How to build a corporate rebranding plan

How to build a corporate rebranding plan


Philip Guiliano

Is your team evaluating of a corporate rebranding decision? If so, now is the time to begin planning for your potential brand change. This holds true whether you were instrumental in making the decision to rebrand, or if the rebrand mandate came from the CEO and/or Board as part of an M&A transaction or other event.

No matter the reason, you may now find you need to prepare for a project few marketers have tackled before. While you may be itching to start work on the creative strategy and design, now is the best time to be sure your organization is equipped to successfully implement a rebrand. That means you need to create a corporate rebranding plan, budget, and rebrand roll-out strategy.

It probably goes without saying that a corporate rebranding plan is not something you can pull out of your back pocket. To start, corporate rebrands are hardly business as usual. Many businesses go a decade or more without taking a second look at their brand. It requires orchestrating large-scale change by gaining the cooperation of numerous company execs and their staff, obtaining funding, and getting external partners, customers, and other stakeholders to buy in.  And every rebrand project is inevitably unique in circumstances, scope, timing, and/or business implications.

Not to mention, you and your team still have a day job to manage and execute on.

So, where do you go from here? For many, it is securing executive approval and budget for the project. That means arming executives with the data they need to understand all of the facets of a corporate rebranding initiative.

Creating your overarching corporate rebranding plan

While brand change might begin with the development of new creative (typically a new logo and/or name), the successful execution of a brand implementation strategy is where the rubber hits the proverbial road. When you anticipate a brand change in your company and know your team is responsible for creating and presenting strategy and cost estimates to executives, apply these five tips to gain credibility and earn their trust that you will be able to manage this process:

1. Present benefits and risks to gain credibility with senior executives

If the proposed rebranding is Marketing’s brainchild in a bid for faster growth, you’ll first need to persuade executives of the benefits and outcomes of the brand change and ongoing brand management. You’ll need to demonstrate anticipated benefits while being upfront about risks. But even if you are responding to an executive mandate to rebrand based on business changes, your role will include educating management about the need for risk management plans to deal with potential risks to corporate rebrand budgets and schedules. By taking the time to do this assessment, you will earn the trust with the decision makers who will want to know that due diligence was performed for this big task.

Some typical risks can include internal resistance, signoff delays, brand rollout missteps, and even consumer backlash. Clearly, marshalling the right multi-disciplinary people resources (either internal or external) that have the right skills, experience, and available bandwidth to commit to the project, will be key to your success.

Clearly, taking the time needed for due diligence is critical. Take Tropicana’s infamous rebrand flop as an example. Their new brand backlash was so severe, sales fell 20% over the month following the launch. One glaring gap: they didn’t include more stakeholders in the process. As a result, they re-introduced their old packaging back into the market less than two months after the rebrand launched.

2. Identify and document all your corporate branded assets

Did you know that it’s not uncommon for a company to have branded assets—physical and digital places that carry the brand—that number into the thousands?

In order to communicate the full extent of such a change, you first need to understand it yourself. The key to building a budget that works for your corporation is accounting for all of your branded assets—from the start—to enable accurate scoping of the full exercise. Knowing exactly what you have; how many there are of each, and where; how they need to change, which part of your organization is responsible for each type (signage, fleet, IT systems, packaging, etc.) you will then be able to accurately calculate the costs of the change.

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3. Help executives connect the dots

Brand change for a large organization can be challenging for executives to wrap their arms around. You’ll need to provide a high-level cost estimate and timeline.

It’s a good idea to tie specific corporate rebranding costs to milestones of the project, such as the North American brand launch or rebranding all your digital assets worldwide. Because of the complexities of these projects and the specialized skills required to execute them well, many companies not only outsource brand strategy, creative development, but also implementation, planning and execution of the rollout. Rebrand implementation experts play a key role here: they  provide strategic options for brand change, provide accurate cost estimates, and organize and orchestrate the activities of multiple internal and external teams, among other key tasks. Be sure not to omit these costs when developing estimates for presentation to the executive team.

4. Now it’s time to build the team who will execute your corporate rebrand plan

You’ve compiled a thorough inventory of all your branded assets and created an approved budget for implementation along with a strategy to get it all done. And crucially, you’ve secured the executive greenlight.  Now, you need a more detailed plan to move your rebrand forward.

Start by meeting with your creative and design teams to get the new brand strategy underway. You should also work with these teams to create an accurate list of all your current vendors and agencies as they will need to be informed of your new brand and how it impacts their deliverables.

At the same time, begin to put together the corporate team that will be required to implement it all. This should include representatives from every department the rebrand impacts, such as IT, HR, fleet, signage and more. Here is where due diligence on the upfront brand asset audit work can pay dividends—you already know who some of the key players should be.

Determine what the approval process looks like applying the new brand to each touchpoint and who needs to be included and identify the approvers. This means documenting:

  • The steps in the process and timing for each
  • Who on the team is responsible for each item
  • The milestones, meeting schedule and checkpoints to track progress
  • All resources involved—including how each cost will be paid for
  • Your plan to communicate your rebrand, both internally and externally

5. Be prepared with data and metrics to report results, spend and status of the project

This initiative will take months – maybe years – to complete and you’ll need to keep everyone moving forward as planned and continue to maintain executive trust and support.

Achieve this by creating a single source of truth for the data and metrics reporting on the status of your corporate rebrand.

By creating dashboards that report on the status of the overall project, with an eye on any critical KPIs and status of key assets, you will ensure executives stay interested and committed to the change. The importance of this cannot be understated – if seeds of doubt on the progress of the project begin to germinate, the entire project’s success could be at risk.

If that happens, the combination of loss of faith and cooperation (and maybe loss of full funding) may very well be a fragmented brand in the marketplace, which will hurt your company’s credibility and consistency.

By engaging early on in high-level business conversations about what a successful corporate rebranding requires, you’ll get the support you need to deliver the full potential value of this initiative for your organization. And by doing the work upfront to ensure you can keep executives and key leaders informed over the course of the projects, you’ll pave the way for ongoing understanding of and support for the rebranding effort.