As an adviser to SMBs, we frequently are in the role of addressing branding issues in an organization either looking to jump start growth or figure out how to combine forces with a merger partner. In any such scenario, the effort to rebrand is a challenge. To take a known corporate identity and recast it in the minds of a target audience requires research data, creativity, and commitment.
Overture Networks in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina merged with another competitor, who happened to be located in the same town. Both Overture and Hatteras Networks competed in the telecommunications equipment sector. After the merger, the new company had a broader product line, bigger sales distribution channel, and deeper expertise. Mark Durrett, Overture’s marketing director, and Alicia Smith, the communications director, shared seven lessons from their rebranding experience via the Marketing Profs website this morning:
1. Executive buy-in is critical
Our executive team recognized that our rebranding project had the power to help grow the business and change buying behavior. With the CEO’s support, every executive leader, a member of our board of directors, and other company leaders became involved. Vested in the project’s success and expecting measurable results, they all cleared their calendars to participate.
2. Set internal and external goals
The merger brought together two companies with complementary products, but different operating cultures. By marrying the objectives of our rebranding work with the company’s strategic business and growth goals, we helped ensure that everything we did drove business value and focused on growing the bottom line. We learned to be realistic with our timing, knowing that ships don’t turn on a dime, and gave ourselves time to define and then “live” our new brand.
3. Research can inform and guide
There’s tremendous power in asking questions—and in listening. Diving deep, we asked everyone—customers, analysts, internal stakeholders—what they thought we did, how we did it, how we could do it better (or different or easier or with more impact), what they wish we did, how they prefer to work with… you get the idea. After we created a safe forum to receive candid, useful responses, the input poured in. In any such exercise, you must be prepared to get quality feedback; you must listen carefully, evaluate honestly, and decide what really matters.
4. Collaboration (and outside experts) can bring you together
A valued and trusted partner will use your research, extract ideas from the entire team, and empower key leadership to make quality decisions. And just because you’ve expanded the circle of collaboration doesn’t mean you make decisions by committee. With everyone invested (and involved) in the process, our leadership made decisions that the other collaborators readily accepted.
5. Establish a foundation, then build on it
Before beginning any creative exercise—from your new logo to a datasheet—your team needs to have agreed on all the elements that define you as a company. Armed with those foundational brand elements, you can effectively build out the language, design elements, stories, and guidelines that allow your brand to grow in the direction you desire.
6. Convert collaborators to evangelists
Executives and other leaders have a unique role in sharing your brand story with customers, analysts, employees, and key stakeholders. Ideally, they will transition from collaborators to evangelists.
7. Keep walking the walk: You have to live the brand
Once the launch party fades, the hard work begins. Hopefully, by now, your entire company agrees that your brand consists of everything that has anything to do with your company, and that your brand goes everywhere. Your stated values must become reality. Anyone who interacts with your people or your products, receives an invoice, or sees your logo—really anyone in any circumstance—expects an experience that aligns with your brand attributes.
Even if you have not undertaken a rebranding project, you and your company can benefit from the advice offered above. Think through how you can solicit and implement feedback from customers. Incorporate their input into your messaging, involve executive management in the process, and seek to build collaboration into brand evangelism.