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Last updated: October 2022
There are plenty of helpful articles that offer advice on brand marketing and rebranding. It is important to remember to emphasise the WHY in order to ensure that you should be rebranding your brand in the first place and; making sure that you’re making the right decision to take on a rebranding strategy exercise in the first place.
Some of the most common reasons include international expansion such as into cross border e-commerce, change in ownership, portfolio expansions or reduction, brand reputation first aid, meeting marketing objectives, keeping up with the latest trends, and improving your relevance in the marketplace.
Moving on from the ‘why’, let’s look at what’s involved now that you have made the decision to re-brand and how to create an effective marketing action plan. It’s time to dig deep into the heart of your brand and business values and vision – and guess what, in small businesses that means taking a look in the mirror, it’s all about you!
We’ve identified seven steps that will help you get it right. Let’s face it, there are plenty of cases of rebranding gone wrong and while making mistakes is part of the valuable learning process, it will pay to make the effort early on.
- CLARITY – Summarise the reasons for your decision clearly and set aside an estimated budget.
- VALUES – Check in with your core values, set the scene for a re-brand.
- VISION – Planning for the future, alignment of new branding with company goals.
- VERIFICATION – Research, brand values & positioning.
- VALIDATION – Share with those that count.
- LET’S DO THIS – Fire away, tell the world.
- MOMENTUM – This is just the start. Don’t stop here.
Let’s go through each of these steps.
1. CLARITY – Summarise your marketing objectives
Clarity around the re-brand
So, you have made the decision to re-brand, the team is on board and you are ready to start the process. The first step is to make sure that you have clarified the problem, or the reason for your decision, in a brief sentence or two as to why you need to re-brand. This will help later on when you’re right in the midst of it and things are not going well or getting difficult.
It will allow you to look back and ensure you are on the right path, so that your final decision will achieve your initial marketing objectives. Failure to take this step could result in an entirely new brand positioning that doesn’t address the problem in the first place.
Here’s an example of a problem statement of a small accountancy firm:
‘Our customers now have the option to do all their accounting online with software like Xero, reducing the importance of our bookkeeping service. We need to reposition ourselves to provide more financial and business advice in order to meet the changing accounting needs of our customers.’
Furthermore, it is critical to have an idea of how much the total rebranding process will cost. Consider the design, research, changing of the various elements, and investment in the brand awareness campaigns required as part of your budgeting. It’s a good idea to make note of all the platforms, signage, and printed collateral that you’ll need to update and assign costs to each. That will help give you an accurate picture of the re-brand cost.
The easiest way of doing this is as you go about your business activities, be conscious of the various elements that will require the new brand look and feel. Compile this list as you go and over a few weeks, you will end up with a comprehensive checklist that can be ticked off.
This checklist will include items such as:
- business cards
- marketing and sales collateral (presentation and other business templates, brochures, signage)
- advertising creative
- email signature
- social media accounts
- digital screens
- and more…
2. VALUES – Checking in with your core values, setting the scene for a re-brand.
The great thing about owning and running a small business is that so much of its original essence has probably come from YOU and your core values. Your desire to do something different, to help solve a problem, to follow a passion, to be more authentic and honest, to give others a better option, and the list goes on. Those values have played a part, whether acknowledged or not, in building the personality and ethos behind your brand and company.
As businesses expand or change over time, however, one major risk is that the core values can be diluted, distracted, and somehow lost along the way. It is therefore vital that in a rebranding process, the first step should be to check in with those values to see if they still hold true.
Here are some questions to start the process. Write down the answers and say them aloud to someone – this will help to verify them.
•What are your own values?
• Which values do you live by?
• What values do you look for in others?
• Have your core values changed from when you were starting out in your first career or when you first started in this business?
• What are your company and brand values?
• Are these values still relevant to your brand or do they need updating?
Pull out the common themes that are coming through, make sure they are still true and hold them close throughout this process to make sure they have a voice in the final branding solution.
3. VISION – Planning for the future, alignment of new branding with company goals.
It’s time to dust off the business action plan. No, you can breathe again, the rebranding exercise doesn’t mean you need to start over but it does require some review.
Why? Two main reasons.
To assess whether the business goals are still relevant and accurate given that you have identified a need to re-brand. Was the brand the problem or are we now in a new competitive environment that requires a fresh look at the business goals – the tail wagging the dog story.
By changing the brand can I still achieve the goals? The research may have thrown up a few curve balls that require some goal revision. It may be that the rebranding process has given confidence to refine or improve a core goal. For example “to be the #1 recommended service provider in NZ by 2025” could be updated to “to be the #1 recommended service provider in the Auckland region by 2023”.
What’s important here is to make sure that the business plan stays relevant and precise as a result of the rebranding process.
4. VERIFICATION – This is the research part.
It goes without saying that you know your customers, your competitors, your industry, what’s changing, how your brand is perceived, what its strengths are, its personality and identity. Or does it?
Sometimes we feel so close to the business that it’s hard to see the wood for the trees and to realise that it’s been a while since you’ve had time to sit down and complete a 360-degree review of what’s going on. Take the time now to research every element of your brand and the world it lives in. This can be done internally, or, for some this would be the time to engage some help. Objectivity and structure at this point are extremely useful.
Research and review the following:
•Ensure you know the brand positioning you want to capture, what the brand needs to stand for and what personality it has. This will guide you in the design process and allows you to ascertain if you’re on the right path as you’re progressing through the redevelopment process.
• Equally you’ll need to review your brand’s essence, personality, values (we talked about this in step 1), and what your customers, clients, colleagues say about it.
• What’s happening in your industry, what changes are taking place, how does this affect your branding?
• Take a close look at your competitors, their brand positioning, design, messaging used so that you can identify any clear space for your brand
At the end of this process you will know what works, what doesn’t, what needs changing or tweaking in your brand design and messaging.
At this point you are ready to look at design and message options for your new brand. You may have already engaged a branding or marketing agency as mentioned above. If not, then now is the time to get the help of an experienced designer. All the work done to this point will now need to be put into a succinct, clear brief (written description of what you want for your brand) that will guide and inspire a designer in creating your new brand design.
The importance of the design brief shouldn’t be underestimated. Get it wrong and your design won’t reflect the brand accurately. Make sure you include your re-brand objectives and a detailed explanation of your target audience or personas.
5. VALIDATION – Is it just me or does everyone love it? Share with those that count.
Feeling good about the new look? Does it resonate with you?
The first level of approval required is the brand/business owner of course. Remember the core values step we completed earlier? Well now is the time to revisit them. What did you identify as the common themes, those values that you and your business stand for? Are they somehow represented in the re-branded solution? In the colours, the logo design, the tagline and messaging around the new brand?
The next step is to test the new brand with key stakeholders – management, business partners, staff (these guys will help sell your new brand). But what about your customers? You’ve seen market research done on Facebook where ‘friends/fans’ are asked for feedback on new brand options, book covers, new colour schemes or new packaging options, they have to type ‘option A, B or C’. Not a bad way to get quick feedback on two or three close options.
When agreement can’t be reached by key stakeholders then go back to the research stage and take another look at the brand positioning, core values and personality to check alignment here.
Problem statement revisited
So, you have the preferred option, time to check back in with the problem statement and marketing objectives written down at the beginning of the process to see if the new brand positioning and design is going to help you to address it.
The final stage of the validation process is to ensure that all legal requirements are covered off such as trademark and IP registration. Good advice from a professional in this area is vital.
6. LET’S DO THIS – Time to tell the world
By now the hard work is done, you have a new brand, it’s time to go for it! Here are the two main steps to launching the new brand:
Brand alignment across all business touch points.
To get it right, make sure everything that is branded is updated. Use the list you created in the budgeting phase to ensure all your touchpoints are updated with the new brand look and feel.
Tell everyone about it.
More important than perhaps anything else is to stand proud and tell your world about the new brand. This gives you the opportunity to tell a story about your brand and business.
However, the staging of the communication is critical for the success and buy in from all stakeholders. If done right, your suppliers, partners along with your strongest advocates will buy in and amplify your new brand to help embed and create further reach beyond just your efforts.
The first line of communication is internal – train and educate your own team on what has been done, why and what you are hoping to achieve. Let them know what your marketing objectives are. Employee buy in will win new customers, help hold onto loyal customers and will invigorate them.
7. MAINTAIN MOMENTUM – This is just the beginning.
It takes a long time to establish a new brand. The wider the reach of your previous brand, the longer it takes to influence the mass. It also depends on the frequency of exposure that your target audience comes in contact with your brand. The higher the frequency of contact, the faster the embedding of the new brand.
If you are a consumer brand, it can easily take 3 years or more before the majority of your target customers are aware of the change. The more you work to encourage brand awareness and invest in maintaining a level of exposure, the faster the process will be and the sooner you will reap the benefit.
So, to summarise.
While a rebranding process can at first seem daunting and resource heavy, it may also be the opportunity to achieve new goals, energise your team and generate amazing results. By following the steps outlined above, you will be able to navigate through more easily and meet your marketing objectives. Just remember to be true to your values and the values of your brand – and reach out for help if you find yourself stalling along the way!
Watch this space for a comprehensive checklist guide that covers off everything you need to update as part of the roll out.