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Startups: How to rebrand effectively


Jo Davies, managing director at VIM Group, on how to successfully take your tech company through a rebrand.

A rebrand is a good opportunity to breathe new life into your brand and organisation. It can be a way to redefine your values and to reconnect with stakeholders and employees alike. But, it’s not all about a striking new logo, font and colour palette. That’s just where the hard work starts.

Identify the appetite for change

The initial question you should be asking is, “Why are we doing this?” There are many reasons that companies may have for undertaking a rebrand. Mergers, acquisitions, consolidation of brands and sell-offs are all valid reasons to consider a change. However, the appetite for this change also needs to be assessed both externally and internally, often via surveys and focus groups. Tech companies often overlook the possible cultural and/or emotional issues that may arise among stakeholders, investors, employees or customers. Do your customers or employees have a strong affinity with your current brand? Could changing that brand lead to alienating your biggest brand advocates?

Once the pros and cons have been thought through, it is essential that senior management supports the programme. Show management the value of the rebrand – this doesn’t have to be financial, cultural or otherwise, but it should ensure that the change has their backing to become part of the business’ mandate: a key component in driving a successful rebrand.

Create an inventory

In our experience, and especially when it comes to assessing your wider digital footprint, you may have underestimated the number of branded elements affected by the rebrand. Combat this by building lists, by business area, of all your branded elements, or ‘brand touch points’. Consider your online (digital) presence, partner sites, marketing campaigns, vehicles, offices and stores as well as any products, printed matter, contracts and intellectual properties. The list is often much longer than you may have anticipated.

Once established, these lists can be looked at to make smart choices, based on your timeframes, on what will need to be changed immediately and what can (or must) be changed through regular replacement cycles. There may also be opportunities to ‘piggy back’ on any planned change or refresh programmes, among other synergies and savings. Clearly separate the costs of changing your brand touch points from your normal operating budgets to reveal the real programme investment.

Who is going to do this (extra) work?

Probably not the marketing department, who are no doubt already juggling multiple campaigns and attempting to control the various adaptations of their brand. So, who? Extra resources for such an undertaking should be well planned and budgeted for from the outset. Find out from the business areas themselves what level of support they will need to change over their brand touch points. Be wary of departments who say they can fit everything into business as usual – in practice this is a dangerous assumption and can threaten project timelines and deadlines.

Setting up a proper Project Management Office (PMO) to manage the rebrand, keep it on track and manage any issues, will add importance and gravitas to the project. This can either be fulfilled in-house, with contractors, a specialist brand management company, or a collaboration of all three. Update the management team on the project’s progress regularly so that they feel empowered and can weigh in when required.

Jumping the gun

Now that you have your business reason, inventory, timelines and budgets, it would be easy to think that the business areas can get cracking with their individual projects. But a poor approach can be as haphazard as having no plan at all. Map out which channels are important to your communications for each stakeholder group and then identify how easy or difficult it will be to change them. This exercise will help you create and identify your priorities, which can be used as your plan of action. The channels should be plotted against available resources, money and time.

Due to the array of elements that may need your attention, the risk is that you’ll only scratch the surface of what needs to be done. Any consumer of your brand will immediately notice a slapdash approach. Those brands who go for a comprehensive method, also create a competitive advantage, as they provide a good customer journey throughout. Remember your internal activation plan too – this is your chance to ‘sell’ the new brand to your harshest critics: your own employees. But, get it right, and you’ll have a potential army of advocates fully behind your message and (new) brand values.

A brand for the future

Gone are the days of rigid and ring-bound brand guideline documents. Now, it’s all about coherency; how your brand can adapt in an ever-changing digital world, yet remain true to its original purpose, regardless of where your message appears. By identifying which assets and elements are core to your brand organisation, you can make sure you create a comprehensive brand experience for your audiences. Investing in a good digital asset management system will give you an online library to store these assets, readily available for use, across your offices. Some DAM systems even give you the ability to manage requests for new branded elements from brand and marketing teams, keeping your brand application coherent, dynamic and fluid across all your touch points.