The three essential brand implementation touchpoints you should consider when going through a rebrand.
There used to be a common misconception that your brand is logo. And when someone says they are going through a rebrand, that it amounted to a logo, some shiny new business cards, maybe a website, a PPT template and a few other standard business materials like an info sheet, case study template or maybe a resume template. Dust off your shoulders and call it a day. Hooray, we rebranded!
Not so fast. While it’s true that all of these things are assets of your brand, they really don’t constitute a brand in and of itself. We are missing some very important pieces to the puzzle. To start, you need an underlying brand strategy that defines what you’re trying to accomplish. How are you positioning your firm? What’s your point-of-view on how what you do should be done? How do these things related to the personality and culture of your firm? But, for any of these things to get traction, you need “brand fans.” You need employees who are emotionally invested in the brand you’re trying to build in the marketplace. So why do we need brand fans and how do we get them? How do we change perception and increase trust in our brand? Well first, we need to take a quick step backward to take that big step forward to understand why the emotional connection is so important.
Mandatory, yet abbreviated, “What is a Brand?” Definition
A quick Google search of “what is a brand?” will throw out a bunch of different types of answers. All them are partially to fully true, but also different in a lot of respects. And if you were to ask me the same question, my answer would be more of the same. Because a brand can mean many things to many people. On top of that, a professional services brand is really quite different from a consumer brand. But, I don’t want to dive down the rabbit hole of finding the one true answer to that question, but if I were to give it a quick one-sentence answer it would be this:
Your brand is the culmination of the tangible things you can touch/read/listen/watch, supported and surrounded by the emotional connection a person has to the things they touch/read/listen/watch.
Meaning your brand is as much as a logo on a shirt, as it is the reason why that person put on that shirt in the first place. Any fan of a sports team knows and feels this when they put on a jersey to watch a game at home. They have some unspoken emotional connection to their favorite team. So much so, they proudly sport that same jersey in the off season. Then they’ll put a sticker on their car, buy a custom phone case and hang a flag from their front porch. The ways in which they are willing to express that connection is endless. And that’s what we seek with employees and, to some extent, clients. Now I’m not saying that your employees are going to get so excited about your brand that they’ll all of sudden ask for a branded car seat cover to show their support, but you get the idea.
Beyond the Tangibles
We believe a rebrand shouldn’t just stop at the tangible things they can touch/read/listen/watch. The end shouldn’t be the standard business papers we all interact with on a daily basis. Believing in something bigger goes beyond an info sheet and a business card. I mean, it’s great that some old and tired piece of collateral you’ve been using for ten years has been updated, but fundamentally you would want your employees to know WHY it has been updated, WHY your firm’s positioning or point-of-view has changed and just WHY you went through a rebrand in the first place. If they can’t buy in to the source of the change, all the fancy new PPT templates in the world aren’t going to get them excited to walk the new walk and talk the new talk. It’s all about brand perception.
If you’ve taken the step to go through a rebrand, then something intrinsic to your business has changed. A core service has dramatically changed, the internal culture of your firm no longer aligns with the external attitudes of clients or maybe clients routinely think of you for lower value services and are passing you over for higher value ones. Your employees need to know the reason for the new brand and what it means FOR them and what is expected FROM them going forward. Like any relationship, it’s a two way street.
That’s why building brand fans in your company is key to truly establishing and strengthening your brand. Because it’s one thing to have a marketing team of 4-10 people and maybe the CEO or President on board with with a rebrand, it’s another thing to get 300+ employees aligned and excited about it. For them, this all may have come completely from left field. It can be confusing and can be met with A LOT of hesitation or flat out refusal. So what can we do bring them more into the brand experience? There a few things that should be done to ease and help the transition and build brand fans. These are the 3 biggest:
- Brand Book(s)
- Brand Environments
- Brand Videos
Let’s start simple. Hey! We rebranded, here’s a book of everything you need to know. A brand book (sometimes known as a brand guide or style guide) is a neat little package containing just about anything anyone would need to know about your brand. It can contain information on your underlying strategy such as your personality, positioning, and point-of-view, as well as elements of your brand platform such as your messaging, your logo standards, your brand colors/fonts, your company history, your tone-of-voice and how to have client interactions. More often than not, all of this is wrapped up in one package, but personally I believe it should be a two-pronged approach.
First, I believe you should start with a more “philosophical” piece of collateral. This is where you truly make cultural and emotional impact. It is a standards manual of your belief system. Belief in what your company and brand stands for. Belief in how you are positioning yourself in the market. Belief in your brand vision. Belief in the personality of the brand and how that extends to the employees. Belief in the culture that is being established within the company. Belief in WHY we went through a rebrand. In other words, your point-of-view or the WHY in the Rattleback Brand Framework. This is where you talk about what drives your organization to do what you do. I am a big believer that this should be a physical piece that can be held in your hand, placed on a desk and given to new employees upon hiring. The single strongest way to build those brand fans is to build emotional connections. This is one of the better ways to start building those bridges to your employees brains and hearts. They are the soul of your company in some respects, so give them something to believe in.
Abrasive Technology Brand Book
Second, there should be a brand guidelines piece. This is all the “in-the-weeds/nuts-and-bolts” type of things. Logo standards, font sizes, color formulas, the do’s and do-not’s of logo usage and anything else that would be useful when handed off to any marketing team or agency so they have all the rules they need to produce anything “on-brand.” All of this stuff is great for policing your brand and maintaining graphic standards, but it useful to only a small percentage of employees. It does nothing to build an emotional connection. I mean, how often is a partner in your firm really going to need to know what the proper clear-space they should be using around your logo is? Probably not a lot. Or ever? While it is very important to have, it feels secondary and separate to the more philosophical piece stated above in terms of building emotional bonds.
TBM Brand Guidelines
You want to start turning employees, clients or even prospective clients into brand fans as soon as they open the door and step foot in your office. And honestly, a logo on the wall behind a reception desk just isn’t going to cut it. Environmental graphics allow you the unique opportunity to fully immerse people in your brand experience from the way things look on the walls, to motion graphics on a television screen, down to the seating and types of refreshments you offer. It can all be customized to fit within the culture and personality you’ve established.
Let’s say your typical client/prospective client walks into your office, has a seat in the reception area before being ushered down a hallway to your main conference room for a meeting. If you wanted to, you could graphically unfold your company story along that commonly followed route. Primary messaging in the reception area, followed by your point-of-view in the hallway to company history in the conference room. You’ve taken them along on your brand story simply by planning their walk from door to conference room.
River Consulting Brand Environment
For employees on the other hand, you can do much of the same by inspiring them to embrace your new cultural initiatives through break room graphics or devoting focus walls in the common workspaces to your brand belief system. Plus, by reinforcing those brand beliefs on a daily basis you again grow your brand fanbase. It starts to become instinctual to think and act in a way that falls under your brand message. The reality is every part of the environment can be customized. You can have items like desk seating, carpets and wall color coordinated in your brand colors. So can notepads, folders and pens. I’ve even heard of brands going so far as to have a brand smell. Let that sink in for a moment and then wonder why every Target or IKEA smells the same when you walk in. Really, there is nothing saying that every aspect of an office environment can’t be linked to your brand and be colorful, uplifting and and on-message.
Sequent Brand Environment
Everyone should have a brand video. Not just those who have gone through a rebrand, but everyone! I know we (Rattleback) are guilty of having an outdated one. But it doesn’t change how important video is, especially in the YouTube age. A brand video should be short (under two minutes) and get straight to the point of your brand. It should reinforce your core messaging and point-of-view, as well as talk philosophically about just who you are as a company today and who you hope to be moving forward. The video gives you a visual tool to showcase who you are and talk about just why you did this to begin with. If you were to show this video to someone who knows nothing about your company, they should get the basic understanding of what you’re all about after one viewing.
WSP Brand Video
One of the best times to unveil your brand video is during an internal brand launch. A lot of times this involves gathering the company in a meeting space (physically and virtually) for a big reveal. Sure, speaking at a podium in front of a microphone can get the point across, but by letting your video do the heavy lifting you have a chance to make a greater impact. It’s much easier to get to a more emotional core when you have things like music, motion graphics, talking heads and a very articulate script building excitement and getting people on your side. Just look at an award show like the Oscars. For any award there is usually a video build up of some kind before a celebrity gives away the award. That video intro gives you the feel and makes you more invested in who actually wins the award. The power of video to stir emotion is endless.
Hopewell Brand Launch Video
Additionally, having a video to put on your website is always a good thing. Google owns YouTube, so they definitely include a video aspect to their search algorithm. Some say it definitely increases your results in search rankings. Have you ever wondered why you get video search results on the 1st page when you simply search “How to make the best pancakes?” Not to mention, you can also place the video on a TV screen in a tradeshow booth or within you work environment in a reception area.
CH2M Brand Video
Just Keep Swimming
In addition to the 3 brand implementation touchpoints above, there are plenty of things to think about when going through a rebrand. Honestly, it can be quite overwhelming. There are big things like signage, apparel and vehicle graphics. And, smaller things like coffee mugs, pens and countless other items you never thought you’d have to update. It may seem endless, and in a way it is. You will always have to enforce and reinforce your brand change. But it’s all done with one thing in mind: Building your brand fans inside and out through a consistent delivery of your brand story.