Rebranding as part of an IPO? 3 tips to get ready for prime time

Rebranding as part of an IPO? 3 tips to get ready for prime time


Philip Guiliano, James Burn

If your brand is about to seize the opportunity an IPO offers, you’ve got a lot of work to do to prepare. That’s especially true if you’re planning to rebrand as part of your upcoming evolution.

Many companies have decided it’s the right time for this type of move. With the stock market reaching new valuation highs with stunning regularity, you have the opportunity to use brand to boost your valuation and long-term enterprise value.

The good news? With the right business case behind it, the stakes of the IPO are so high and the relative investment in brand so low that a rebrand can be received more openly. Strike while the iron is hot because the amount of capital you spend to strengthen your brand value right now can yield an exponential return. The challenging news? The clock is ticking, and there’s a lot to accomplish and plan for before you ring that bell.

These three tips will help you successfully navigate the unique challenges you’re about to face.

1. Build a rebranding implementation plan that supports your overarching strategy

Many executives focus on the why of the rebranding strategy but fail to fully consider the how of bringing that new brand to life. When you’re rebranding as part of an IPO, the stakes are even higher than in a typical rebranding scenario. All eyes are on your company. How high will the initial share price go? Will it stay high, or will it take a hit in the weeks and months after that initial offering?

What you do now can impact whether your IPO becomes — and remains — the high-value proposition you want it to be. So whether you plan to rebrand as a way to support your brand’s value leading up to an IPO or make a change after your company’s big day, you need a detailed rebranding implementation plan to pull it off without a hitch.

That plan should be built with your overarching strategy in mind. Are you rebranding your company overall? Repositioning yourself to enter new markets? Acquiring new products or companies after the IPO to drive momentum? Your strategic intent needs to drive your implementation strategy. Prioritizing the right things in the right way at the right time will ensure you maximize your IPO’s full potential through seamless implementation of your rebrand strategy.

2. Prioritize the mission-critical elements of your rebranding implementation plan

Most companies do not arrive at their IPO date with every element of their rebrand complete. You need to fully develop your implementation plan ahead of time, but certain parts of that plan can be enacted after your big day. However, there are four key elements that must be thought through prior to diversifying your company’s ownership. And each one is interdependent on the others. So, consider all of these as they relate to each other in order to harness the full potential of the moment.

Legal & Regulatory Compliance

Going public has a host of legal and regulatory implications. And although you may not be the one responsible for compliance, you do need to be aware of any legal implications that impact you. For example, will you be required to convert certain branded assets by a certain date? If you’re changing your company’s name, are there regulatory or legal requirements associated with that decision? If you have products, what about import and export filings? Even global signage is tied to legal and regulatory filings – with long lead times in certain countries – so plan early. Will the media catch wind of regulatory filing and break the story of your IPO before you get a chance to communicate with your audiences? Don’t let this important area catch you off guard.

External Communication Plan

Communicating well during a brand change is always important, but it’s even more critical when you’re planning an IPO. After all, there needs to be a clear understanding in the market of exactly where your company is headed and why. You need to own this conversation. You also want key audiences to understand how the rebrand will be implemented – what to expect and when – to get ahead of any implications, including implementation timing. The way you communicate with analysts, members of the media, and stakeholders has the potential to drive your share price up or down. That’s why it’s critical to bring all external influencers on board with your new direction early in the process so they can help build momentum on your behalf.

Launch Strategy

How will you launch your new brand to the world? Do you want to make a big bang announcement as part of your IPO? Or will you be leveraging key moments in time post-IPO — such as the launch of a new product, an M&A deal, or a market expansion — that will necessitate a thoughtful, communication-driven launch strategy? Or are you making this move well in advance of the intent to file for an IPO? There are best practices that can be leveraged to choose and execute the launch scenario that’s right for your company and your strategic goals. But be aware that keeping a rebrand a secret before an IPO is a huge challenge because of the legal filings and the need to communicate with external vendors and influencers ahead of the IPO date. Plan accordingly.

Branded Asset Conversion

Rebranding every touchpoint that carries your legacy brand(s) can be the most challenging, time consuming, and expensive part of a rebrand implementation. But don’t worry — you don’t need to convert all your branded assets prior to hitting the trading floor. Rather, focus on the external-facing assets that make the biggest impact. For some organizations, that means converting a flagship product to the new visual identity. For others, it involves focusing on the employee engagement elements of the rebrand first (communications, training, workwear, badges, applications, etc.). And for some, it means working to convert key markets first, or transitioning consumer assets before corporate assets – while for others it’s the other way around. Think through which of your branded assets make the most impact for your brand and focus on converting those immediately. Then, be sure your longer-term implementation plan accounts for everything else.

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3. Allocate appropriate resources based on your rebrand’s scope and timeline

There’s a universal truth in rebrand implementation. The scope is bigger than you think, and the resource implications are significantly larger than you anticipate. Planning realistically will help you avoid a stalled rebrand that, in turn, impacts the momentum you’re hoping to gain from your IPO.

In general, your timeline for rolling out the high-priority elements of your implementation plan is going to be tight. You may be working to maximize brand value prior to that IPO. And this will have resource implications in terms of your budget and in terms of impact on the people who need to pull it all off.

To help you manage tight timelines, take a close look at what should and can be completed in-house versus what can be outsourced. If your in-house creative team is already stretched keeping up with the normal demands of their responsibilities, they likely won’t be able to handle every creative project that a rebrand will require. But could you assign them the high-value, high-impact projects that absolutely must reflect your company’s vision and then outsource the rest? Can you rely on agency partners to supplement your in-house bandwidth?

There will be cost implications to outsourcing, especially for rushed projects. But again, the money you spend now to boost your brand’s value is likely to yield much more in ROI.

After the IPO, continue to write your brand’s new chapter

Your company’s IPO is an exciting moment in your brand’s story — especially when a rebrand heralds the start of a new chapter. You’ve prioritized all the key elements leading up to your IPO. But to turn the page effectively, you’ll need to finish what you started after that bell stops ringing. This will involve training your employees on all the implications of your rebrand, completing your asset conversion plan, and shoring up your brand and marketing operations to support all the changes you’ve made.

Bottom line? Effective planning takes time, strategic thought, and rigorous attention to detail and organization. And, once this is done, don’t lose momentum: See it the whole way through. Then watch the positive market impacts yield precisely why you embarked on this journey in the first place—the soaring of your brand and enterprise value.