As a marketing leader, you are the chief steward and champion of your organization’s brand. You understand its value, promise, and purpose more than anyone. And if you’ve recently made the decision to rebrand, you’ve done so because you believe it’s the best way to propel your organization forward.
But how will your internal audience respond to a change of this magnitude? Are your employees more likely to embrace or resist brand transformation? And are there unique attributes of your organization’s culture that could make or break your implementation efforts?
Management guru Peter Drucker poignantly said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” And that means it’s crucial for you to build your rebrand implementation plan with the specific needs of your culture in mind.
To roll out your rebrand successfully — and deliver your brand promise seamlessly to your external audience — you’ll need the widespread support of team members across your organization. Here’s what you should consider in order to gain the internal buy-in your project requires.
1. Your organization’s decision-making style
How does your organization typically make decisions? Do leaders introduce strategic initiatives in a top-down manner after they’ve charted a course of action? Or do they give employees a voice in the decision-making process and strive to reach consensus?
Whatever your organization’s decision-making style, it should inform how you communicate with employees about your rebrand.
The hierarchical approach
Many corporations make decisions at the leadership level and then cascade their messaging throughout the organization. In an environment like this, it’s critically important for your CEO to signal C-suite support for the rebrand early on. Your employees will take their cues from their leaders.
Although employees accustomed to a top-down communication style may not expect to weigh in on the decision to rebrand, they do need to understand all the key details. To help them become effective ambassadors of your rebrand, deliver clear, crisp messages that explain:
- The strategic reasons for the rebrand and the projected benefits it will bring to the organization.
- Your expectations for employees throughout the process so they know what their roles and responsibilities will be from start to finish.
- The projected timing of your launch — both externally and internally.
- A high-level overview of your implementation plan, including your timeline for converting branded assets.
- Brand guidelines for using the new visual identity so employees know when and how to incorporate it into their work.
Give special thought to how each element listed above will impact your employees. For example, when sharing information about when and how you plan to convert branded assets, be specific. Let employees know when they can expect to receive their new ID badge, screensaver, apparel, business cards, and other employee-focused touchpoints.
The consensus-driven culture
In a collaborative, consensus-driven culture, a larger group of stakeholders will expect to play a role in shaping your rebranding strategy and implementation plan. This should feel consistent with the way your organization has introduced grand-scale initiatives in the past.
Just remember: gaining consensus is time-intensive. Build extra time into your pre-launch timeline so you can invite those stakeholders into the process in a meaningful way.
Consider whether these engagement tactics would work well in your culture:
- Brand design open houses. In the most employee-centric cultures, team members want to weigh in on everything from logo shapes and sizes to brand colors and fonts. Holding an open house to allow stakeholders to react to a short list of design choices can be a fun way to foster excitement and enthusiasm for the brand change.
- Focus groups. If your rebrand involves expanding or changing your brand promise, it can be helpful to invite employees to weigh in with their ideas and feedback. Ask employees to think through how this change will impact the way they live out your brand values to your audience.
- “Road shows.” If your organization is decentralized and spans multiple locations, consider taking your rebranding show on the road. Introduce your new identity at each location and invite questions and discussion around any location-specific concerns.
Only you can determine the right approach for your needs, budget, and timeline. The key is to communicate about your rebrand in a way that aligns with your unique culture.
2. Employees’ level of attachment to your legacy brand
Another consideration to factor into your rebrand implementation plan is whether your organizational culture is deeply rooted in your legacy brand. It can be difficult — even painful — for employees to let go of a beloved brand to make room for a new one. This is especially true in industries such as healthcare where the full spectrum of the human experience becomes inextricably linked with the brand.
In emotionally charged rebrands, look for ways to meaningfully honor your legacy brand. Give employees an opportunity to reflect on what the brand has meant to them before you ask them to say goodbye.
Being authentic and genuine in the midst of change will help employees embrace everything your new brand has to offer.
A healthcare network with a faith-based heritage did this well in their recent rebrand. As part of their launch event, they invited employees to participate in a special ceremony. In addition to turning in their old ID badge and receiving a new one, attendees wrote prayers, thoughts, and reflections on rice paper and dropped them into water. Watching the paper dissolve became a powerful symbol of letting go.
If your employees feel deeply connected to your legacy brand, that’s a good thing. Tap into those emotions in a way that makes sense for your culture. Being authentic and genuine in the midst of change will help employees embrace everything your new brand has to offer.
3. Your internal capacity to implement your rebrand
Some organizational cultures place a high value on operating in a lean, highly efficient way. In cultures like this, employees may not have the additional capacity or bandwidth to devote to a rebrand.
By contrast, some organizations build margin into their employees’ schedules to accommodate unforeseen priorities. In this type of culture, team members might be eager to roll up their sleeves and help you accomplish your brand objectives.
Either way, it’s important for you to honestly assess what your employees can realistically handle. After all, rebranding requires significant amounts of time, energy, and expertise. And most of the employees who will implement your new brand will do so in addition to their day-to-day responsibilities. This can easily add up to 50% more work to their already full plates.
Therefore, ask your key rebranding partners in operations (e.g. IT, facilities, legal) if they have sufficient time to devote to implementation. Consider whether it makes sense to make use of external resources to supplement their capacity. This might involve engaging a rebrand implementation partner or outsourcing as much work as possible to vendors.
Approaching your internal partners with empathy and understanding will go a long way toward gaining their buy-in and support.
Keep your culture at the heart of your rebrand implementation plan
Understanding the unique ways your organization functions is of paramount importance when building a rebranding implementation plan. To reach the results you’re looking for, you must take the needs and expectations of your internal stakeholders into account.
Think through the extent to which you should involve employees in the decision-making process. Factor in their emotional attachment to your legacy brand so you can appropriately honor that connection. And be realistic about your internal teams’ capacity to handle the responsibilities a rebrand requires.
Building an implementation plan that’s uniquely suited to your culture and ethos is the best way to set your rebrand up for success.