Oct 03, 2017

Before considering a rebrand, understand what’s involved.

A search on “when to rebrand” gets millions of hits, many from highly credible sources. What is less clear is what is involved in rebranding.
By Charlie Cosad

Most of the material available centers on logos and look and feel, B2C, and, while such matters are important, it is an easy trap to fall into—letting design dominate thinking. Looked at another way, planning a rebrand is like getting a first pet. Arriving home is not the time to ask “what does it eat”? 

Let’s consider the investment required for rebrand by breaking it down into two categories:


The first category includes products and services that have clear line-item pricing in a budget and visibly represent the brand. Spend the money and the brand change is made. Don't and the previous brand remains visible. This is primarily where logos appear: signage (often the biggest expense), rolling stock (often number 2), sales material, business cards, websites, branded inventory, etc. Unfortunately, too many people think this visible part is the main component of a rebrand. Get it done and move on. It may be the most you’ll spend on, but it is not where the challenge lies. 

The term “partial rebrand” often appears in the literature though “logo change” is a better definition of this. “Partial rebrand” typically does not involve a pivot in brand essence and personality, a new business strategy, or M&A-driven changes. New customer messaging may be involved, but that is very different from changing an underlying brand identity, which will ultimately affect employees. 


The second category to consider for rebrand cost is the implementation team and any staff resources required from across company functions. A rebrand affects all functions, in ways often not anticipated. 

Because this second category of cost is the invisible part of a rebrand—people resources—management finds it easy to cut, accelerate phase-out, or dictate that affected functions carry out the work in addition to their normal duties. Remember that this is the critical part of a rebrand and must not be squeezed.  

Employee Communications

First and foremost, employee communications are a lot of work and very time-consuming, including senior management time. Employee behavior is a frequent source of integration failure, especially for M&A. It is what results when not enough time and effort have been invested in employees—under or responsible for a new brand—understanding and supporting the change, or becoming brand ambassadors. 

For any significant brand change, assign a team with a leader who has credibility and support from senior management and garners respect in the organization. Decisions need to be taken, executed, and, most importantly, the organization needs to understand the “why” behind the change. Some may not agree with the “what,” but they need to understand the “why” and support the change. Any that do not have to be moved out immediately regardless of where they are in the organization. Brand is not a democracy and the individual selected to lead the change must be credible and have their decisions supported.

This highlights the challenge of function engagement in any brand change. Marketing communications is the easy one. There is often scope for other functions that is under-resourced or under-appreciated. HR may have compensation structure changes to manage. Recruiting is critical. Legal may have changes in contracts and compliance. Supply chain may have to deal with everything from supplier logo inventory to M&A-driven new suppliers and integrating common ones. As the face to customers, the sales function has to clearly understand all changes and be strong brand advocates that are on message. 

Digital Engagement 

Digital and websites, both internal and external, are THE way to plan rebrands. Consider how they address all stakeholders in a complete way: products and services, about us, investor relations, recruiting, suppliers, employees, social media, etc. A roadmap for website evolution is critical. Buy a company, buy a website (or a few).

Management most often do not adequately resource rebrand activities. It is at their peril. When planning for a rebrand, if you think the resources may not be adequate, they are not. 

We’d love to hear your rebrand stories, both good and bad (the bad ones are usually a lot more fun). We promise to share. Get in touch.

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