Marketers have always had to be agile. But over the past year, their ability to think fast on their feet was put to the ultimate test. New business restrictions meant a sudden and unprecedented increase in importance of digital channels. Economic uncertainty led to pressure on marketing budgets and a new urgency to do more with less. In short, the coronavirus pandemic changed much about how brands go to market — and that includes how they approach rebranding projects.
For most marketers, rebrands are already somewhat out of the ordinary. But in the current environment, these projects have added layers of complexity. Timelines and budgets are more unpredictable. Supply chain issues can throw a monkey wrench in branded asset production. Remote work arrangements make collaboration (and the installation of on-site assets) more challenging. And vendors may struggle to hit deadlines as they navigate turbulence of their own.
The truth is, while some of these challenges will likely recede when the pandemic ends, many — like the challenges of remote work and shrinking budgets in some sectors — may be here for the long haul.
Here’s what you need to know about rebranding in the “new normal.”
The top challenges of rebranding in the COVID-19 era
In order to successfully rebrand your organization in the midst of a pandemic, you must be prepared to handle more than the usual challenges. Specifically, you’ll need to:
1. Manage shifting budgets and project timelines
With so many unknowns, rebrand timelines and budgets in the COVID-19 era need to be more flexible. Marketers must be prepared to pivot as the situation on the ground changes.
With supply chain issues, vendor interruptions, and shifting business and social restrictions, your team’s ability to complete various rebrand-related tasks will likely take longer than anticipated. You’ll need to build extra time into your anticipated launch schedule to account for the disruptions that may very well follow.
In addition, depending on how your industry is being impacted by the pandemic, you may find your rebranding budget is tighter than anticipated. Your funding may even be reduced midway through your project.
If that happens, don’t fret. Your first step is to revisit your previous plan and figure out which pieces of your rebrand implementation to prioritize — and which to save for a later date. The right rebrand implementation partner can help you figure out how to get the highest return on your investment. For example, you might opt to deprioritize physical assets that are less visible in the current environment (such as business cards and trade show materials) in the first phase of your rebrand roll out—and put more focus on the digital aspects, like the website and social channels.
2. Rethink branded asset prototyping
Producing prototypes for branded assets is a major part of preparing for any rebrand. Of course, the prototyping process usually involves multiple in-person visits with vendors as teams select materials and review prototypes.
Now, though, with most teams working remotely, in-person vendor visits are much less common. That means you may need to make major, big-ticket decisions without hands-on access to larger prototypes, such as signage. Samples and virtual prototype reviews can fill in the gap. In addition, a seasoned brand implementation partner can help you successfully navigate these virtual sessions and advise you on everything from specs to samples to ensure you make the right choices for your branded asset conversion.
3. Understand the shifting vendor landscape
Vendors play a key role in the ability to successfully realize your rebrand objectives. In the pre-pandemic era, the vendor landscape was far more stable, making it much easier to estimate costs and determine timelines.
However, the pandemic has shaken up the vendor landscape. Unfortunately, some vendors have gone (or will go) out of business. Others have reduced their capacity, changed their pricing strategy, or extended their lead times.
These fluctuations could have a major impact on your rebrand from a time, cost, and quality perspective. So, hedge your bets as you put together a vendor strategy for your rebrand. For example, you may choose to strategically engage regional vendors to avoid the possibility of pandemic-related site closures in hard-hit areas.
At BrandActive, we help our clients manage vendor uncertainty in a number of ways, including:
Preparing pricing scenarios to minimize unwanted budgeting surprises
Creating RFPs with questions pertaining to COVID-related interruptions and capacity
Engaging a larger number of vendors to insure against instability and unforeseen production issues
4. Take full advantage of collaboration tools digitally
Working remotely has many challenges and makes coordinating a rebrand — which requires close collaboration across many operational units — inherently more difficult. So, finding the right tools and technology to manage your rebrand and keep your team members aligned more important than ever. Luckily, the pandemic has expedited the use of robust collaboration tools. However, it’s one thing to have access to tools, and it’s another to know how to use them effectively to promote effective collaboration, information gathering, tracking, and reporting with respect to your rebrand. Here again, having a firm experienced in rebrand implementation can be invaluable in setting your initiative up for success.
5. Reconsider your roll-out plan
The pandemic is impacting each industry differently. Depending on what’s happening in your vertical, you may need to adjust your rebrand implementation strategy to reflect prevailing attitudes or sensitivities around spending and priorities, or more practical considerations such as access to on-site locations
For example, frontline healthcare organizations may face resistance when it comes to investing in a new brand at a time when many internal resources are already stretched so thin. Hospitals may also be limiting access to their site to control spread of infection. A possible response could be to transition exterior signage right away but hold off on interior signage until health concerns are less pressing.
6. Navigate supply chain disruptions
The global nature of the pandemic means you might encounter COVID-related supply chain disruptions that may make certain materials more costly or hard to obtain.
At BrandActive, we help each client proactively manage global and regional supply chain issues as they plan their rebrand. For example, we guide our clients in value-engineering their branded assets to avoid parts and materials that we know to be experiencing supply chain issues.
7. Get creative about internal brand adoption
On the face of it, rebranding is mostly about creating an impact on a brand’s external audiences. But the success of any rebrand rests on how well the new brand is received and adopted internally. That’s part of the reason why so many organizations plan rebrand kickoff events that make an impact. They want their employees to embrace the new brand — and steward it faithfully in all that they do.
Employee engagement remains a major rebranding concern during this time. That’s especially true for acquisitions-driven rebrands, in which previously unrelated teams must come together under the banner of a single brand for the first time. From branded merch gift packages (mailed to employees’ homes) and giveaways to digital town halls, galas and training, brands must engage their teams in ways that inspire them to rally around the new brand (and learn how to apply it). Have an open dialogue on what is happening with your brand, why this change was made and what to expect moving forward, then provide ongoing training to ensure employees understand how to apply the brand properly.
Navigating a rebrand in the “new normal” may feel like anything but. However, with the right preparation — and the right rebrand implementation partner to guide you — you can still execute a seamless and impactful rebrand. Interested in learning more about how BrandActive can help? We’d love to hear from you.