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Overcoming The Digital Challenge In Rebranding

Jim Heininger was a recent guest on the Digitally Enabled podcast. Below is the transcript, you can listen to the conversation here. #rebrand #rebranding

Welcome back. I’m bringing you a new guest, Jim Heininger. Jim, introduce yourself and tell everyone where you’re working and what you’re doing.

I’m the Founder and Principal of Rebranding Experts. We’re a five-year-old firm. We were the first firm to be established and purposefully designed to help organizations rebrand successfully. We’re based out of Chicago but we’ve got folks around the country that contribute to our client work.

It’s a clever niche because that transformation when you’re rebranding has so many different dimensions. People are reading to know about digital challenges. Maybe you could talk about what you think is the biggest digital challenge in a rebrand and how you came upon that insight.

For most organizations that we’ve worked with and that are rebranding, their website or digital assets is the front door. It’s the entryway to the organization. It’s the first place people turn to learn about them. Those have to be updated and present a compelling and exciting new story in a way that they hadn’t in the past and that it’s encouraging traffic to get to those. In most cases, you’re redirecting from a new domain and site. You want it to be an exciting new introduction to the organization when your customers, prospects, partners or even employees visit it for the first time.

When you start this rebranding process, how does that message land for the people who are going to rebrand? Is it, “We want to do our logo, identity and mission first,” or are they receptive to what you say?

The biggest challenge to rebranding is keeping people’s patience and interest going until the end of the road or journey.

The work that we do is the wholesale effort of standing up an entirely new brand for clients. We’re not just refreshing it or repositioning their work but standing up an entirely new brand. We start from the beginning. It is everything from their company purpose to their brand essence, brand statement and story, new name for the company and then everything from their customer experience, employee experience and digital assets because all those stories are going to be conveyed through those digital assets. We usually will wait until our new brand is fully baked before you start to implement that or showcase that in the digital assets.

You’re not stripping down the house and repainting it. You’re building a brand new house.

For the most part, it’s built on the solid foundation and the equities of what its previous brand was but it’s building a new house on that foundation.

What are the biggest challenges you run into when you’re doing something that leverages the past but it’s a pretty dramatic change? Is it a process issue or a cultural issue?

It’s all those things together.

Rebranding is built on the solid foundation and equities of what its previous brand was, but it’s building a new house on that foundation.

You got to take one.

We’re talking about a major change for an organization so clearly, leadership has to embrace it and lead it. You then need to ensure through a lot of change management practices as well that the organization, the middle tiers of leadership, get behind it. Eventually, the employees themselves enthusiastically embrace it and are ready to tell that brand story in every encounter that they have with a customer or a partner. It’s a full-scale makeover and re-establishing of that.

The biggest challenge, quite honestly, is keeping the leader who has made the decision to do it focused, moving through the process and understanding the complexities of it all and all the different assets that need to be updated before they launch. They’re eager to make it happen. Once you’ve landed on an exciting new name and a new brand story, they’re ready to go. They’re excited but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before you activate it. The biggest challenge is keeping people’s patience and interest going until the end of the road or journey.

We see that as well. Everyone’s excited when they have the 130 pages of brand guidelines and say, “Launch.” We’re like, “Wait a minute. There’s a lot for capital expenditure, marketing expenditure and retraining. A poster and some swag don’t do it.” What have you been doing to keep those senior folks engaged? Are you gamifying it and giving them little medallions?

When the new brand story is baked and ready to go out, digital has the unique ability to bring it to life.

We save the gamifying for the employees to get them excited and engaged. With the leadership, it’s a super disciplined process. We’ve got it all mapped out in a project management tool that moves through and makes sure all the necessary steps are happening. Since we’ve been through this so many times, we see the emotional journey that these leaders go through throughout the entire process. We predict for them, “Here’s what’s going to happen next. Here’s what you can expect. This might be an intimidating part of the process or might get a little tedious but trust us, the outcome is something that’s needed for this rebranding to work.” Managing their psyche through the whole thing has proven to be helpful in terms of keeping their interest high and commitment strong as they start to grow a little impatient.

It sounds like you’ve got enough experience to say, “You’re going to start feeling this,” before they feel it. There’s a human connection there. They’re like, “Maybe these guys are the credible source that we thought they were.”

We can forecast what’s next in a pretty honest way that they appreciate because then they’re not surprised by it or taken back by it but they walk into it with their eyes wide open.

You get to the rebrand launch. Is that where you stop or do you stay engaged? How do you know you’ve been successful and it’s time to quit or go to the next phase? How do you do that roadmap planning?

Our efforts are focused on standing the new brand up and launching it. Launching it is a pretty robust effort as well not only with employees but with customers, prospects and so forth. We’ll map out the next six months of work that needs to be done so that the new brand gels in everyone’s minds and they begin to embrace it and understand it and you’re back to operating as normal.

Rebranding: There’s not a client that won’t say that they wish they had invested more in the post-launch marketing efforts.

Sometimes, at that point in time, we’ll educate their existing marketing agency on the new brand and how to carry it forward on their behalf. We’ll then do a handoff to them to continue that work while we’re going through the process or continuing to promote the business as it is. It’s switching gears for themselves as they’re handed the new brand.

That’s tough. We’ve had that same Baton pass here. Sometimes, we’ve done the launch campaigns because the new agency needs to see it before they can execute it.

There’s not a client that won’t say that they wish they had invested more in the post-launch marketing efforts. You’ve got this exciting new brand. They wish that they would have budgeted more to go out and tell that story.

I have one last question. If you can think of one word to apply to the digital enablement for branding, what would that word be and what made you think of it?

I’d probably say visualization. The reason I picked that is that when the new brand story is baked and is ready to go out to employees, customers, prospects and so forth, digital has the unique ability to bring it to life. They can convey it in images and create moods and feelings in ways that words on a page or even words expressed by the executive might not be able to do. Bringing it to life through those kinds of visual assets and using digital platforms to be able to convey those is so critical to success. It can help you move past the old brand and onto the new brand much quicker if you utilize them.

It’s like a symbol of change. People recognize it very quickly.

Symbol as in clashing the symbols as well too for the excitement behind the new brand.

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