According to The Princess Bride, a movie that I can (and will) quote ad nauseam, two of the classic life blunders are “never get involved in a land war in Asia” and “never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line.” If I may be so bold, I’d like to complete the trifecta and add “Never go into a rebrand without a strategy driven plan” to the list.
The decision to rebrand is not one that any company takes lightly. To abandon, or at the very least, re-shape your identity; one that employees, customers, vendors and the public have lived with and known for years, is a big, intimidating step. There is a certain level of comfort in the known and the safe. To take the step of rebranding, no matter how many focus groups you’ve conducted, is a leap of faith. But with proper planning (and lots of it) it doesn’t have to be a leap into the unknown; but instead, an exhilarating (and logical) leap forward into the future, where that sense of safety and familiarity still exists thanks to careful, strategic planning.
To that end, here are 3 tips to keep in mind when launching a new brand.
1. The Brand Isn’t Your Logo. It’s Your Identity – A rebrand goes well beyond changing your name, designing a fancy new logo and trying to come up with a tagline that would make Phil Knight (Nike) envious. Sure, that’s part of it, but a rebrand is about reshaping the very core of your company.
After all, a rebrand is typically done when a company decides that the path it’s currently on isn’t working. So staying on that same path with a new name is just going lead to the same results. A rebrand requires an entirely new mindset, as if it were an entirely different company. Since most people are creatures of habit, this task is more easily said than done. But ask yourself, “Where do we want to be and how do we get there?” Answering that question (and yes, it’s complicated) goes a long way in figuring out what the essence of the new brand will be.
2. Get Buy In or No One Will Buy It – The new name has been settled on. The logo really pops on all types of cardstock. Despite your best instincts, you want to go to networking events just to be able to show off your new business cards. You even have your elevator speech memorized about the essence of the brand.
And yet, no matter how excited the marketing geek in you is about the whole thing, you’re just one cog in the machinery. For the brand to truly be successful, it needs buy in from all parties. That starts internally, and should begin at the top and work its way down. It needs to be explained and communicated to everyone from sales to accounting. When you involve people from the beginning, they feel like they are truly part of the process, not just witnesses to it. With that comes a sense of pride and ownership that will help inform all of the external communications with clients, vendors, prospects and the public at large. When you involve more people in the creation of the story, it helps for the telling of that story down the road. And for all intents and purposes, there won’t be a more important chapter to tell than that first one.
3. Tell a Compelling Story – Sure, launching a new name and brand is technically news, but unless you’re Apple, you need a compelling story to go along with it if you want coverage that amounts to more than an empty press release. You’ve lived with this story for months, maybe years now. How do you articulate it so that it’s clear, compelling and aligns with all of your messaging, from internal and external communications to your website and social media presence?
Early on, you should define the voice and messaging of the new brand and everything should permeate from that. I treat message maps like the Holy Grail and use them to help inform nearly everything that I write. Identify the news angle and think like a reporter, or better yet, a customer. Ok, that logo looks great, but why should I care? Why does it matter to me? How is this different than what you were doing before, or what your competition is doing? Think about how to answer these questions and answer them honestly and clearly, careful to avoid too much fluff and marketing speak. Storytelling is about being emotive and forming connections, and the best way to get there is through honesty, clarity and maybe a good turn of phrase or two.