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Rebranding: More than mere change of logo!

 

After a failed merger with Time Warner, AOL (formerly American Online) saw its brand and commercial fortunes dwindle. It increasingly gained dire repute as the “dinosaur of the Internet”

Part of AOL’s headache was the failure to take off in global markets beyond the US. The name American Online was a significant contributor to low global sales. Earlier attempt to play it down by adopting the AOL acronym clearly came a cropper

When it unveiled its new identity, AOL changed to Aol. - you read it right; a simple shift from upper case to sentence case with a dot at the end. The debate ensued in full swing; how was this going to address AOL, oops Aol-dot’s woes? Before the dust could settle, Aol. started announcing sweeping changes in its business model, corporate structure and key staff that saw some 17 sales and marketing executives leave in single day, new one ushered in and others get promoted

While the new identity had in effect not changed much, it handed Aol. a much needed platform to engage its better audiences. Riding on the hyper media attention, Aol. articulated its promise and the market responded in good measure. As at the close of 2012, the company reported the best growth in sales and profits in 7 years. Its stock jumped by over 30% since rebranding

The Aol. experience goes a long way to prove what discerning brand experts have averred to over the years; rebranding is should never be a mere change in identity symbols bit substantive shift in an organization’s offering

While most managers expect their customers to reward them with higher sales and favorable shift in perception, the one thing you will get (if lucky) following a rebranding project is higher expectations. How you meet the expectations will determine whether the reward of sales uplift follows.

A well-planned rebranding project can certainly bring good tidings even to a struggling organization. But when should an organization rebrand? … Never, except when it can add measureable value to the business or organization in question. Many companies rush to rebranding when internal cultural shift or a well-crafted advertising theme would do just fine.

The more common scenario is where a genuine need for rebranding exists but the wrong approach is adopted, leading to adverse results. When such is the case, three culprits are often sited; inadequate diagnosis, poor planning and lack of internal involvement

Typically well endowed with above average intellect, marketing managers often assume they know what their customers think and therefore do not need to undertake research before rebranding. Such assumptions are often either outrightly wrong or at best, slightly off the mark.

Spending billions on rebranding without diagnostic research is akin to subjecting a patient to full dosage without a lab test. Such a medic would be considered a quack or reckless professional not worthy of a practicing license

Even where it’s necessary, it doesn’t always follow that rebranding will deliver the intended results. Meticulous planning and execution are a must. Keep it in mind that to the customer; your launch of a new brand identity is merely a promise, which you must be ready to meet before you make

Even where the organization is ready to meet the brand promise, effective message development and campaign planning is critical to the success of the rebranding project.

While at it, please remember that everything you say and do and those that you don’t say or do will send a message to the target audience. A thorough audit of past and current brand communication activities across all platforms is critical. Develop a comprehensive plan and budget, lest you end up with a fresh new logo but not enough resources to upgrade all the signage or replace old branding materials across your market

From the diagnosis stage to brand planning and development, key stakeholders especially employees must be appropriately involved. In a rebranding project I was recently privileged to lead, we incorporated internal research alongside the customer survey to assess employee’s perspective and attitudes towards the organization and its business

We further formed a cross-functional team of brand champions with whom we defined the critical elements of the new brand. This entailed a a series of rebranding workshops designed to tap into institutional memory and capture their input without opening the rebranding exercise to internal biases

That was the easier part. Convincing the board of directors was an uphill task, but the project team persevered. We caped it all with an internal launch to all staff across the country before a special media launch and the official public reveal. In the end, everyone was on board. Most importantly, staff took full ownership and enthusiastically sort to deliver the new promise

Next to launching a new business unit, rebranding is perhaps the most critical decision a CEO and her management team will make. Many such teams get into it with haste and often get their fingers burnt. If you must, be clear on the goal, plan diligently and keep your internal stakeholder involved

It requires a holistic organizational approach. The rebranding process should orchestrate real change and get the communication right to attain success. Above all, never reduce rebranding to a design affair. Matter of fact, rebranding is too important to be left to branding people

 

The author is the Managing Director of fireworks Advertising Limited. He may be reached on c.owino@fireworks-advertising.com