When thinking about a rebrand, the first image that may come to mind is a splashy public logo change and new contrasting brand colors. But marketers know that a rebrand is much more than that. For many organizations, a rebrand is a major change management challenge that has to smoothly win over employees before it can be rolled out to the public. And like any change, many people may be resistant to it, especially if they have long-time positive connections to the legacy brand.
So how can marketing leaders bring their team onboard to excitedly support the rebrand? Why, by making it fun!
We invited change management veteran and founder of Trestle Advisors, Bret Gallaway, to chat with BrandActive Partner, Philip Guiliano, about how businesses can make rebranding fun and engaging for employees and why it matters.
A rebrand’s success depends on the support and engagement from employees
A company rebrand is a massive task that requires everyone who uses the brand to understand both the rationale behind the rebrand and how to use it. So, rallying support from employees, especially those most involved in bringing the new brand to life across touchpoints, is key. Bret said, “It’s critically important to help everyone see the value of the rebrand, engage them in the change, and ensure they are ready and willing to be an ambassador for the long term.” Philip agreed. “If your team doesn’t understand the why of your rebrand, you could end up with your hundreds to thousands of employees sharing the wrong message, or even showing disdain for the change. When your employees are on board, they will be your biggest brand champions and help you successfully implement and launch your new brand.”
Fun = engaging
You’ve likely heard the phrase, “work hard, have fun, get things done.” This aphorism exists for a reason. As Bret explained, “If you’re working hard but not having fun, then work is a drag and it’s difficult to get anything done.” He pointed out that many top-performing companies succeed by incorporating fun into the workday and making it enjoyable. As that specifically relates to a rebrand, he said, “If a rebrand’s not fun, then it runs the risk of being boring,” and being boring is a surefire way for employees to lose enthusiasm. Set the stage with the energy and enthusiasm you bring to this strategically important and creative project.
Here are Bret and Philip’s surefire ways to make rebranding fun for your employees.
1. Involve employees early
Philip noted that an essential element of making rebrands fun and engaging for employees is to include them as early as practical in the process. If they are given the opportunity to know the brand is changing in advance, and perhaps even see the creative work and project implementation plans as they develop, employees can feel that they’re in on the fun and will be more invested in contributing to a successful outcome.
Timing is always a key question. “Under any circumstance, if you want to make an impact and you want to make a splash, you are going to have to trust a segment of employees to see and understand the brand before the rest of the world does,” Philip said.
“Ideally, said Bret, “as soon as the leadership decides to rebrand, that’s the time to tell employees that it’s coming. They should hear it first from the CEO, and that’s the value of a smart and a proactive communication strategy. Otherwise, the story gets leaked in the media, the leadership team loses trust, and you’re already behind the eight-ball before the rebrand even starts.”
2. Tell a story
It’s integral for senior leaders to communicate about their new brand in a way that connects it to what their employees value about it.
If what’s causing hesitancy about the brand change is attachment to the legacy brand, you don’t need to leave it behind. “In any sort of rebrand situation,” Philip said, “if you can tie in legacy, meaning, growth, and evolution into what you are becoming, that message alone pulls on the heartstrings and reassures your employees that they can still love their company.” He added, “The companies we see have the most fun are companies that really have a story and have taken the time to tell it: ‘We started here, we became this. You helped us become this. By adding this and this, we became that, and now here’s our future vision based on that.”
Bret expanded on this idea: “People are most inspired by change when they’re part of it. So, ask their opinions, include them in the rebrand story, celebrate with them. When they’re excited about a rebrand and proud to come to work, that’s when they’re most effective at being brand ambassadors. And then consumers see that and feel the enthusiasm, which helps them connect with the new brand as well.”
An example of incorporating stories was the USAA rebrand. “People who work at USAA have that close connection with the military community. So, we shared the stories and events that centered on military members and their families, whether on the job or at home, because it’s so critical for that entire community.” Bret continued, “Those stories and events connected with the ethos of USAA. Engaging employees in those stories and events and giving them opportunities to interact with the military was fun, exciting, and energizing.”
You can also bring employees into the story not just by explaining why you’re rebranding, but why and how the new identity was chosen. Bret cited Trinity Health’s rebrand, where employees were passionate about the history of the company and interested in its connection to the new logo and brand colors. “People wanted to be part of that story and understand the symbolism of the new brand, and they wanted to be able to proudly share it with their family and friends.”
3. Get creative and have a good time
When it comes to making rebranding fun, there are tons of possibilities limited only by your imagination, your budget, and what feels authentic to your organization.
Philip began by highlighting the importance of thinking outside the box and catering your plans to what you know your employees will enjoy. “If your office is a place that’s mostly quiet, putting a gift box on everyone’s desk on launch day with a mug, mousepad, and t-shirt could be just the right amount of fun you need. But employees at most companies these days might not find that particularly exciting.”
Both Bret and Philip had some great examples of clients making rebranding fun. “We’ve had clients that sent out branded versions of games, like magic balls that could change into different shapes, things that people would actually want to have on their desk and play with,” Philip said. “Other clients have created countdowns on their intranet or website saying, ‘Something big is happening,’ and teasing elements of what was to come. Another game a client used was “Spot the old logo” where winners would win points they could use to buy things in the company store.”
Be authentic in acknowledging where you are today, where you’re going tomorrow, and how you’re going to get there.
Big events are another great way to have fun with a rebrand. Bret gave an example: “At USAA, we had a parade down the center of our one-mile-long building. There were marching bands, jugglers, and baton twirlers. And people still talk about it.”
Philip mentioned Nextel’s launch as one of the most fun rebrands BrandActive has been a part of. “Nextel had a big party in each country’s headquarters, complete with marquee talent, stages, and food. If you really want to invest and have fun, that’s a great way to do it.”
Having fun doesn’t need to cost a fortune
Both Philip and Bret noted that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a fun rebrand experience for your employees.
“Fun doesn’t necessarily mean having parades and parties all the time,” Bret explained. “It’s just about being creative with activities people will enjoy and connect with. That’s fun. And different people have a different definition of fun, so you have to give everyone an opportunity to engage.”
Bret pointed to Trinity Health. “The new logo was purple and green, so we asked employees to wear purple and green at our town hall events – whether it was virtual or in-person. The outfits our colleagues came up with were so creative, fun, and energizing! I mean, who knew people had that much purple and green in their closet?” Philip added that the simple investment of hiring a photographer to walk around and capture moments like the green and purple town halls or of team members doing funny poses in front of new signage provides content for years that you can return to, “and people love to see themselves that way.”
Bret agreed. “Posting those photos online was a great way for people to connect with the new brand and each other with a smile on their face.”
Any amount of fun takes planning and time
No matter how much fun is planned, whether it’s a parade or a gift bag, you need to budget a significant amount of time for planning. With a big event, there are obviously a lot of moving pieces that need to be organized, and you should plan for things to go awry.
4. Be authentic and listen thoughtfully to your employees
All these tips for creating fun in a rebrand require being authentic and listening to your employees. “If you’re not authentic, your employees won’t believe it, won’t buy into it, and eventually, will reject or ignore it,” Bret said.
Philip added that even if where you’re going is aspirational, “be authentic in acknowledging where you are today, where you’re going tomorrow, and how you’re going to get there.”
Listening is what ties everything together. You can’t organize fun or even be authentic without knowing what your employees want and care about. As Bret said, “Learn what is important to the team, seek their opinions on how the organization can be better, ask how they have fun at work, and then incorporate all of that into the final communication strategy. When you do, it will be more engaging, more inspiring, more fun, and in the end, more effective.”