach. That’s why we recommend about 4 weeks before launching to the public, creating an internal campaign to sell to the employees. We at MOSAIC like the idea of throwing a special unveiling; The type of event where employees view the brand for the first time. Here are some recommendations for the event:
- Have the creative team there to present so they can explain the brand evolution, particularly what they were trying to solve, and why the new design answers those challenges.
- Put the brand in the employees’ hands – provide everyone with t-shirts, mugs, or hats with the new logo.
- Encourage feedback and questions so employees can feel seen and heard.
- Make sure to point them to the places where the brand style guide and all the creative assets live.
- And of course, outline the process for any approvals or use as you guide the implementation of the new brand. Keeping hold of the use of the brand is very important, especially when it is new to the employees.
Step 7: Prepare the transition.
When you think about it, companies project their brand everywhere they do business. And when they rebrand, all those “touchpoints” have to be updated. This step in particular can get overwhelming if you don’t approach it in a rigorous and comprehensive manner, especially when it comes to employees using and implementing the new brand and its guidelines. Many companies will prioritize this list, opting to changeover the public-facing areas first before doing the internal ones. How you approach this is up to you. If you can, MOSAIC recommends an effort to try to do both at the same time but we know companies face resource constraints in this regard. Here are just a few of the areas you’ll want to make sure to change over:
- Website logos
- Website favicons
- Email addresses
- Email signatures
- SEO (especially if you’ve made a name change or created an entirely new website, you’ll want to redirect old pages to new pages).
- Domain names
- Metadata and descriptions
- Page titles
- Taxonomy tags
- Marketing collateral
- Newsletter templates
- Promotional materials (sales materials)
- Business cards
- Swag / Giveaways
- Financial materials (invoices, tax filings)
- Social Media
- Leader Bios
- Advertising (Google Ad Words, Display)
- Directories with the company name or brand displayed.
- All assets for partners and affiliates
- Brand style guide
- Media kit
- Brand asset library
- Content guidelines
- Employee handbook
Step 8: Launch your rebranding to the public.
With all of the preparation and energy you’ve spent in the past several months to make your rebranding a reality, now comes the moment of truth: You have to tell the public about it. Along the way, hopefully you’ve provided a sneak peek at the new branding for some of the focus groups so you’ll have some assurance that the new look and feel will play well with your intended audiences. Like any big, new campaign, you’ll want to make sure you:
- Create a press release and/or an event around the brand unveiling (similar to what you did internally).
- Invite the media, your partners, affiliates, contractors, or others associated with your company.
- It is recommended to engage a PR professional to help announce the change.
- Develop all the promotional assets you need in every channel, especially for the website, social media, video, email, and other key channels.
- Make sure your employees know your brand story and talking points so they give that “30-second elevator speech,” in their interactions with customers.
There are other steps that you’ll want to consider that are specific to your organization, but those mentioned above are the most significant milestones. At MOSAIC, we can help you through the rebranding process. We’ll help you identify the potential roadblocks and challenges and help you steer a path forward – all the way to the exciting launch to the public. For more information on our rebranding services, feel free to contact us today.