Even Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks; 3 Steps Toward Successful Rebranding

by David D. Menzies
I recently visited a friend who works at a 31-year-old technology company in the area with a solid customer base. This business is looking to enter new market sectors, promote an expanded global footprint, and hold back increasing competition. In addition, when it began operations, this company did one thing, but now is offering new services and needs to communicate this to prospects and existing customers. The leadership team at the company is, smartly, moving forward with a rebranding campaign, carefully committing resources into spreading the word while tracking their return on investment. Since this company is well-established as having one area of expertise within one market sector, there are challenges with communicating its new offerings. That said, even longtime operations that are considered experts in one area or another -- or perhaps are seeking to be thought of as such -- can take a few simple steps toward successful rebranding.

Get buy in from leadership and staff

Before you even begin rebranding your company, make absolutely certain that key decision makers within your organization (a) understand the need for rebranding and (b) are on-board with moving forward. I have seen instances where an ownership team decides to rebrand, starts the process, and doesn't bother to tell their sales team or employees, resulting in muddled outbound messaging to prospects and customers and animosity between staff and leadership. Conversely, you don't want to have salespeople deciding on their own that they can sign more customers by telling them the company does "X" while the rest of the team is working along with the understanding the company does "Y" or have a marketing director hire a firm to help with rebranding only to have the owner quash the idea after contracts have been signed.

Ideally, once the marketing team and leadership team are committed to moving forward, holding a company-wide in-person staff meeting at the very beginning of the process will generate a great deal of open communication and enthusiasm for the rebranding process throughout the company.

Establish goals

In the case of the previously mentioned company, they have specific market visibility, lead generation, and business development goals for their rebranding. Other businesses may need rebranding to push a new product or service, while others may need to bury an under-achieving brand or one that is associated with a negative situation from the past. Increased website visits, better lead conversion, more incoming phone calls, increased response to direct marketing, higher event and webinar participation, and improved quarterly sales are legitimate goals for rebranding efforts.

Simply doing rebranding for the sake of rebranding is not something that can easily be tracked with regard to return on investment. There are many ways to gauge R.O.I., including specific data tracking as well as looking at pure dollars and cents. There are also ways to gauge rebranding's impact on prospects and customers, such as focus groups and customer surveys. 

Build a plan to communicate your new brand

Successful rebranding takes time, money and effort. Simply slapping a new logo and tagline everywhere doesn't provide quality R.O.I. A business that is rebranding needs to have a plan to communicate the new brand -- along with why the rebranding took place and what benefit it brings to your customers -- utilizing established and new marketing, public relations, advertising, social media, and event outreach tools and methodologies.

This rebranding campaign should be developed at the beginning of the discovery and planning process of the overall rebranding effort, well in advance of seminal business or industry-specific milestones or events such as tradeshows. Remember to develop and incorporate clear, concise, strong strategic messaging into your rebranding campaign, and spread it throughout your PR, marketing, advertising, etc. in order to maintain consistency. Share elements of the plan with your entire staff and make sure they understand their roles in communicating the new brand once the campaign begins so everyone is on-message. In terms of spending money on outbound communication, be audience specific: don't put all of your eggs in one basket, whether it's print advertising, PR efforts, or marketing materials. Find out where your audience gets its information about your product or service, and hit all these communication channels with your new brand.

David D. Menzies is president of Innovative Public Relations, a PR and media relations consultancy. He is a 22+ year public relations professional with expertise in strategic messaging, publicity and branding. For more information visit www.innovativepublicrelations.com