Seven tips to minimize the risks of rebranding at energy companies

Seven tips to minimize the risks of rebranding at energy companies

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018 | Andy Pollock

If your energy firm is like most, it’s structured as a B2B enterprise. Management emphasizes sales and building relationships with a core set of customers. Brand often takes a back seat. So, when the business needs to rebrand because of a transaction or new business strategy, brand marketers can find it difficult to convey the strategic and financial value of brand and the need to properly fund brand conversion. Those marketers who can put rebranding implementation into financial terms, addressing cost management and ROI, have a head start. They can turn brand change into an opportunity to move forward with strategic brand priorities.

That means when it comes to rebranding implementation, brand marketers need to offer senior management detailed cost estimates and strategy options. They need to show how the organization can prepare to execute across multiple field and central offices across many countries. Yet amid the tumult of rebranding, especially one triggered by a transaction such as a merger, operating at this level can be a tall order. Marketing staffs at energy companies are notoriously lean and are always being asked to do more with fewer resources.

Recently, a large energy company (which I’ll call XYZ Energy) decided to implement a new brand message and identity. XYZ Energy generates, distributes, and transports energy. Over time, the firm had acquired many smaller competitors. Management decided that now was the time to fold in these legacy companies under one brand umbrella—one that reflected XYZ Energy’s friendly, approachable, and environmentally friendly ethos. This massive rebrand implementation program affected thousands of branded assets, including signage, fleet vehicles, workwear, and digital. I’ll use some of this company’s experiences to illustrate best practices for rebranding implementation.

The first rebranding challenge is to figure out the full costs of the program.

Rebranding implementation programs are typically under-resourced. But lack of money isn’t the true reason why many energy rebrands aren’t funded properly. The shortfall often stems from lack of accurate information and detailed inventories of branded assets. Just think about all the touchpoints an energy company needs to address. In the digital realm, marketing needs to rebrand the corporate website, online customer and payment portals, social media and array of systems and forms. Physical branded assets include printed forms, papers invoices and bills; employee uniforms and personal protective equipment (PPE), ID badges, fleet vehicles, and signage of all kinds, from office lobby signs to pipeline markers. Simply assembling an accurate and complete inventory is challenging because typically, inventories of assets are owned at the local level. Marketing must rely on data provided by facilities and operational staff from every corner of the company, including those whose primary responsibility is to lay pipeline, manage storage facilities, and provide local service and support to end customers.

Once the data is available for analysis, the next task is to determine priorities, compute branded asset conversion costs, and produce scenario and asset transition timelines that management will support and fund.

Some marketers at energy companies seem to throw up their hands in the face of this seemingly unconquerable complexity. They prepare a back-of-the-envelope estimate of costs and timing and submit it to management with fingers crossed for luck. They’ll need it. Chances are, they’ll spend the next few years managing cost over-runs, explaining delays, and trying to clean up off-brand uses of the logo by field personnel.

Others seize upon rebranding implementation to drive greater brand consistency and control. Which position would you prefer?

Top Tips for Scoping and Budgeting

Rebranding implementation is more science than art. To gain the best results—and the respect of management and other key stakeholders—devise and apply a systematic approach to cost estimating and scenario planning.

1.    Dedicate staff to the scoping and costing stage so that you can produce accurate, data-backed estimates.

2.    Understand that rebranding implementation will cost many times more than developing the brand strategy and design. Aim to secure a dedicated, centralized budget.

3.    Go beyond budget and timing options. Provide well-thought out, strategic scenarios that tie to marketing and overall company goals and capitalize on opportunities for efficiency and growth.

4.    Consider hiring experts who have the expertise, benchmarking data from similar rebrandings, and tech tools in hand to efficiently create accurate surveys, budgets, and scenarios.

The second challenge is planning the rebrand across departments and brands.

While XYZ Energy had multiple customer-facing brands, it held an advantage over those firms who rebrand as a result of a merger. XYZ Energy had already done the hard work to integrate operations. While the various companies looked very different, they were already essentially operating as one. Despite this advantage, communication was still a principal challenge. Many employees (and vendors) needed to understand and implement the plan across far-flung locations and departments, and the Marketing department needed to hold everyone accountable.

Figuring out how to best address some of the assets slated for rebranding wasn’t always straightforward. For example, solutions for fleet vehicles were harder to devise and explain to the team. Some vehicles were coming off lease within 18 months. Removing the old branding and replacing with the new logo as designed would leave behind “ghosted” areas on some of these legacy company vehicles. Yet repainting them would be cost prohibitive given their short remaining lives. Another complex situation arose over tanks and pipeline markers. These have specific regulatory regulations and logistical challenges. Marketing needed to proceed carefully and make sure that team members understood the requirements.

Top Tips for Planning and Preparing

1.    Establish efficient, regular team communications. Set up a dashboard early in the planning process and share it with everyone involved in the process. Include the number of each type of asset to be converted and KPIs around timing and costs. Digital dashboards are best. This will convey the single truth of the project, on demand, through the launch.

2.    Be creative. To address the issue of the fleet coming off lease, XYZ Energy created a large decal—larger than the standard branding—that could cover the legacy branding. This solution not only looked good—it saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.

3.    Take a deep dive into the details. Consult knowledgeable experts inside or outside your organization to understand the legal and regulatory requirements that apply to the unique branded assets of energy companies.

Apply these tips—a total of seven in all—to scoping, budgeting, and planning for rebrand implementation, and you’ll be ready to celebrate success on Day One launch and beyond.

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