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Insight: Rebranding recipe

by Randall Craig on September 23, 2016

Filed in: Blog, Branding, Insight, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , , ,

Have you wondered why an organization’s rebrand doesn’t seem particularly right?  That maybe they missed something along the way?  A bad rebrand can mean that at best, it doesn’t deliver the expected benefits, and at worst the brand is ridiculed in the market.

There are no shortage of these flubs – here are two:

  • The American SciFi cable channel renamed itself SyFy, presumably to appeal more widely.  Syfy is British street slang for syphilis, which definitely does not have much appeal.
  • When Houston Oil and Internorth merged, they chose the name Enteron.  This name was quickly discarded, as it was discovered to be the anatomical name for  intestines.  They then shortened it to Enron, which of course went bankrupt after the discovery of accounting irregularities. (Maybe they should have kept the name Enteron?)

So what does a successful rebranding recipe look like? Here is our approach, boiled down to ten practical steps:

  1. Rebranding scope:  Is it to change the name?  Change the logo and visual identity? “Refresh” the logo and visual identity?  Completely change the brand positioning?  Change the underlying attitudes and organizational culture?  Depending on the initial scope – and the scope might change after the discovery audit and competitive analysis – the investment and the time required can vary significantly.
  2. Discovery audit:  To determine where you want to go, a realistic assessment of your current brand is critical. Using surveys, focus groups, and interviews, ask three key questions:
    • What are the current brand attributes in the eyes of future target prospects/clients/members?
    • What are the current brand attributes in the eyes of staff and leadership?
    • What (future) brand attributes are important, by key audience?
  3. Competitive analysis:  What brand attributes are critical in the market, and how are competitors positioned?  For example, assume that the critical dimensions are price, expertise, and trust; imagine a 3D graph with each on an axis.  Where is each competitor in this space?  Where are you?  And is there a spot that is unoccupied?
  4. Positioning statement, Brand Promise, and Personas:  These define the core attributes of the brand, and the key aspirational messages for each persona. (Personas are representative descriptions of each key audience.)  Looking at the brand through the eyes of each persona puts meat on the brand skeleton, and allows an exploration of how the brand might be executed.
  5. Validation:  This means testing the positioning statement and brand promise, both internally and externally.  It can be as robust as national market research by persona, or as simple as an informal discussion with key audiences.
  6. Name discovery and research: If a name change is involved in the rebranding, this is the process that converts the positioning statement and brand promise into potential name candidates.
  7. Validation:  The names must be tested for meaning in different languages, cultures, and geographies.  There also needs be checks for existing domain names, trademarks/copyrights – and Google.  When there are several name options, ask focus groups to rate each option against the desired brand attributes.
  8. Logo and Visual Identity:  This begins the process of transforming the brand from words into its visual representation.
  9. Validation:  Often times, there are several visual identity and/or logo alternatives.  Use focus groups to rate each option against the desired brand attributes.
  10. Collateral production:  This includes the production of business cards, stationery, signage, powerpoint and word templates, website, social media, etc.

A rebranding process is only half-done if it stops at the production of the collateral – the brand must be launched.  The rebranding opportunity must also be used to lock in other changes, both in attitude and in behavior. This can be accomplished in many ways:

  • A launch event
  • A PR campaign
  • An advertising campaign
  • Employee training
  • New perks or policy changes
  • Internal town halls
  • Management shuffle
  • New management metrics
  • Improved internal communications
  • New business processes

Does a rebranding effort need to have all ten of these steps?  No – the effort accordions up or down, based on a number of factors, including business criticality, timeline and deadlines, budget, and management priorities.   Recognize however, that your risk increases dramatically as less effort is spent.  (Syfy, anyone?)

This week’s action plan:  Strong brands get stronger because they approach branding strategically, not opportunistically.  This week, use the rebranding process as a checklist: which activity (Discovery audit, Competitive analysis, New collateral, etc) can best strengthen your existing brand?

Marketing insight #1:  Of the ten rebranding steps, notice that a full half of them are external validation?  This ensures the brand’s market relevance and impact.  And of the ten launch activities, seven of them are internal?  Only if your brand is strong on the inside, will it be strong on the outside.

Marketing insight #2:  While brand standards are critical for consistency, locked-in-stone branding can become brittle and break.  The best brands have some built-in flex.

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Randall Craig

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About 

Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at randallcraig.com and 108ideaspace.com.

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