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How To Overcome Rebranding Resistance

overcome rebranding risks

Jim Heininger offers advice on how to overcome resistance you might experience in a #rebranding initiative in this story which first appeared in Forbes.

Rebranding your organization is a major undertaking, but one with unprecedented rewards if done correctly. For many executives considering the transformational strategy to accelerate their business growth, the questions can be many: Will our new brand actually be better? What if customers don’t like our new brand? Can we manage the cost? What should be an exciting evolutionary journey can become an anxiety-producing experience.

For every concern about rebranding, there is a solution. After rebranding numerous organizations of all sizes across many different industries, I can confidently say that proper planning and execution will easily eliminate and mitigate risks. Let’s look at the most common areas of concern and how proper planning and execution can put them to rest.

Getting The New Brand Right

Your new brand must be based on internal and external insights, and that requires a disciplined research process to discover the heart and soul of your new positioning.

When working with clients, we utilize an extensive process of auditing a current brand to determine what attributes should roll forward, and then focus on how to define a more promising way to express their value to customers. For example, in recently rebranding a professional services firm, we sought to reframe the organization from a provider of executive coaching to a partner capable of helping leaders move courageously forward. The focus became about leading bravely and being prepared, equipped and focused on igniting bold futures for themselves, their employees and their organization. A much more aspirational presentation of their capabilities!

Then, customer research will help you gain deep insights into how consumers perceive your business, what they believe are your differentiators, and what more they want from your business relationship. These insights can be gained through traditional focus groups or individual in-depth interviews and enriched through online surveys and even social media listening. When possible, listen to customers who have left to understand what led to their decision.

Armed with these insights, you can set out to determine the strategy that reflects what you want to accomplish with the rebranding, be it reframing the future, elevating your differentiators or pivoting from the past. You’re then able to articulate an updated brand promise, value proposition and a new corporate name that reflects this positioning.

These activities should be pursued in sequence to build the scaffold for your new brand. If you want to ensure you get the rebranding right, don’t shortcut the process. Let the research and creative process follow their required paths to produce the necessary guidance and results.

If you remain concerned about whether stakeholders will support your proposed brand, many organizations test the key brand components in a confidential manner among select stakeholders before going live. We have found that a test exercise usually provides leadership with validation of their decision and clears the hurdle to move forward.

Nailing The Process

Rebranding is an exercise in extreme project management. We’ve learned it needs to follow a proven and disciplined process of four important steps:

• Assessment: Discovering the foundation of your brand.

• Articulation: Defining your new brand.

• Alignment: Preparing the organization to launch.

• Activation: Launching the new brand with energy and purpose.

As a brand-led business transformation, these steps require a designated leader, executive involvement, a core rebranding task force and a cross-functional team of leaders across the organization, including marketing/sales, HR, IT, finance and operations. Operate with an implementation war room, plan on the process taking nine to 12-plus months to complete, and devote the resources you would for any other strategic initiative that will redefine your future success. You only get one chance to launch your future brand; you’ll want to stick the landing.

Mitigating Blowback

There are many situations where a rebranding is met with pushback from mostly external stakeholders. These most likely can be addressed with proper risk management planning.

While you should always expect some dislike or criticism of your new brand (the world is full of haters now, enabled by social media), a key component of your rebranding initiative will be the “crisis management” preparation in which you’ll identify the risks associated with the transition and which specific employees, customers and external stakeholders may struggle with the news or even seek to criticize it.

Mitigation plans should include determining the motivation for their response, reaching out to those individuals personally, and producing predetermined and proven language and approaches to address their state of mind. Change management principles, which are designed to help individuals through their personal change journey, prove helpful here. This starts with heaving up the communications on “why” you are rebranding first to create context before ever announcing the new name.

Making The Appropriate Investment

Rebranding does require investment to be done correctly and completely. The resources needed for rebranding fall into two areas: the actual rebranding research, strategy, creative and launch, and the updating of all your branded assets to the new name. We can easily estimate the cost of the former to be in the $40,000-$150,000 range, but branded asset updates vary depending upon the size of the organization and the nature of your work. For example, if you are rebranding a laundromat with 10 locations, the cost would differ significantly compared to an international airline like United with 800-plus planes that need repainting, gates in 74 countries that need new signage and 84,000 employees wearing your brand daily. Getting a preview of these costs can be determined before launching the effort. One of the most common learnings our clients will share is that they didn’t budget enough to promote the new brand after launch, so plan accordingly.

When rebranding is executed correctly, risks can be left in the rearview window.

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