3 Questions CMOs ask when rebranding (and 3 questions they don’t ask, but should)

3 Questions CMOs ask when rebranding (and 3 questions they don’t ask, but should)



Our most iconic companies all rebrand, often multiple times. Take Coca-Cola, which first advertised as “Pemberton’s, the world’s greatest nerve tonic” before relying on the creative instincts and good penmanship of its bookkeeper for the name and script rendition of the original Coca-Cola logo. (He liked the alliteration of two “C’s.”) Over the years, the firm has introduced numerous iterations of its logo and messaging, including a brief renaming to simply “Coke.”

At some point in their career, most CMOs will be faced with rebranding their company. And most will give the rebranding process far more thought than Coca-Cola did back in 1887. CMOs today know that brand is much more than a name and a logo: It’s the aggregation of all the experiences and interactions people have with the company, directly and indirectly. This more accurate and holistic definition of brand requires CMOs to think through a whole lot more than swapping logos when it comes to rebranding.

And today’s environment is vastly different than the one that existed at Coca-Cola’s founding. CMOs and senior marketers spend their time trying to understand changing customer needs, increasing competition, and how digital channels are evolving. They seek insights from the reams of data collected on their target customers (according to business analytics company, Domo, the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day) and are expected to measure ROI on everything they do.

Common questions asked in the strategic initiative of rebranding

Rebranding may be triggered by an M&A, the need to reposition the business, the desire to offer new products and services, or to simply find a better way to stand out amongst competition. Most often, business strategists will use market data and research to identify a deficit or an opportunity that provokes a discussion with the CMO about whether the brand is aligned to either resolve the deficit or capitalize on the opportunity.

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Whatever the prompt for the rebrand, it is a strategic initiative with the potential for a big upside if it is done well. Implementing a new brand requires a thoughtful plan and an army of resources to accomplish. Marketers often start by asking these three questions:

1. How committed is the executive team to this process?
Rebranding is a long game. Most companies see the return over a three-to-seven-year period. Is the executive team “all in”? Has everyone agreed on the core metrics that will define success? KPIs could include awareness levels, customer engagement, loyalty, market share, and sales revenue.

In one project, the CMO asked the rebranding initiative to be a standing agenda item for every monthly meeting of the executive leadership team during the entirety of the years-long project. By launch day, the entire leadership team was not only well informed, but were committed and enthusiastic advocates of the entire program.

2. How will we engage employees in this process?
Employees who are educated about the brand strategy development process and informed about the implementation plan are much more likely to positively influence the change, rather than resist it. Most will have a role in implementing the new brand across computer systems, web properties, signage, collateral, workwear, and in other branded assets. Those that are client-facing need to be intimately familiar with the language and attitude of the new brand and bring it to every interaction.

At one financial services company that was initiating a rebrand, every department head was part of the rebranding working group. They were shown the market research so that they understood the context of the brand strategy. Then, when it came time to implement, each of them was fully invested to ensure their teams brought it to life in a way that best supported the strategy.

3. Are we properly resourced to implement this change?
Rebrand implementation is a massive undertaking and should be thought through while the team is still in brand strategy development mode. The complexity of the change will certainly influence the resources required (time, manpower, and budget); but what often gets overlooked when thinking about implementation is the infrastructure, processes, and workflows required for implementing the wide variety of branded assets.

At BrandActive, we encourage our clients that are undergoing massive brand change to set up a comprehensive infrastructure to be utilized throughout the implementation period. This includes a governance/oversight team to make any key decisions that arise; a central project management office to distribute information and guidelines, and to report progress, risks, and concerns to the program sponsor and oversight team; and a network of business unit/department leads to engage and lead their teams through required changes and report progress. In addition, communication expectations and cadence should be established, and workflows and approvals should be agreed upon at the start of the implementation period.

In the heat of creating and implementing the new brand, many marketers overlook these additional considerations:

1. How will new products and services being introduced fit with the new brand?
Rebranding does not end with the visual identity and the key messages. Companies must also consider what products and services they are offering, whether they support or rebut the brand message, and how/if they fit into their brand architecture. Having the CMO or brand team at the table during new product discussions will help mitigate the potential for discord between product and brand message.

2. What allies do I need in this process?
In all rebranding initiatives, it’s important to communicate the why, how, and when to all stakeholders, from investors and employees to the media and social influencers. With that said, three groups of internal stakeholders are especially critical to success.

Foremost in the case of B2B companies are sales and business development staff who know the customers well and have relationships you can tap to gather feedback. The product teams are also essential as they will have the ability to create new offerings that align with the brand—or not. Last but not least, especially in heavily regulated industries, are the legal and compliance teams. They will be able to advise on a host of issues from messaging and positioning to the firm’s ability to do business in states, provinces, and countries under a new name, and any costs associated with legal services or regulatory filings.

3. Who holds the budget for rebranding all assets and how will it be distributed?
Label this one as a top priority. Will the rebrand budget be centralized and distributed according to need, or will it be on the department heads to source their own budget? How will the budget be tracked and when is the cut-off to move to business as usual? Partnering with your finance department is an incredibly smart and important step in ensuring the budget is managed properly and accurately.

When rebranding hits the radar, CMOs who can answer these critical questions in preparation for implementation planning are bound to get the best results. Having a well-defined infrastructure and a detailed implementation process, together with engaged stakeholders, will certainly bring a smoother transition and position the rebrand initiative for success.