Rebranding Success Requires Engaged Employees
Rebranding is on the rise, especially in the B2B market, according to research house Forrester, which suggests more companies are using a brand-driven business transformation to opportunistically reshape their future.
Rebranding is a big lift, usually calling on an organization to rebuild its brand completely with a new customer promise, company name, visual identity, employee and customer experience, and go-to-market strategy. It’s not an effort that can be executed by a small leadership group; it requires the full organization to enthusiastically and energetically align to make the new brand a reality. It requires all teammates to support the brand, serve as advocates and work to deliver a discernably different customer experience representative of the brand.
Each of your employees is the brand. Your rebranding success sits squarely on an engaged workforce. You must inform, educate, engage and enable them to play their role with confidence and enthusiasm. This is especially true in the B2B market where customers experience your brand through your people. Proper planning for a rebrand requires that you set your employees up for success. From our years of experience rebranding organizations, we know that employees need the following to fully embrace and bring necessary energy to your rebrand:
Understanding of Why: Since most rebrand planning involves a select group of the organization’s leaders and experts, employees need to be brought up to speed on the logic behind the decision. The rationale needs to be both fact-based and address the emotional dynamics behind the decision. Remember that rebranding means change, which can set off concern about what is happening around the organization and how it relates to their future jobs and even job security. Address it all, but be sure to simplify it with a powerful explanation that they can easily share with customers, industry friends and even their family.
Timing: Once your team understands the “why,” they need a high-level view of the timing. Share a visual road map that provides a general sense of efforts leading up to the announcement and then a detailed timeline of what’s happening (or changing) and when.
Training to Tell the Story: Employees need message points, scripts and tools to first embrace the brand story themselves but also to enable them to share it with external audiences easily and consistently.
Inspiration to Live the New Brand: Unless you’re rebranding to simply redress your old brand, you’ve spent time updating your brand promise to customers and perhaps even your corporate purpose. Changes to these foundational tent posts of your organization will often result in a different culture and new expectations on the role employees will play with each other. It also means delivering a new differentiated customer experience. This requires new on-brand behaviors that need to be ritualized into the fabric of the organization so that they become constant in the culture. Share these behaviors, how and when they are to be used, and ensure that your leaders embody them as a model. Be sure to reward employees as positive reinforcement when they display them.
Reassurance: Rebranding your organization is big news. Employees have worked hard to build the previous brand and need to be reassured that those efforts weren’t in vain, but a valuable part in helping to launch the new brand. Reinforce how previous success has enabled the company to take this important step in its growth journey.
Consistency: Ideally you want to switch over as many of your brand assets as possible on launch day to avoid confusion and prevent competitors from pointing out your prolonged implementation. Whatever assets can’t be changed over by launch day, provide a schedule of when to expect those changes so they can set expectations with customers and partners.
Some Sizzle and Excitement: Rebranding your organization deserves celebration. Ensure that you dramatically unveil the new brand and bring visual excitement. Use powerful videos to introduce the name and tell the new brand story. Unveil new signage and branded vehicles. Show your team the new website and walk them through the new look and feel of the brand. Share new branded uniforms and hand out some swag for them to take home. We often utilize a countdown to the public announcement with employees notified of the new brand about a week out. This provides time for them to be trained before launch day while limiting the impact that leaks could have on managing the important announcement. Some companies choose to hold countdown contests celebrating the company’s heritage with daily prize winners each day.
Reinforcement: Rebranding is a long game; it takes employees and customers time to adjust and consistently refer to the brand. Be sure to institutionalize the brand across all your HR and operations functions, not just the marketing. And be sure to keep the story on track. We often find that about six months out, a storytelling retraining is needed to ensure that the brand story has not drifted too far from its core meaning.
Your branding success is dependent upon your employees’ enthusiastic participation. Give them all the tools, training and encouragement they need to play their part.