A roadmap for communication during brand change

A roadmap for communication during brand change

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Monday, February 4, 2019 | Patrick Heath

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Depending on who you ask, either the playwright George Bernard Shaw or the sociologist and writer William H. Whyte first pinpointed this issue way back in the middle of the last century. The adage is spot-on when it comes to rebrand implementation projects.

Marketers put a lot of effort into brand change in the lead-up to unveiling the new logo (and maybe new messaging) to the world. To say it’s a busy time is an understatement. Amidst the hubbub, the communication required to enable successful rebrand implementation may be overlooked.

From our 100+ rebrand implementation projects, we’ve learned the downside of focusing communications solely on the rebrand announcement and launch. There needs to be a robust communications roadmap centered on the logistics of smart brand change. Apply this best practice to the rebrand implementation process, and you’ll boost your ability to gain stakeholder trust and manage perceptions. Most importantly, you’ll maximize the overall value of the rebranding.

That doesn’t mean there’s a one-size-fits-all communication roadmap for every business that changes their brand. The best approach is the one that ties to the way the organization works, enabling the right information to get to the right people at the right time. (And at BrandActive, we always make sure we partner with the internal communications team.)

As you create your communication roadmap, you’ll need to answer questions around these key issues: which stakeholders to communicate with and when; the essential tools and processes that improve outcomes; and how to evaluate success.

1.   Which stakeholders need to be communicated with, and when?

There are four groups of key stakeholders:

The core rebrand team are the employees leading brand change on the brand side. Most often, the marketing team is the project lead; sometimes, it’s the brand team or the communications team. Other functional area execs may also belong to this team that drives the rebrand implementation strategy. They gather, analyze and present key information about strategy, cost, timing to the executive team to gain approvals and secure budgets. Core rebrand team members are involved from the onset of the project through to final brand change and are responsible for communication with other stakeholders. They are involved during the months of planning, then for many more months to several years until the conversion is complete.

Specific brand touchpoint owners are the second group. These employees control key branded assets. (Identifying the members of this second group is a project in itself.) They may work in facilities, fleet operations, product development, IT, or HR among others. They need to understand what the change is and why the change is happening. Specifically, they need to know what to do once the strategy for rebrand implementation has been set. This includes the process to follow, what actions to take, and when to take them. Their informed participation is essential as they usually hold essential information about the branded assets that need to be converted. They’ll be able to tell you how many vehicles, signs, or HR onboarding materials there are and where they are located. They have the information that core rebrand team members (or if the business works with BrandActive, our staff) will need to gather about specifications, typical replacement cycles, and historic costs.

Key vendors….

Fourth, you need to address all other employees and key influencers including the media and investors, Get them on your side early on by briefing them on the expected timing of the rebrand implementation and your plan for strategic, cost-effective change. Left in a communication vacuum, they may assume that the rebrand isn’t being managed as smartly and carefully as it is. (Depending on your industries, regulatory bodies can’t be overlooked, either – or you may find yourself unable to do business worldwide on launch day. But that’s a topic for another article.)

This list doesn’t account for current and prospective customers – but launch and ongoing brand communication planning (something you may approach in conjunction with your brand strategy or public relations agency) addresses this group

2.  What are the “can’t-do-without-them” processes and tools?

An effective rebrand implementation project starts with a mindset. My teams keep these three principles top of mind:

  1. Data is key. It’s as important to collect information as it is to disseminate it. To manage the project, your business needs to collect huge volumes of information – about the departments and people involved, their locations and contact information, the branded assets to be converted, their locations and costs, and more. As the strategy and tactics are set, you’ll need to push out project schedules, budgets, management dashboards, and more. People in the core rebrand group will need full access to this data. Members of the second group, brand asset owners, require partial access. As brand asset templates are finalized, you’ll want to provide ongoing access to a wider group of employees and vendors. It makes sense to invest in a digital asset management platform for the new brand now if you don’t have one already.
  2. Details REALLY matter.To keep track and manage all of them, we prefer a collaborative platform called Smartsheet, but Excel can work, too. Another must-have to keep everyone on the same page are FAQs, updated regularly as the project evolves. We often post information like this on SharePoint, but any central repository can do the job.
  3. Don’t be afraid to suggest new and better ways to do things. Good ideas come from everyone so keep an open mind about ways to transition brand assets more effectively. BrandActive has taken its own advice. Increasingly, we’re using AI-enabled tech tools to streamline rebrand implementation. Its speedy and accurate data collection and cost estimates can identify gaps in vendor proposals.

3.  How do you evaluate if rebrand communication has been successful?

This is almost always true: Show me a successful rebrand implementation and I’ll show you a successful communication roadmap.

We’ve worked on a couple of brand change projects that hit challenges early in the process, when looking for funding. That was the result of inadequate initial communication from the core rebrand team to executive sponsors. But more commonly, communication issues crop up between the core rebrand team and the brand assets owners. That was the case is an energy company rebranding stemming from M&A. The brand asset owners didn’t receive clear direction on what to do with the brand, and when. So, the overall desired effect of the rebrand—clear and consistent communication of the new identity for the combined business on a set schedule—was not realized.

And so, this is also almost always true. Answer the first two questions around stakeholder communication timelines and the best processes and tools to use, and the third question about evaluating effectiveness almost answers itself.

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