Addressing the unique demands of a manufacturing rebrand while building brand value

Addressing the unique demands of a manufacturing rebrand while building brand value


Patrick Heath

People often say that timing is everything. That’s certainly true when you are rebranding a manufacturing company.

To start, a manufacturing rebranding tends to be a longer-than-average process, one that reflects greater-than-average complexity. This is because manufacturing companies have so many different branded touchpoints to transition — and a plethora of logistics underlying each one.

Manufacturers in the process of a rebrand must consider inventory management, updating production molds, product packaging, regulatory recertification, trade compliance filings, and more. Add longer operational and sales cycles to the mix, and a manufacturing rebrand becomes a multi-year project requiring sustained planning, management, and oversight to execute. The effort can often be as much or more than launching a new product.

For example, to transition branded production molds to the new brand, manufacturers must:

  • Deliver new brand guidelines to the industrial design team and have them update the designs for the molds

  • Pass the new designs off to your internal engineering team, vendor partner, or original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to produce a prototype of the new molds

  • QA and test the prototype

  • Make any necessary adjustments or corrections

  • Put the new molds into production on a timeline that works for existing operational cycles

  • Carefully manage and sell down existing stock of the soon-to-be-defunct inventory so that waste is minimized at the time of transition

Of course, this is a high-level view of the multi-step process behind just one element of transitioning a manufacturer’s branded products. Zoom back a little further, and you’ll see that rebranding a manufacturing company is a massive cross-functional effort. In addition, because there are so many moving parts and operational cycles involved, manufacturers typically can’t launch a rebrand in a “big bang,” with the new brand switching over fully on a single date. Instead, manufacturers usually rebrand in a rolling fashion over a longer period of time.

Following are a few key tactics with a big impact.

Sooner isn’t always better: finding the best-fit rebranding process timeline

Most companies that have decided to rebrand are eager to convert their brands as soon as possible, and manufacturing companies are no exception. Not so fast. When it comes to rebranding your manufacturing company, sooner isn’t always better. Unless there is a legal requirement dictating the timing of your rebrand (for example, a divestiture), you should think less about how quickly you can launch your rebrand and more about how to identify a best-fit timeline for converting your brand.

Going for a best-fit rebrand timeline rather than the fastest possible schedule has multiple benefits. It can help your firm:

  • Reduce its overall spend on the rebrand
  • Gain efficiencies by leveraging existing operational cycles
  • Minimize waste by selling through your current inventory of branded products rather than unnecessarily scrapping stock
  • Decrease the duration of cross-branding during the rebrand rollout

To identify your firm’s best-fit rebrand timeline, you’ll want to take a look at a number of factors, including:

  • Your current product inventory
  • Product manufacturing cycles
  • Sales cycles, including any seasonal cycles that impact your product line (such as the Christmas season)
  • Annual model year releases, if applicable

Your goal is to chart out a best-fit rebrand timeline that is optimized for these disparate components.

Prioritize product conversions to conserve brand value

Imagine a family of products sitting on a rack at a retail store. Now imagine that some of the products are branded one way, while others are branded another way. Consumers who encounter this rack of products are likely to experience at least a little confusion — confusion that could have been avoided altogether with proper prioritization of product rebranding.

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All of your products will eventually be rebranded, but in the context of a longer rebrand rollout, it won’t happen overnight. Unfortunately, this means there’s no getting around an uncomfortable middle state in which varying degrees of cross-branding will exist. During this time, the order in which you convert your products can spell the difference between conserving brand value and eroding it. As much as possible, strive to order the rebranding of products in a way that reduces the consumer’s awareness of cross-branding.

Make the most of your cross-functional team

Successfully rebranding your manufacturing company without eroding brand value in the process will require a concerted cross-functional effort. So, it stands to reason that you’ll need to assemble a cross-functional team to plan and execute the rebrand. After all, if you leave it up to the engineers, brand will probably not be prioritized. And if you let sales call all the shots, you probably won’t find the most efficient way of handling the operational aspects of the rebrand.

Proper coordination between your teams can lead to less overall cross-branding — and make the whole process move more quickly, too. For example, effective cross-functional collaboration is required just to ensure that a single product and its packaging are all converted properly and at the same time.

Explain unavoidable cross-branding to your distributors and consumers

Even if you execute your rebrand with optimal timing, product prioritization, and collaboration, some degree of noticeable cross-branding will still be unavoidable. The best way to handle this is by addressing it directly with your distributors and consumers.

Take the time to educate your dealers about the state of your rebrand and let them know what to expect. Note that this means you’ll need to keep your sales staff looped into your rebrand plan, including any changes. If your dealers are confused about what’s happening with your company, you can bet that your end buyers will be, too.

If you find you have to proceed for a time with cross-branding within a single product (for example, between individual components of the product or between the product and the packaging), then you should address this mismatch with the consumer to proactively allay any concerns they might have. For example, this might mean including an insert that tells the customer you are in the process of rebranding and to excuse the temporary cross-branding.

Manufacturers in the process of a rebrand rightly feel that they are in a time of fragmentation and change. But by approaching the rebrand strategically, they can conserve brand value as they transform toward a better future.