At its core, logistics is the careful planning towards anticipated outcomes, as well as the resolve and experience to still achieve those outcomes when the unexpected occurs. Given this is a piece about risk, lets dispose the first part of that definition referring to the ideal projects where perfect planning leads to excellent results, and recognize that complex projects are laden with risk. So, in that context how do you test the mettle of people managing the logistics of a rebranding? You see how they expect the unexpected. You see how their experience and grasp of the situation has led to back-up planning, creative problem solving, and the ability to call upon the data and past experience to continue to keep the train on the rails.
Louis Pasteur once said about discoveries in science, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” As in science, so in the success of rebranding logistics: The prepared mind makes all the difference. And today during rebranding rollouts, the prepared mind comes from meticulously questioning every line item of a rebranding program in light of lessons learned from previous rollouts. Branding executives, turned rebranding logistics managers, are always asking: What could go wrong—we have talented people that manage our signs, vehicles, event materials, trademarks, uniforms, packaging? What cost, quality, brand-impact, and implementation issues should we take into account? With thousands of distributed decision points to consider, the gut answer may come quickly to a talented mind, but the definitive answer comes from leveraging systems that integrate up-front data gathering about the project with back-end lessons from former ones that drive cost-savings, quality, efficiency, and brand impact.
A good example of what can go wrong comes from a company that decided to do something as “simple” as rebrand employee badges on its own. Though far less visible than assets like signs, badges can cause more immediate operational problems during a rebranding. Due to coding snafus on the badges, in this company’s case, the new badges didn’t work. On the day employees arrived to enter the building—at a health-care system—nobody could get in the door. Not nurses, not doctors, not janitors. The cost and hassles were enormous. A different implementation strategy would have avoided this risk.
The responsibility of logistics managers remains largely to bring in the rebranding on time, on budget, at the desired quality level. But doing so while also reducing risk remains crucial. What might go wrong when a company takes vehicles off the street to apply new decals? If those vehicles are ambulances or utility service vehicles, you may need to rent or borrow replacements. What might go wrong when you ask workers to wear new uniforms? The union might make the issue a bargaining chip. What might go wrong when you ship a sign for a grand opening? The vendor might put it up too early, before the video team arrives to shoot the YouTube short. And the list goes on.
Rebranding logistics managers anticipate these issues and have backup plans—or they ride herd to be sure the implementation goes as scheduled. To revisit the ‘simple’ example of badges, experience shows that—akin to leaving home with the wrong car keys—faulty badges can risk a shutdown of the business. In the case of the health-care system, one easy way to mitigate the risk would have been to apply a badge overlay instead of making new badges. Everyone would then have had badges with readable code. Overlays—which make badges look almost new—have a cost advantage, too. They run about 50 cents to $1.50 each, compared to $6 to $12 each for new badges. BrandActive recently recommended overlays to a company with 250,000 employees. Though the company badly wanted new badges, the savings in manufacturing costs alone ran to well over $1 million—not to mention the savings in effort by the IT department and the reduced risk. Lower cost, lower risk, excellent quality—overlays are thus the first choice for the risk-averse or those situations where complex and disparate systems or geographic profiles make it a smarter choice.
The role of the rebranding manager remains one of a controller—managing roll-out logistics in order to introduce the new brand into the market on-time, on-budget, and with quality and consistency. The key to managing the risk inherent in rebranding projects is to assemble a team that puts experience on your side, and is capable of providing options that will help to avoid pitfalls, and solutions when the unforeseen comes your way.