Don’t let these 4 common roadblocks derail your rebranding implementation plan

Don’t let these 4 common roadblocks derail your rebranding implementation plan


Jo Clarke

If you’re on the brink of implementing your brand’s next chapter, you’re undoubtedly eager to see your vision become a reality. You know your new brand has the potential to drive your business forward and strengthen your market position. And you’re convinced this transformation will set your organization up for long-term success.

But have you thought through what might go wrong along the way? Are you familiar with the obstacles that could prevent you from reaching your destination? And are you prepared to adapt your implementation plan if unforeseen complications arise?

No one approaches a rebrand expecting to fail. But rebranding is more challenging than many marketers realize. Knowing what to expect — including what might keep you from achieving your goals — is key to rolling out your new brand successfully.

Here are four common roadblocks to be ready for as you begin the implementation process- and some expert advice to help you deftly maneuver around each one.

1. Wavering executive support for your rebrand

Rebranding is not simply a function of your marketing department. Your brand touches every aspect of your organization. You depend on team members across departments and work groups to live out and deliver your unique brand promise every day.

As such, your success depends a great deal on your employees becoming true ambassadors of your rebrand. And conversely, employee skepticism and resistance is likely to hinder your progress — or even cause your rebrand to fail altogether.

That’s why you need your C-suite to communicate their unwavering support for the initiative. Your executive leaders should share the strategic reasons for the change and the benefits your organization expects to gain. And they should invite employees to participate in focus groups and training sessions to discuss what a rebrand will mean for them.

We’ve seen firsthand what can happen when executives aren’t fully committed to a rebrand’s success. Financial support may wane partway through the project and the new brand may never be fully implemented across all touchpoints.  Here’s an extreme case: Several years ago, a large organization announced they would be updating their well-known brand identity. Unfortunately, this announcement came shortly after implementing a series of disruptive and unpopular cost-saving measures, organizational restructuring and layoffs.

So, when they introduced their rebranding initiative to employees, they encountered significant pushback — even uproar. Employees didn’t understand why the organization would allocate seemingly scarce resources to something that they perceived as cosmetic and trivial.

Rather than underscoring the valid reasons for the rebrand, the CEO simply walked back the change. What could have been a temporary roadblock became a permanent dead end. With a clear communication plan and better timing, this brand could have avoided an unfortunate outcome. As it was, they paid a hefty opportunity cost and further damaged employee morale.

2. Strong audience attachment to your legacy brand

Your brand is the embodiment of your organization’s values, identity, and ethos. As such, it has the potential to evoke strong emotions from your audience. Those emotions are crucial to your company’s success. After all, brand loyalty plays a significant role in your organization’s ability to edge out your competition.

However, strong attachment to your legacy brand can become a roadblock to your rebrand if you don’t carefully think through how to win your audience over.

To that end, ask yourself:

  • Have we thoroughly tested our new brand with our audience?
  • What feedback can we elicit before rolling out our rebrand?
  • How can we effectively communicate the reasons for this change to our internal and external stakeholders?

Think about The Gap’s failed rebrand from 2010. In the face of declining sales, the company refreshed its logo and launched its new look during the busy holiday shopping season. They did so without providing any context and without any communication to their customers. Their multi-million-dollar effort failed within a week.

By contrast, we worked with a healthcare brand on the west coast that took the emotional connection to their legacy brand very seriously. They developed thoughtful strategies to honor their legacy brand before transitioning to their new identity. This helped employees and community members fully embrace their organization’s next chapter.

When you construct your rebrand implementation plan, remember that human beings are naturally resistant to change. Find ways to celebrate what your legacy brand has meant to your audience. And look for creative opportunities to foster an emotional connection with your new brand.

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3. External pressures or events that impact your rebrand’s rollout

When COVID-19 entered our collective consciousness, many brands were forced to abruptly halt or curtail their plans to roll out an organizational rebrand. But a global pandemic isn’t the only external force that can threaten your best-laid plans.

Here are just a few of the detours you might encounter on your road to rebranding:

  • A jarring reputational crisis that requires thoughtful remediation
  • Leadership transitions that alter your organization’s overarching brand strategy
  • A complex M&A deal that requires a different rebranding strategy than you anticipated
  • Sudden changes in the financial health of your organization that alter your funding strategy
  • Rapid changes in technology that require you to reposition your brand for a digital-first environment

When unforeseen challenges arise, remember: your efforts to this point need not go to waste. If you’ve created an agile, flexible implementation plan, you won’t need to begin from scratch. You may need to scale back your launch strategy, adjust how quickly you convert your branded assets, or ramp up your education efforts. But if you’ve gathered the right data and conducted scenario planning at the outset, you can handle nearly any complication that comes your way.

4. Running out of steam before your rebrand is complete

Rebranding requires tremendous amounts of energy and dedication. And the truth is, most marketing teams already function with overly full plates. All too often, organizations launch a rebrand, convert high-priority branded assets immediately, and then become sidelined by other projects. Fast forward a few years, and the rebrand is still languishing incomplete.

This is a very real threat to your brand’s value, promise, and consistency. Imagine the confusion to your employees, customers, and other stakeholders if multiple versions of your brand live side-by side.

We’ve seen this happen with large healthcare brands in aggressive growth mode. As they acquire local and regional hospitals, doctor’s offices, and clinics, elements of each legacy brand are never fully converted. This results in a fragmented brand experience for patients and employees alike.

To prevent your rebrand from stalling out prematurely, realistically assess the resources you need to pull it off. And remember that you don’t have to carry the full weight of a rebrand implementation on your own. An expert partner can identify every gap in your strategy and ensure a seamless, cohesive result.

Expect the unexpected on your rebrand implementation journey

It’s rare for a rebrand to unfold exactly as planned. You never know what internal and external obstacles you’ll encounter on your journey. But with a solid, flexible implementation plan, you can overcome the challenges that are sure to arise.

The good news is that you don’t have to craft that plan alone. An expert implementation partner knows how to build in smart contingencies that will enable you to swerve past any impediments on the road.

Ready to start planning? We’d love to help your organization reach your rebranding destination.