This article explores the importance of a comprehensive brand implementation plan, the critical components it should include, and the timing to complete each task in order to achieve a successful corporate rebranding.
Whether you’re currently considering, going through, or nearing the end of a rebrand or brand update, you’re probably feeling one thought; “this has been (or will be) expensive and painfully long. When will it be over?” When those thoughts enter the mind it’s easy to start taking shortcuts to get to market and be done. But those shortcuts can have drastic impact leading to missed objectives. In Forbes’ words, “you’ll be swimming up creek without a paddle.” The fatigue stage is what hits when you’re overwhelmed and are having a hard time seeing an end in sight. To reduce your risk and protect your strategic objectives, having a brand implementation plan is imperative.
Rushing Brand Implementation Leads to Falling Short on Strategic Objectives
Before thinking about creating a brand implementation plan, it’s important to truly understand what you are implementing. Too often professional services firms view a rebrand as simply changing the logo, updating the website visuals and message, and using new email, letterhead, tradeshow booth and PowerPoint templates. These are the symptoms of rushing a rebrand to market. It’s a mindset of “spend as little as necessary, feel like you got the big items complete, and move on.”
The reality is this mindset is shallow and only solves for one facet of your original intent — improve how you market through your material. But remember, your objective for rebranding should be much more strategic than that. It likely should be focused around wanting to carve a unique point-of-view into the marketplace to develop a perception around who your firm is, what it believes and why it matters. And that’s only achieved when you address how you think, speak, look, and behave. Those components cover not just how you market through your material but also how you sell through interactions, facilitate and inspire through your environment, educate through training, and deliver on your commitments to your clients. And if you neglect those critical elements in your plan, then expect to fall short. Because it takes a unique culture to become a demand generating firm.
A Full Brand Rollout Doesn’t Happen All at Once, But It Should All Happen
The first step to a successful brand implementation is to organize all brand touchpoints from the most critical to the least critical components. Then begin assigning deadlines for when those components will be completed. It’s a lot when you think about the sheer amount of material that exists. The volume escalates quickly when you think about signage, environmental graphics, HR training and on-boarding material, recruiting collateral, sales collateral, promotional items, vehicle graphics, etc.
Because of that, we recommend you take your brand touchpoints and organize them into the following three levels of priority:
Level 1 Assets
These are assets that are frequently used for lead generation and business development. Material that falls into this list should include the website, core business papers and electronic templates, solution overview sell sheets, leadership bios, capabilities presentations, primary tradeshow booth(s), and a governing brand guidelines document.
Timing: Most level 1 assets should be updated at brand launch with any remaining assets in the list being complete within 6-months of launch.
Level 2 Assets
These are assets that have moderate use in lead generation, business development and recruiting. Common assets that would fall into this category include corporate envelopes, older but still relevant case studies, smaller tradeshow graphics such as pop-up banners, new hire on-boarding material, and environmental graphics such as building logos, building/suite entrance signage and interior messaging and graphics.
Timing: All level 2 assets should to be updated within 12-months of brand launch.
Level 3 Assets
These are all other assets that can be replaced when old material is depleted, and material used with existing clients who will not be influenced by old branding. Common assets that would fall into this category would include items such as corporate thank you cards and envelopes, checks and invoice paper, older microsites still in use, client training material, and core HR papers such as employee benefits package material and employee training material.
Timing: All level 3 assets should be updated within 24-months of brand launch.
It’s More Than Updating Physical Material, It’s Also Engaging (And Sometimes Changing) Culture
Up to this point, I’ve focused more on the physical tools used to market, sell, educate and engage your various audiences whether external or internal. But a rebrand is more than material. It’s about changing a point-of-view and a perspective in people. And that takes solid communication and education focused toward three critical audiences.
Your internal workforce is your most important audience, yet it’s the one most often overlooked when investing in a rebrand. It’s important your employees are informed and believe in the direction and underlying strategy. Make sure they’re on-board by letting them know this is an exciting time and one that is cause for celebration.
Execute an internal brand launch party and use it as a time to educate your workforce at least 4-weeks prior to your external launch. Take it on the road through multiple events if you have multiple offices. During this event you should educate the employees on the process that led you to where you are and the corporate vision and objectives you intend for it to enable. Excite them by giving them an early look at the brand by lifting the veil to what will soon be in the market, make it tangible by putting the brand in their hands with new apparel and/or stationary, and educate them on your new messaging to inform them about how to speak about the firm moving forward.
All of this is important because whether it’s a direct connection or not, the reality is every employee is involved in either helping land new clients, retain existing clients, and/or recruit new talent in some form or another. You need buy-in from them to realize any success.
Existing Clients and Prospects
Existing clients know you well and trust you. They believe in you and have already bought into the firms’ capabilities and point-of-view. This means that a rebrand could be scary for them because it seeds the question, “What does this mean for my existing relationship with you? Is what I bought changing?” Because of that, you need to make sure you have a clear client communications plan included in your brand implementation plan.
Your client communications plan should be executed through a more personal touchpoint from the client lead within a week of launch. Introduce the rebrand to your clients and let them know what it means for your business and how it will be a positive impact for the relationship. It’s a perfect opportunity to reinforce your value-proposition, show you’re thinking and care about the relationship, and to inform them about the full capabilities of your firm. Including capabilities that may not yet be part of your existing service agreement.
The leads of the firm are the individuals who could be interested in hiring you. The brand implementation plan needs to involve a communications strategy to inform these people of the positive change happening within your business. Not only does it provide another marketable touchpoint, but it might just be the push the lead needs in their vetting process to feel confident you’re the firm for them to engage in a conversation or invite into an opportunity.
Marketing should own the communications effort to your firms leads via a brand marketing campaign. And it should be implemented within the first 30 days of the brand launch. The objective is the same. Announce the rebrand and why it happened so each lead is aware of what’s happening, position the firm in the lead’s mind so they understand the full point-of-view your firm has, and position your firm’s core capabilities and value-proposition so they know what they can buy and why it’s in their interest to buy it.
Rebrands are exciting. They can energize a stagnate or declining culture, deepen existing customer relationships by adding and reinforcing value, and open doors to new opportunities previously thought of as untouchable. But the reality is they are expensive and take a lot of time to get into market which creates a lot of risk in the event of failure.
Protect against your risk by being realistic with your budget and timing and work with your agency to develop a manageable brand implementation plan. Implemented effectively, you will see a positive impact on culture, improved sales and marketing, and create the energy and perception for you firm you desire. Unless of course you’re not doing the rebrand for the right reasons.