Once in a while, board members are confronted with a new rebranding initiative. Yet, considering brands are the most valuable intangible asset for global organisations, they are often ill-prepared for the opportunities and risks. As a result, they are unable to take full advantage of the benefits that the brand change can bring to the organisation (including the return on investment needed).

Follow our 7-step approach, based on best practices from over 2,000 rebrand cases:

Download our guide

Rebranding has become a more digitally-driven exercise than it was in the past. This has led to rebrands becoming more multi-faceted, with over 50 brand asset categories to manage instead of the odd 10 a few years ago. However, and despite this rapid digital expansion, a rebrand will also hugely affect the physical brand assets.

So, while most of my recent blogs have been about digital impact, brand transformation and brand governance, today I’ll be focusing on asset-heavy rebrands in a global context, and where they go wrong. Such rebrands occur mostly when organisations are facing a comprehensive change resulting from a clear repositioning, merger, acquisition or carve-out.

In the simplest terms, this is what the scope of change could entail:

The more asset-heavy scenarios (see above), cover the rebrand of all brand touchpoints, including the physical environments, fleet, trains, ships and planes. These assets typically account for around 50-70% of the overall rebrand spend, are by far the most complex to plan and have longer timescales for implementation. What’s more, they usually need to be funded by CAPEX (capital-expenditure) investments.

Based on the hundreds of asset-heavy rebrands that we have supported over the past 26 years, we can identify 8 key fail factors that will result in a sub-optimal rebrand:

1. Lack of business case

Too often, organisations invest and base a rebrand on thorough brand research, -strategy and -design, but without a robust business case that considers the implications (and benefits!) for the organisation. So, when it comes to making it happen, the required budgets have not been allocated (or have been greatly underestimated), crucial teams and key functions have not been engaged, and the organisational effort needed has been hugely underestimated.

2. Not having the finance team on board

Decisions about big investments are made by the Board, and they’ll want the ‘nod’ of the CFO. The reality is that quite often, rebrands are planned without consideration of the organisation’s accounting principles, depreciation periods, renewal programmes, or the current book value of the assets in question. This can leave you with a weak business case, that’s not backed up by strong financial reasoning.

3. Not having a proper project organisation in place from the start

The business case is approved, the CFO is on board, so, what’s next? A rebrand without a clear sponsor at board level and a project lead to plan everything, will mostly fail to deliver, as the brand owner will struggle to get internal traction and support.

4. Throw the brand over the fence

In my experience, the perfect recipe for disaster occurs when the central brand department provides guidelines and assets to the decentralised users, and then mandates a timeline for roll-out with no central budget for training and support. The result is an inconsistently implemented brand, as the original purpose of the rebrand is lost in subjective interpretations.

5. Overlooking value-engineering opportunities and thus, savings-potential.

Like any change initiative, a rebrand needs to be smart and use the opportunity to assess and validate which branded assets add value. It is also the right moment to find more effective and cheaper ways to produce the assets. However, teams are usually left with no clear guidance, and will replace assets on a like-for-like basis – both in scope and process – missing a huge opportunity to reduce future costs or release funds for more important and valuable branding initiatives.

6. Missing the new technological opportunities that could deliver a truly impactful brand experience that will last

In our book, Future-Proof Your Brand, we’ve addressed the 4 main technological trends that impact brands today: 5G, the Internet of Things, VR, AR and mixed reality, and Artificial Intelligence. More than ever, these technologies create opportunities for new customer- and employee-journeys, which will help you to stand out from the competition. Too often we see that due to a lack of planning and preparation, no time or budget is planned for implementing new and experimental technologies that could make impactful changes to both the employee and customer brand experience, missing key objectives of the rebrand along the way.

7. No plan for the oncoming tidal wave

A rebrand means a lot of additional work for the staff running the project. All too often we are called in when the workload has already overwhelmed the people involved, and relationships within the business are strained. At this point it’s much more challenging to straighten things out, internal momentum and support for the rebrand has been lost, and the brand owner’s internal reputation has been (sometimes irreparably!) damaged.

8. Unsatisfactory buy-in of the people who’ll have to live up to the promise – your colleagues

The physical change of assets online and offline can be achieved by simply spending money. Gaining the buy-in of colleagues is not so straightforward. This is the most commonly under-estimated aspect of a rebrand-programme. In the worst case, internal teams will not only not understand the benefit of the new brand, but will become cynical and will not support rebrand initiatives and associated activities.

This is not the ultimate list, as when it comes to rebranding every organisation has its own dynamic and potential pitfalls, but it should give you an idea of some of the risks attached to a brand change. When these are not considered, it will most certainly leave both brand owners and their agencies disappointed, as the rebrand will not live up to what it was promised.

Marc is co-author of Future-Proof Your Brand, a book that explores brand implementation and management, through real-life case studies and the insights gained from our 25+ years of experience.

Free guide

7 steps to a successful rebrand

A practical step-by-step plan for brand, marketing and communication managers.