Rebranding successfully? Don’t focus too much on the tip of the iceberg!

Arjan Kapteijns | 22 October 2021

When you have been working with brands all your life, you’re very likely to think that the magical world of branding holds no more secrets for you. My thoughts exactly. That was until two years ago when I joined VIM Group and a new world began to reveal itself. Let’s take the analogy of the iceberg, which represents ‘branding’. Meanwhile, I (well, my former self) am the Titanic, sailing full speed ahead, oblivious to a whole world hidden beneath the surface, the world of brand execution. I am referring to the organisation and structure required to maintain a strong brand, as well as the technology or tooling used in the process. This is both complex and, from a business perspective, a crucial aspect of branding, particularly in the case of a brand change or rebrand.

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The invisible part of branding

Okay, I will try to explain myself in more detail. The tip of the iceberg represents the world that I have known for years: the visible part of branding, the world of ‘magic’ and creativity. Think of the strategic and creative development of all forms of brand communication, be that a high-profile campaign, a bold brand identity that is translated across a company’s touchpoints, an innovatively designed product, an unique UX design, iconic packaging, or an unique brand name.

Beneath the surface there is a whole world of which, despite my years of experience in marketing and branding, I had little or no insight into until a few years ago. A world that is less about the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, but instead focuses on the ‘how’ of branding. A world that is more complex than many would think at an initial glance and one that has a huge financial impact on organisations. Perhaps most surprising of all, it is a world that most people in the branding or marketing professions are quite unfamiliar with.

“Execution is where the rubber meets the road.”

As the saying goes, ‘execution is where the rubber meets the road’, so when faced with a rebrand, it is crucial to avoid neglecting this aspect of branding. Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned a great deal about the execution of rebrands and the implementation of effective brand technology. I’d like to share some of that knowledge here and in so doing, hopefully, raise the profile of a subject that has, for many, hitherto remained something of a mystery.

The most common reasons for rebranding

There are various events across the lifespan of organisations that can make brand change possible or even necessary. The reason for such a rebranding or brand revitalisation can usually be attributed to a combination of more than one of the following factors:

  • new strategic direction
  • new brand positioning or proposition
  • international growth
  • bad reputation
  • an outdated brand visual identity that is unfit for digital applications
  • unifying the brand architecture
  • mergers and acquisitions

Brand change and the impact on your business performance

When brand change is implemented for the right reasons and is well-handled, it should have a positive effect on your business performance in both the short- and long-term. I’m not just talking about the increase in brand value, but also the efficiency you can create in your brand organisation and brand management functions can be significant.

Take an example from one of our clients: as a result of a recent merger of two large multi-brand organisations, we decided to unify the brand architecture and develop a new monolithic brand identity in order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of branding. In this case, for the adoption of a branded house strategy meant that it was necessary to rebrand all existing sub-brands and their associated brand touchpoints. This included the branding of more than 700 site locations, the corporate clothing for more than 7,000 employees and all the other offline and online branding and communication tools. A complex and time-consuming execution that also involved a large financial investment. However, creating a more efficient brand organisation function can lead to significant cost savings. In addition, you can use all your resources to promote one new, clear and effective brand strategy.

Efficiency and cost savings in your rebranding project

During a rebrand or brand change process, organisations often seek external help with the development of a new brand strategy and the creative design of a new brand identity – the visible ‘tip of the iceberg’ if you will. What is often overlooked by many organisations is that it is equally as important to look for support in the execution of a complex rebranding operation. On average, organisations change their brand once every seven years. Therefore, usually they don’t have the specific project management expertise and or the capacity required for the successful roll-out of a brand transition.

“Every pound invested in the strategy and creation of your new brand leads to an investment of 20 pounds for the actual implementation of the brand.”

By making use of experienced project support for the execution of your rebranding project from the outset, you will save time and,ultimately, you will save money. On average, you should assume that every pound invested in the strategy and creation of your new brand leads to an investment of 20 pounds for the actual implementation of the brand.* Smart choices in the translation of your brand to different brand touchpoints, your selection of suppliers orthe consideration you give to  brand roll-out scenarios will have a significant impact on the total investment for your brand change project.

Rebranding execution in four phases

As a Client Partner at VIM Group, I have been able to advise and support on quite a few rebrand projects. We use an approach whereby the focus is on thorough preparation and organisation – ‘Look before you leap’. The infographic below shows you what this four-phase approach to implementing and organising brand change looks like.

Phase 1: investigating the impact of brand change

By performing an Impact Analysis on a proposed rebrand, we can provide insight into the implications for the various categories of brand touchpoints from a financial, visual and organisational  perspective. As a result, you will have a clearer view on what the possible implementation scenarios are and what resources and investments are required to action them.

Based on the impact analysis, a detailed project plan is developed and a reliable budget request is prepared, which you can then present in the boardroom for decision-making purposes. Once the project plan and budget have been approved, you can set up the project management organisation (PMO) with a central programme manager, as well as a number of working groups with representatives from specific disciplines within the organisation.

Phase 2: planning and organising brand change

Phase 2 starts with an in-depth inventory, which will inform the specific requirements for rebranding the various brand touchpoints, such as site locations, fleet, corporate clothing and of course all digital applications. It may also be a good idea to have prototypes developed to test the appropriateness of the designs and to make the right material choices. Based on this testing, one or more suppliers are then selected through tenders for each brand touchpoint.

During phase 2, design management also takes place, whereby creative concepts are translated into detailed applied designs. For example, consider the translation of your visual identity on to different types of vehicle. Your brand will look different on a Volkswagen than on a Mercedes sports car. The same goes for site locations: these must all be examined so that a detailed brand implementation can be set up for each individual site. These plans then have to be approved by various departments within the organisation, as well as by external subletters and sometimes by the municipality that issues necessary permits.

Phase 3: implementing the new brand identity

Once the suppliers have been selected, the production of the different brand touchpoints can begin, which also means that we enter phase 3, where the actual implementation of the new brand takes place according to a predefined scenario. In this phase, the communication to all internal and external stakeholders also starts. Never forget the important principle: ‘to be successful on the outside, you have to focus first on the inside – your employees’.

“To be successful on the outside, you have to focus first on the inside - your employees.”

Phase 4: managing and organising the new brand

If all goes well, phase 3 will seamlessly blend into Phase 4, during which you can ensure that the new brand can also be used and promoted in the right way by all your employees. This can be achieved by providing training and by setting up a good brand organisation function with appropriate brand and marketing technology to support it. For example, you can use DAM systems and template management software. The introduction of a new brand is often also a good time to introduce a brand portal, which can enable all guidelines and assets of the new brand to be easily accessible to all your people.

A smooth implementation is essential for a successful rebranding

As you can see, there is a lot involved in a rebranding project. In this article, I have tried to whet the appetite by providing some initial insight into the invisible side of (re)branding and by outlining some of the key considerations for the execution of a brand change project. I hope it is clear that successful rebranding does not only rely on the creative ‘magic’, but also upon the operational ‘how’ side of branding and that good preparation is essential for a smooth brand transition.

Are you currently preparing for brand change? Or have you already started but the process isn’t going as smoothly as you hoped it would? Perhaps our expert guide with 7 steps for a successful rebrand can help you on your way. Would you like to get some personal support or feedback? Please feel free to contact me at arjan.kapteijns@vim-group.com or +31 6 15 09 09 01.

*Source: Impact Valuator VIM Group.

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