Too frequently, rebrands are viewed as a one-and-done deal: the need for a new brand emerges, the new brand is developed and implemented, and everyone lives in branded bliss forever after.
Nothing could be further from the truth. A brand is a living organism that grows from the minute it is brought into the world. With the wide variety of digital, print and product assets at play, each with hundreds of variations emerging over time, the amount of effort required to manage and maintain consistency across such a vast array of material can seem staggering.
The encouraging news is that there are ways of preserving the integrity of a brand, no matter how large. We recently caught up with our friends at Templafy, a next-gen document generation platform pioneering content enablement, to discuss just that. Co-founder Christian Lund and Head of Partnerships Peter Turborgh swapped insights with our very own Philip Guiliano on ways to safeguard your brand before, during, and after a rebrand.
1. Plan comprehensively, and always stay several steps ahead.
Planning is one of the biggest predictors of success at all stages of the rebranding process.
“When it comes to implementation planning, start early,” Philip recommended. Organizations should be thinking about implementation and mapping out brand conversion processes as the brand strategy and identity are being developed, at least six to nine months before launch. “Plan processes in detail: anything around approvals, management, reporting and escalation. As the brand identity firms up, consider the implications of change across all your touchpoints—not just your marketing collateral and websites, but also IT, HR, legal entities, products and packaging, and import and export implications.” He also advised developing new playbooks for internal marketing, vendor management and acquisitions as the strategy becomes more fully defined. “Nail these details down before launch so when you do launch, you’re set up for success.”
You don’t know what you don’t know. Seek inspiration from people with a deeper understanding of how tech can play a role in automating brand consistency.
“Be holistic in your approach,” Christian added, noting that when marketers focus on strategy and design, execution often becomes an afterthought. “Not only have you created a new brand—it’s also being used. Some channels are easier to manage, since only a few people control them, but other areas will have many individual contributors and you’ll have less control. It’s important to include these areas in your thinking.”
Planning can also help with monetary matters. “Plan your finances meticulously for upfront and future costs,” Peter said. To keep up with rapidly shifting markets, it’s important to keep in mind that brand exercises aren’t static events. By budgeting for ongoing costs, companies can secure the funding needed to keep the brand evolving with the right technology and creative resources. “You rebranded for a reason, with the hope that the rebrand will drive ROI. If you’re unwilling to continually invest, you’ll derail the investment you’ve already made and you won’t be able to realize the ROI you were looking for in the first place.”
2. Get the right people in the right roles for a smooth transition.
The right roster brings a vast pool of expertise that will supercharge your rebrand. “Build a team of people who intimately understand the vision and strategy, people with strong project management skills, people who understand the creative side, and particularly people that understand technology,” Peter said. “Right now, there are a lot of blind spots in brand and marketing around technology, which translates to missed opportunities in activating and scaling your brand. You don’t know what you don’t know, so go out and seek inspiration from people with a deeper, broader understanding of how tech can play a role in automating brand consistency.”
The role of centralized Marketing is also important to consider right from the project outset.
“One of the first questions of infrastructure is determining the right level of centralized control for decentralized execution,” Philip commented. How much control should centralized Marketing have to enable downstream teams to execute properly? The answer differs from company to company, but Philip did note BrandActive’s perspective. “We believe Marketing needs to, in collaboration with other areas, control decisions around quality level, budget, vendors, traceability and reporting. And Marketing should be handing out detailed marching orders. Just giving out brand guidelines and telling other areas to put the logo on their things isn’t a good way to control cost, timing or quality.”
A rebrand’s roster can become quite massive, but it’s vital to stay deliberate and organized. “Think the project through end to end: your ambitions, your KPIs and goals, where you want to go, what the risks are along the way and how to manage them. Then you can figure out which resources to put where,” Peter noted.
3. Leverage technology and automation to support your brand.
A successful implementation depends on having the right technology to manage critical operational aspects. “A workflow platform and digital asset management (DAM) platform are simply the cost of entry to support brand change done right,” Philip said. “To track assets and timelines, you also need an excellent project management system that can be used by internal stakeholders, vendors, and executives and that has dashboard capabilities for effective reporting.” With so many choices available for software, the right platforms are the ones that fit the needs and goals established during the planning phase.
Peter agreed. “A DAM is your license to play from a technology standpoint. This is the best place to warehouse assets and guidelines, and it supports collaboration between your agencies and internal creatives. He noted, however, the importance of going beyond the DAM technologies. Brands should consider leveraging technologies that automate brand change implementation in employees’ day-to-day work. “To drive the highest adoptions, brand owners should think about ‘pushing’ the brand to end users’ existing workflows, rather than asking them to disrupt their flow. Any place employees are asked to visit should be a captivating experience platform, a place for learning and education, and a place where you can socialize your brand vision.”
“Document generation platforms like Templafy can fill a big role because many employees spend a lot of time building business docs and writing emails,” Christian added. “In fact, recent research we conducted uncovered that employees spend 15 hours a week building content – which is nearly two full business days.” Having something to build these items out quickly helps make it easier to maintain brand quality, extending brand reach. “Controlling how the brand is perceived every time a piece of content leaves your organization is a strong way of getting a lot of impressions.”
Other tools, like communication platforms for top-down and bottom-up communication, can make onboarding and education easier. But the real advantage of technology? Automation.
“Automate as much as possible,” Christian advised. “Things like ensuring you have the right logo, the right font and the right messaging—there is no need to place the burden on individuals to do these things when they’re simple to automate. This leaves less room for error and increases efficiency across the board.”
4. Make it easy to stay on-brand by designing least-effort processes.
Least-effort processes operate on the principle that people will naturally choose the path of least resistance. Complex workflows and bloated technology stacks lead to low adoption rates and great risk to brand consistency.
A recent Templafy survey of over 2,000 full-time employees at enterprise-level companies revealed that “40% of respondents don’t have time to access the latest brand guidelines, and 30% of respondents don’t even know how to,” remarked Peter. “Don’t make the brand something employees have to study—that’s setting them up for failure.” The solution is to bring the proverbial mountain to the people, allowing content to find and engage them where they are. “Create instances of micro-learning. Having the logo and colors right there every time someone opens a Word document helps them become acclimatized to the brand.”
“When you make the brand cumbersome to get to, you risk inconsistency and threaten adoption,” Christian added, remarking that the brand might be the company’s primary concern, but not necessarily the concern of the average employee. “People want to get their work done. It’s not that they don’t want to use the brand; they just don’t want it to get in the way of their work. Embed the brand into the workflow, so it can be executed correctly without demanding too much thought. It has to be the easiest path.”
Philip agreed. “There are systemized ways to help people create the things they need in a way that’s still on brand.” He also noted that some brand applications, like product naming or one-off instances, might require additional guidance from Marketing. “Having a help desk function where it’s easy to request approval from centralized Marketing can help maintain creative freedom within a framework.”
”People can only retain so much information,” Christian concluded. “They don’t need to know every detail, especially if brand isn’t their day-to-day job. Instead, nudge them in the right direction and prioritize what they need to know—chances are, it’s not the technical design details, but the story behind the brand.”