Your company’s brand is worth more than you think. As we highlighted in a recent article, studies show your brand accounts for anywhere between 20 to 40 percent of your company’s value. Getting the most out of that value includes rebranding to keep pace with a rapidly changing market. Despite the value of brand and the importance of rebranding, however, we see Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) make the same rebranding mistakes, again and again.
Rebranding is a complex decision, after all, one that many CMOs are facing for the first time. Every branding agency has a different approach and it can be hard to know how much to invest. There’s a lot on the line for a CMO when it comes to rebranding. If it goes wrong, it’s your head on the chopping block.
The following are 5 rebranding mistakes that we see CMOs succumb to all too often. Steering clear of these common missteps will go a long way towards alleviating the pressure of rebranding–and ensuring your company gets the most out of the process.
1. Picking the Wrong Type of Agency
One of the costliest rebranding mistakes a Chief Marketing Officer can make is also one of the first in the rebranding process. Deciding which agency will handle your rebrand involves a multitude of factors, including quality of work, industry experience, and culture fit. The most important question, however, should be expertise: Does the agency specialize exclusively in rebranding? Or is it a marketing agency that has rebranding as one of its many offerings?
Marketing and branding are two interrelated but fundamentally different disciplines. Marketing is concerned with short-term activations that result in immediate yet temporary sales uplifts. Branding is concerned with the long-term accrual of equity that builds on itself in gradual, but ultimately more significant, sales growth. Rebranding, then, is about positioning your company for long-term growth by building a strategic framework that leverages competitive strengths for sustained marketplace performance.
Only an agency that specializes in corporate rebranding has the skills necessary to effectively reposition your brand. This isn’t the same agency you would use for a digital marketing or public relationships campaign. And yet, too often, a CMO or CEO will be dangerously seduced by the appeal of a one-stop shop.
In reality, an agency can only be great at one thing. When it comes to something as valuable as your brand, shouldn’t you work with a rebranding specialist? If you went to the hospital in need of brain surgery, wouldn’t you want a brain surgeon to take your case? Or would you rather be treated by a heart surgeon who also happens to do brain surgery every now and then?
2. Not Committing to the Change
Recently, a client we worked with decided to embark on the rebranding journey after realizing they needed an update to accommodate the company’s rapid growth. The problem was, they made this realization not long after they were acquired by a private equity firm. New ownership was putting immense pressure on the company to meet aggressive growth targets quarter after quarter.
The company wanted the benefits of a new brand without the risk of wholesale change. Despite the fact that in-depth research demonstrated the need for a comprehensive rebrand, the company was never fully committed to the change. They wanted to keep one foot in the past in the attempt to hedge against missed short-term financial targets.
When it comes to rebranding, it’s in every CMO’s interest to either commit to the change or not. If it isn’t the right time rebrand, you should wait until it is. One of the costliest rebranding mistakes is a lack of commitment. There’s nothing worse than half measures when it comes to rebranding.
Unforeseen events happen, of course, even in the midst of a rebrand. A company crisis, loss of funding, a drastic shift in priorities—if it becomes necessary to abandon a rebranding project because of forces beyond your control, there’s no shame in shelving the initiative until your company is prepared to commit to it. There is a point of no return in every rebranding project, though, where it makes financial sense to see it through, despite external forces pushing against it.
3. Not Allocating Enough Budget
Ensuring you have enough budget is one of the most important factors in any rebranding decision. A rebrand is a costly endeavor, to be sure, but brands are valuable assets. As mentioned earlier, your brand comprises up to 40 percent of your company’s value. Combine that with the fact that your rebrand needs to last you through the next 5-10 years and you start to get a sense of why rebranding is such a significant investment.
Branding should be thought of as a long-term investment, not a line item on this year’s marketing budget. The cost of any rebranding initiative should be amortized over the life of the brand. Over the course of its 5- to 10-year lifespan, a strong brand will produce innumerable returns, making each sales and marketing initiative within that time frame more efficient and effective. Strong brands are also better able to attract top talent, adding even more value to the equation.
When planning your budget for a rebrand, it’s important to make sure you have enough funds for each phase of the project. The initial rebrand is a 6- to 12-month process, including research, strategy, and design. The activation or rollout of your brand can take another 6 to 12 months, depending on the size and complexity of your company.
Ensuring to allocate adequate budget for the full scope of your rebrand enables you to avoid a costly rebranding mistake, ensuring you get the most out of the process itself, as well as ensuring the strength of your brand over the many years of its lifetime.
4. Rushing the Rebranding Process
Most of the companies we work with have been thinking about rebranding for at least a couple years. That’s normal. It’s a big decision with many factors to consider. When they do finally decide to move forward, however, many of our clients feel a sudden inexplicable urgency to get the job done as soon as possible.
If you’ve spent multiple years deliberating on the decision and your rebrand is going to last you for at least 5 to 10 years, why rush the process? Every stage of the rebranding process has multiple phases, each of which take time to do properly. Thorough brand research for even a small company can take a few months to plan, organize, and execute. Coordinating the schedules of multiple C-suite executives to organize their participation in branding workshops is a project in and of itself. Designing a cohesive brand identity that will stand the test of time, designing and developing a comprehensive website catering to multiple audience segments—each of these phases is a time-intensive initiative that must be carefully coordinated with the timelines of other phases. Cutting corners in any one area doesn’t save you time in the end and is likely only to compromise the overall quality of the rebrand.
A poorly executed rebrand can have a catastrophic effect on your company. Just as the benefits of proper rebrand produce returns over the life of the brand, so too can the negative impacts of a poor rebrand be felt year after year, costing your company money every step of the way.
Trust us when we say that your branding agency wants to get your rebrand done as quickly as you do. It’s in everyone’s best interest to move through the process as quickly and efficiently as possible—without sacrificing quality in the process. When your agency partner says your rebrand is going to take 6 months, why try to get it done in 4? In our experience, most clients’ self-imposed deadlines are arbitrary anyway, and the rush to meet them is a meaningless risk.
5. Failing to Activate Your Brand
For the significant investment of time and budget that a comprehensive rebrand entails, the launch of your new brand isn’t the end of the road. Imagine spending months researching, purchasing, and customizing an expensive new car only to leave it parked in your garage. It’s important to be prepared to work with branding, marketing, and PR agencies on an ongoing basis to effectively activate your new brand.
This means a highly coordinated brand launch supported by integrated marketing campaigns. Beyond the initial rollout, you should have a marketing plan that bolsters your brand’s positioning with targeted campaigns that amplify newly defined value propositions.
A rebrand gives you a meticulously developed new strategy that’s the product of alignment among key internal stakeholders. It gives you a cohesive brand narrative that compellingly conveys your company’s most important value propositions. It defines critical positioning elements like your competitive advantage and brand promise. Failing to capitalize on this rich source of marketing fodder is one of the biggest rebranding mistakes a CMO can make. And yet we see it happen all the time.
Rebranding is the just the foundation for the success of your brand. By properly investing in activating your brand post-launch you ensure the investment you made in rebranding doesn’t go to waste.
For Chief Marketing Officers, avoiding the most perilous rebranding mistakes is primarily a matter of commitment. Committing to choosing the right partner with the right qualifications for your rebrand. Fully committing to the profound but necessary changes your rebrand entails. Committing to the time and money it takes to do your comprehensive rebrand properly. And committing to following up on the effort, by ensuring you have a plan in place for the thorough activation of your new brand. Every client we work with has anxieties about each of these rebranding mistakes when they first encounter them. But when all is said and done and they look back on the process, they never regret having invested the necessary resources to navigate them.