We all know some brands get it and some brands don't when rebranding. But what makes the difference? In 2020, we began to analyze two years of rebranding efforts; over 60 projects to help answer this question.
Through our research, we identified 4 common characteristics of leaders who were more likely to yield significant ROI after a rebrand.
Thanks so much for joining us for this webinar. My name's Craig. I'm one of the partners and co-founders here at Matchstic, and we're excited to be with you on this webinar today. So Blake Howard, he's my business partner and co-founder. He's going to be leading us through this process today and we're really excited.
Thank you, Craig. Good morning everyone. Excited to be here. Thanks for joining us. I want to start off with a story. So in January 2009, there was a brand new package sitting on grocery store shelves and the executives of this company were so excited about this new rebrand. Any guesses what in 2009 might have been sitting on grocery store shelves that would be related to rebranding?
Yep, OJ. That's right. Sitting on shelves on January 9th, 2009 was this beautiful Tropicana Packaging. Now Pepsi company executives were excited about this. I think for good reasons. They wanted to signal that this was not your grandparents OJ. They wanted to signal that they were modern, they were relevant, they wanted to signal a change, and I think from a design perspective, they had a lot of good reasons to be excited. You see this efficient vertical type here, Tropicana is a pretty long name, takes up a lot of packaging space, so they went vertical. I think that's pretty clever. They had this really progressive wrapping image of the orange juice in this kind of higher end glass goblet that I think was really nice. That also provided space for this key claim to be front and center that would really pop off the shelf this a hundred percent orange, pure and natural.
And they also had this little cute orange lid. Look at that little fruit orange right there on top. I think that is so clever. The designers behind this had to be really excited about this packaging and the Pepsi company executives really believed in it. However, as this launched and as customers started to meander down the orange juice aisle, they were irate. They were so upset. They did not like this new packaging and maybe they just didn't recognize it. Maybe they passed right over it and they didn't recognize the new packaging or maybe they didn't like the simple generic look and feel. Maybe it felt lower quality. We don't really know, but they missed this. This was the original packaging before that modern update and maybe Pepsi Company executives thought that that orange was a little antiquated or there was just time for a change, but customers missed this emotional connection with this juicy orange and the candy cane straw going right into it. And you can't get much fresher than drinking straight from an orange, but they had sort of missed this.
So as they rolled out this new packaging, they spent 35 million on advertising and they lost 30 million in two months in sales with this new packaging. Combined 65 million hits. And eventually they pulled the plug and they went back to the old packaging. And the question that I want to know is what happened? How did this go so wrong? And this is a classic brand failure story. It's something that a lot of people reference and talk about and it's become kind of the poster child for rebrand fails. But what really happened, I would love to know the insider scoop of what went down. Also, you look at the marketplace and you can list out so many others that followed suit that had a rebrand fail. You can look at Gap.
They are another poster child for this where they launched this new logo and we weren't really sure why and they ditched it and they went back. Or Netflix branding one of their core offerings as Qwickster and that was a big mistake. Then JCPenney went through a progression of changes that were unsuccessful or Radio Shack or Arby's. We can look at these and we can say what were they thinking? What happened? They got it all wrong. It was a total flop. On the other end of the spectrum, however, we can look at some brands that did it all right. That would be more in the fame column than the flop column. Organizations that refreshed their visual identity or their messaging, they repositioned, they shot energy into the organization and revived maybe in an irrelevant brand. And we can look at these and we can say, "Wow, they did such a good job. That's the way you should rebrand."
What makes the difference in fame or flop?
And the question that I want to pose today for this webinar is what makes the difference? What's the difference between fame or flop? How do you really know that you're going to end up in success? I want to use this time to share some of the insights that we have uncovered over our 10-year leading different organizations through this type of process. And I want to share some of those insights and help equip you so that you can end up on the fame side and not the flop side. This past summer we did some research of our own and we looked at over 60 different projects that we had been involved with, either brand launches or rebrands. And we analyzed the ROI, sort of the outcomes of those projects and we wanted to dig in and understand why some had higher benefits than others. Some were sort of more successful than others and we wanted to analyze these to just see where the themes might come from.
So what we did, we looked at initial kinds of briefs for projects to understand what the original problem was. We went back through some of our research findings and recommendations and we cross referenced what a client said with what we found. We also did a follow-up survey to our clients and asked them about ROI and asked them to note where they saw business or organizational impact after the rebrand. So you can download this full report if you're interested in that. I think Craig just dropped or Andrews dropped that in the chat. But I want to share some themes from this research today. Three themes in fact that I think will help you be set up for success if you are considering going through a rebrand process or if you're on the agency or creative side and you are responsible for the creative output. I think these three things that I'll share with you today will set you up for success.
Ideal Leadership Behaviors
So the first point I want to make is about leadership qualities. We found that certain leadership qualities give an organization an unfair advantage to having greater success. We identified four common characteristics that I want to unpack for you and I'm curious if anyone has guesses of what the right leadership qualities might be to lead a rebrand. Drop some guesses in the chat real quick. What leadership qualities do you think are beneficial in leading a rebrand process? Open-minded, trusting the agency. Innovation, vision, empathy, inclusion. Great guesses, customer intimacy. I like that, Nora. Confidence, humility, knowing the audience, guts. These are great. I think a lot of these you'll see themes in some of the characteristics that I'll walk through now.
Willingness to engage
So again, there's four that we identified that gave organizations an unfair advantage to having a greater success with rebrand. The first is a little bit of a blinding flash of the obvious. It's a little bit of a "No, duh." You have to be willing to engage in the process. So brand change is bigger than one department. It permeates throughout the entire organization and you really need someone at the top, at the seed level to endorse and champion the effort in the work. Now, some organizations are big and the CEO does not get involved, but you have to at least have someone on the C-suite there to champion and endorse the work from an executive level, because of two reasons.
One, you are going through a process to make deep organizational identity decisions. Who are we? Why do we matter? How do we win? What makes us unique and differentiated? What's true about our personality, what's true about our organization? Those are big decisions and you need someone at the top who has the authority to say, "Yes, that is true, that is who we are all about." So that it can permeate throughout the organization, because in this process you don't want to define who you are and then never demonstrate that to the marketplace. This is not an exercise just in vanity. This is not an exercise just in creating a new look and feel. It's an exercise in defining who you are as an organization and what you promise to the market. And then you have to operationalize that and actually deliver it. Alina Wheeler who is a brand guru, an author, and mentor of mine, she says, "You have to demonstrate what you declare."
You have to demonstrate what you declare, and if you want to do that, you have to have buy-in from the top or it won't actually stick throughout the organization. The second reason it's important to have a leader at the C level engaged in the process is to avoid what we call the swoop factor. Inevitably this process brings out subjective likes and dislikes, and if someone at the top is not aligned with the decisions that are made, they're going to swoop in at the end and they're going to disrupt the whole process. Maybe that's just a delay in the timeline. Maybe that's a trump card that kills the whole project completely. We were working with an organization, an herbal supplement brand a few years back. Really cool product, really high-end product, really neat brand, really neat story. The founder literally lived on the farm where the herbs were grown.
He was very, very committed to the product and just sort of believed with his deepest parts in what he was doing and they wanted to rebrand. They wanted to refresh and he hired a creative director that came in. We worked directly with the creative director to go through that process and we never quite got the founders buy-in into what we were doing or we never really quite got clarity of his vision. And as we worked through the process with the creative director and ended up in a place that we were all somewhat satisfied with, when the founder saw the work, it was vastly different from what he wanted. We ultimately just had different subjective likes and dislikes and that delayed the timeline of that project completely, very significantly. They were eventually able to rebrand and were able to make changes and implement some good change, but it really disrupted the process. So you have to have a C-suite level person willing to engage in the process.
Facilitate healthy dialogue
The second ideal leadership behavior is the ability to facilitate healthy dialogue. So this is a little bit of what you chimed in the chat of being inclusive, being transparent, the ability to lead a conversation, to gather input. Now, branding is not a vote or a consensus process. You do not want to vote on the final logo, you don't want to vote on your position. You don't want to send out a survey and say, "Hey, which logo do you like best?" That does not work well. You will end up with a Boaty McBoatface face scenario if you know what I'm talking about out of the UK. If you don't know, you should just Google Boaty McBoatface, read all about it. But this is not a consensus driven process. However, you do need to get input from multiple perspectives. It needs to be transparent, it needs to feel inclusive, and it's most ideal to facilitate healthy dialogue on the front end.
So you need to get input from multiple voices, not just the C-suite, not just leadership. You need to hear from staff, you need to hear from a variety of customer types. You need to try to hit every single segment. You really need to gather from a research perspective, multiple inputs and viewpoints. And ultimately as you get to decision points, maybe around strategic decisions or visuals or verbals, there will be conflict. There will be moments where a team disagrees, and this is where it's important to facilitate healthy dialogue. You want to gather input, you want to hear people's perspectives and you want to wrestle with those different perspectives and ultimately you can react to that conflict in a non-healthy way. And that is where maybe a CEO or whoever is the highest authority in the room dominates the conversation.
They shut people down. They're the first to respond to decisions that are being made or give their input and they really just monopolized the time, they talk too much. That's an unhealthy way to respond. A healthy way is to really get input, to hear, to listen, to be curious, and to gather a lot of perspective and don't ultimately let that be again, a consensus, but it's good to get everyone's input.
So the third quality feels a little bit maybe an opposition to this, and that's this ability to be decisive. To make decisions. So as you facilitate healthy dialogue, you will get diverse perspectives. You will get multiple inputs and decisions. Perhaps on likes or dislikes for a logo, for a tagline, for strategic positioning for mission statements. You will ultimately, as a leader in this process, if you have the authority, will have to make decisions and you have to be decisive. And we saw a correlation to leaders who were uniquely gifted in being able to make a decision and not worry about pleasing everyone in the organization. They had a significant advantage.
A story that comes to mind around this quality is in the Dropbox rebrand if anyone is familiar with that work. I was able to interview the head of design for Dropbox recently, and I'll tell you more about that in a little bit. And we were talking about the work, because if you are familiar with it, when it launched, it was very controversial in the sense that some people did not like it. Some people thought it was way too much. It had these contrasting colors, all kinds of different colors that were very progressive. It had 300 fonts in their VIS. The logo was fine, but it had this weird artwork that they had created with some weird illustration and altogether it just kind of felt pluralistic and maybe too much.
A lot of the design community reacted negatively towards a lot of mean tweets. And his response to that was he never wanted to please people with the visuals of the rebrand. He wanted to create a conversation. He wanted people to think about Dropbox differently and he wanted people to say, "What the heck is going on with Dropbox?" Because then he could respond or others could respond and say, "Well, they've always been about passive file storage and now they're a collaborative workspace." He wanted to use the visuals to create that conversation. It was not about pleasing everyone. So his ability to make decisions based on that strategy was really sound and really good rationale. And that's just an example of being decisive.
Another example of being decisive is a project that we led for a school improvement organization that was going through a merger and the CEO of this new entity. We were presenting, to a large brand council leadership team, purpose statements. First, we strategically need to align on, why do we do what we do? What's our heartbeat in this type of work with education and school improvement? We had presented multiple options and one option was to free opportunity from circumstance. So we felt like this organization had the ability to uniquely impact learners. And learners often their education is dictated by their circumstances, their socioeconomic circumstances. And whether they get a good education or not determines the opportunities that they are afforded in life. And this organization felt passionate for the most part that they wanted to change that. They wanted to give equal opportunity to learners no matter where they were born or where they live or what their income is as a household. This statement, free opportunity from circumstance was around that story and it was a really powerful narrative.
So the tension arose. This organization primarily worked with private schools where the students had circumstances in their favor. They were not on the fringes of society. They had all the opportunities right in front of them. So there was this internal tension and turmoil of “is that really us? Is that really true?” But the CEO believed in that statement. He believed in what they were doing and it was a change. It was a change in narrative for how they thought internally about their work. And he said, "No, we are about freeing opportunity from circumstance." And he championed it and he's helped change the narrative internally through that organization. That was a moment of decisiveness that was really inspiring to me.
Trust the process
So the fourth quality, and some people dropped this also into the chat, is the ability to trust the process. So this is about understanding that whoever is leading it should be an expert. So especially if you've hired an agency, you are in a position where you trust their process. Now, this is also a little bit in conflict with being decisive. If you're good at making decisions, you might be a type A leader, you want to take the reins, but there has to be some humility in this to trust the process, to trust the experts. This type of a process in rebranding is not something that you can really skip phases in to make it more efficient or what I call a microwave process versus a crockpot or maybe an Instapot process. The results of that are going to be very different. If you microwave the process, you are really going to get a result that feels like it was microwaved.
So you have to trust the process and you have to be willing to do the work and to understand the sequence of how it works. And the leaders that were able to trust us as experts and trust the process had significant advantages against others who weren't willing to trust the process. Another quick example that I've learned about recently is the Warner Bros rebrand from 2019. That was led by Pentagram and I was able to talk with Emily Oberman who led that work and they led them to that process and it took almost 24 months. When you see the work, and if you are familiar with the Warner Brothers rebrand, it's very simple. I mean, they took the gold beveled shield and flattened it and they have some unique type and I think it's beautiful and the work is really high end and sophisticated, but it's really simple.
And you think, "That took 24 months. That's crazy." But it was all about socialization. It was about doing the research. It was about aligning leadership on the real problem and to help them get to that place of simplicity. So it really wasn't even about the artwork or the creative process, it was all the psychology and the hand holding that led up to that.
So the main point in this section is that to have a real unfair advantage, you need to have all four of these qualities together in the process. And when we saw leaders that demonstrated these behaviors, they had an increase on everything that we measured. Brand awareness, exposure, understanding, internal buy-in alignment, loyalty. All of it across the board was significantly over-indexed compared to organizations that were led by leaders who didn't demonstrate these four qualities.
Solve the Right Problem
So the next section I want to walk through and give you sort of another angle or insight into having an advantage in the rebrand process is around solving the right problem. If you solve the right problem, that really helps you be set up for success. And again, I mentioned this earlier, but we analyzed the problems that clients brought to us and we compared them to the problems that we uncovered in our research and we compared them. And I want to bring back one of those classic fail stories, Gap. So this was a good example of, I'm not quite sure what this was solving, and I think that's why the market had such a negative reaction to it. And I have an inside reliable source who was involved in this process who told me a little bit more of the story, which I think is fascinating.
The CEO wanted to shake things up. He was ready for change. He felt like Gap had been resting on its laurels, and he was ready for an injection of creative energy. So they had what is called a jump ball, where they had multiple agencies come pitch creative ideas. And in that process, one of the agencies in one of the campaigns that they pitched had this haphazard logo change. The logo you see on the right. And the CEO loved it. He was like, "That is the kind of change I'm talking about. We need that logo, that's our new logo." And he literally made the decision and said, "Let's go. Everyone use that." And the staff, he said, “jump”. And everyone said how high. And they just went into implementation mode. I think the blowback happened because us as consumers or customers or the marketplace said, "Wait a minute, what is this solving again? Why did you have a new logo? Why did you have the little gradient square in there? Why did you have this very basic Helvetica type? What was going on?"
And I think if they would've said, "Well, yeah, actually because X, Y, and Z." We would've said, "Okay, I get it." And we would've moved on. But there was no substantial rationale to what problem, what business problem this was solving. And we had a negative reaction to that. We don't want an exercise in vanity. We want to understand why the change and why did it make sense? Now, perhaps they could have just refreshed their product line, kept that same logo and they would've had more success. So in our research we found that 20% of our clients reported needing help with the audience, meaning we want to understand what our audience needs. What are they looking for from us? What do they really value from us?
So they needed help with audience or positioning, finding ways to really stand out in the market. Be unique in the way we tell our story or find clarity or focus. Help us really focus as a brand. Only 20% claimed those as problems. However, in our research we found that 76% of those brands that we worked with, one of those three factors was in fact the core problem. So people were coming to us saying the problem was X, Y, and Z, when in fact it had something to do with the audience and not clearly understanding the audience and how you add value. Or around not really positioning in a clear and distinct way, or it was about not finding clarity or focus within the organization. So the point here is that you really need to understand what are symptoms and what's the core illness and you need to get down to the core illness that you're trying to solve in the rebrand process.
A couple of correlations that we found when we were doing this research as well, is that if there was a stated lack of relevance, which is a pretty common reason for a rebrand, we want to be more relevant with our customers. That was actually correlated to internal silos. So maybe because the way this organization is structured, there is an inability to change, to be more agile. There's a lack of brand governance, there's a lack of brand clarity on who makes decisions around brand, or we don't really know. So we'll just kind of keep doing the same old, same old. And it was actually the internal silos that were the problem. And it wasn't the lack of relevance that was a symptom of this deeper problem that needed to be solved or it was a lack of clarity. We don't really know who we are, we don't know how we add value. We really don't know what our audience is looking for there. There was no clarity internally around why this organization existed and why it mattered.
Similarly, there was a correlation between a lack of differentiation when clients said, "Hey, we really just need to be distinct and stand out." Sometimes that was because there was a lack of focus within the organization. There was an attempt to be all things to all people. And that's a common problem that we see from a brand perspective is trying to say too much, trying to be too much, not willing to narrow down your audience. And related to that is a leader's ability to put a stake in the ground and to say, "This is who we are, this is what we are about, this is our niche and we're going to really be about X, Y, and Z." So we saw some interesting correlations there. Now, if you were able to uncover the true illness of the problem, if you were really getting into the core problem, it made you two times more likely to report ROI and exposure and visibility after the rebrand.
I think the point here is that doing the research on the front end, going into it open-minded, maybe having some hunches, but letting the research try to validate some of those core issues really does make a difference.
Brand from the Inside Out
The third and last section to me is the most important. If you do everything else right and you don't do this right, you might have blown back and you might be in that failed column. So how you communicate the change is just as important as the change itself. The way you launch, the way you roll it out is just as important as the decisions made along the strategic and creative journey. So I want to share some of our thoughts on how you could be set up for success as you roll whatever out that you completed, whatever the work is to help you mitigate blowback, to help you think about it the right way. And the main principle here in rolling out and launching is to brand from the inside out.
So whoever is closest and most invested to the brand, you want to make sure that they are aligned with the change, they understand why the change, they approve the change. And then you ripple out from there, eventually getting to the general public. And I'll show you how we think about this. So we ask some questions first to understand how to plan around this.
So first, who needs to know? Who's out there? Who are the key stakeholders? Who needs to know about this change? When do they need to know? What are the key dates? What are the key events that are coming up? A lot of times there are town halls or regularly scheduled company events. When do they need to know? What are the key dates that are out there? What do they need to know? What is that key message that we need to put together and make sure that they really understand and hear over and over and over? And then lastly, how should they find out? What's the key moment or the key experience that we can use to maximize the momentum and use this rebrand to tell a new story and to get people excited about the organization?
So you can start to think about those questions. And then we quite literally think of this rippling effect. Let's say in an instance where executive leadership, they're closest to the brand, they're really passionate, they care about the brand, so they might be the center of bullseye of this target here. Well then expanding from there, you might say, "Okay, our key leaders within the organization, they need to understand more about this rebrand and the decisions that have been made." And then maybe there are key teams that we need to communicate change to. Maybe then there's all staff, then there's key customers, then there's all customers, and perhaps maybe the general public. So you get a sense how from the inside out here is our communication sequence.
So once you've identified those key stakeholders, then you can start to build a plan around each individual stakeholder. For example, our key leaders, what do they need to know? Well, they need to know the “why” behind the change. What was the business case for making this decision, for going through this process? Why are we doing it? If there's a merger or acquisition, that usually is pretty easy, pretty clear. If you're scaling and growing your offerings and you've been perceived as one thing and now you're changing that, that's pretty clear. You just want to make sure there's a good business case for why the change. You also want to communicate what this means for them and what they should expect for their teams and specifically around logistics. A lot of times people just want to know what is this? When do I hand out a new business card? When do I get a business card? When that was a thing, when we had business cards. They just want to understand what are the logistics that are going to impact my day-to-day life.
Before covid, this would be a chance to do a kind of a presentation in person like this. Image shows nowadays Zoom, virtual ways to present it is a fine platform. You just want to have a really clear and compelling presentation that sets up the problem, that shows the answer and gets people kind of excited about the work.
So let's say also the marketing team needs to understand this could be a key team, an influential team, and they need to know similarly “why” the change. What this means for them and specifically they need to know about the guidelines. Now, this is something that we get questions about all the time. Internal teams just say, "When do I get the new guidelines? When do I stop creating design work or writing copy under these old guidelines? And when do I transition to the new guidelines?" And there needs to be some thought around how you make that transition, but people just want to know. So you need to equip them with that information.
Again, doing something that's clear and compelling. A lot of times at this level just orienting people around the brand guidelines document, whether that's a website or an actual PDF, is helpful. At a high level help them understand what's most important about the visual and verbal language or the positioning or the audience. And it's also important to think about a brand training program. Some way to make space for the creative team, for the sales team, for other teams to just understand what this means for them. To answer their questions. Perhaps to go deep on subjects like color or type or messaging and brand voice. Whatever the size of the organization is will help kind of determine how thorough or how detailed you might need to get in some of that training. But you really do need to think about a brand school or a training program that helps equip people to better understand the guidelines.
Typically, people want to, they want to be on brand, they want to implement the new visual verbal identity. They just don't have clarity on what is on brand and what's off brands. You have to provide them with that and empower them and equip them to do really good creative work.
So let's say you continue on down this progression to all staff. Here again, it's why, what this means for them, this is a good chance to give out some swag. Everyone loves a tote or a t-shirt or some way to get them excited about the new vision for the future and you really want to just maximize that momentum. Now, I do think here it's worth noting you have to be a little careful and appropriate with the way that you roll it out. I don't know if anyone has seen the Staples logo launch video internally.
It was a big conference and they had a stage and they had this incredibly dramatic epic unveiling of the Staples logo and you had this big buildup. And then at the end the staple just kind of stretches a little bit and it was a really kind of small change. And you can even hear in the video people were kind of snickering. You just need to be realistic with what you're showing and not kind of kick your coverage. The point here is that when you roll it out to all staff, it's a chance to get them excited.
Eventually you can kind of roll it out to key customers. You want them to feel special. So maybe there's a letter, a handwritten note, something that just feels different and unique. You can go down to customers. I think in a situation like this, an email communication about the change, this is a good chance to do some sort of brand essence video where you get them really excited about the narrative.
And then eventually get down to the general public. And the general public is oftentimes where things can feel like they've gone wrong, whether they feel like you're getting a lot of blowback. And again, it's not about people's subjective likes or dislikes, it's about having a response to those. Having good rationale and good thinking to push back on some of that potential blowback. A great example of this for me is the Verizon rebrand. So when they launched this new logo, it was criticized as being so boring, so generic. I mean it is this very basic type with this almost like an emoji check mark. You can't get less proprietary than this. Now if you do look to the left, there's some weird things going on. So let's be honest, they weren't coming from a great place, but when you saw the new logo launched in context and you understood more of the story that from a positioning standpoint, Verizon, they wanted to be the simple, mobile phone provider.
They had these simple plans, easy to engage with, they wanted to sort of break it down and get rid of the complexities of this telecommunications world. And when you hear that, you're like, "Oh, okay, I get it, I get it now. Simple logo, simple mobile provider, I got it." And you get over the likes and dislikes of the creative and it becomes more about a larger business strategy. So that's a great example of how if you have good rationale, you can get past that negative blowback.
So in recap, if you want to have an unfair advantage in this rebrand process, you really need to think about the way you lead and those ideal leadership behaviors. You need to focus on solving the right problem, getting to that core illness, not just reacting to symptoms. And you need to brand from the inside out and think about that progression of communication. So that you can get people excited and make them clear and help them understand the business case for change.
A Change of Brand Podcast
The last little point that I'll make in a selfish plug here is for a new podcast that we launched that I'm hosting. It is uncovering some case studies in a podcast format of major consumer rebrand. So we are sharing rebrand, glory, drama and disaster is kind of the little verbal hook. Where I'm interviewing those that led the change in understanding the creative process, all that went into it. And I think it's really fun. You should check it out. So if you like this type of content, A Change of Brand, you can go to achangeofbrand.com or you can listen to wherever you get your podcast. We just launched Dropbox this week. Next week we're launching a story on Warner Brothers, which is really fun. And then after that we've got one on GoDaddy, ACLU as a nonprofit and a couple more coming up. So be sure to check that out. Thanks so much.
Great, thanks so much Blake. Here is just a quick note on where you can find that podcast. And obviously if you're interested in any sort of discussion around, if you're considering a rebrand and we can help in any way, feel free to reach out to me. Here's my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org and we can do a free consultation for you. But for now, we will go to questions. And there seemed to be a lot of questions around how to align leadership.
"Is there a method that leads to highly aligned both parties with their subjective likes and dislikes?"
Yeah, I mean I think the answer to that is more time than not. Having good dialogue is always a way to get someone's input. I do think understanding a leader's perspective on the front end is really important. Understanding their personal preferences as far as giving input, as far as collaboration, a lot of times we'll ask clients on the front end, "We can design this process in two different ways. One, we can bring you our recommendations and will look to you to just help make decisions or we can be more collaborative and we can pull back the curtain and we can use more of your time and we can go through smaller steps together and we want their input." I do think understanding first a leader's perspective, are they a leader that loves the rebrand process?
We certainly work with founders and CEOs of major organizations that love this. They definitely have more valuable things to do, but they personally love this creative process and those that are in that camp. We need to take smaller steps together to make sure that we're aligned in multiple ways. Now, if someone's maybe not in that category, I think you have to understand their business objectives. And then when you get to the creative, first off, you shouldn't just show kind of an end result of the creative. You should probably start painting a picture of creative strategy and how you're going to solve those business problems through a couple high level hunches. Share multiple hunches with them. Get their input on those hunches, make sure you're aligned. Then start moving into some prototyping of ideas of “how do you start to implement some of those strategies or those hunches visually, verbally.”
If you can get access to that key leader, then present some curated options for them. Make sure you don't present any options to them that you don't feel passionate about, that you don't believe in, because they would likely choose the one that you don't believe in. So you have to go to them with a curated set. And then after that feedback, revise it. So we think about our process as going kind of down this funnel, and I think that applies to the question of at a high level, sort of share multiple ways that you could take this from a created strategy perspective, how you're going to solve the problem, get input, apply that input into a curated set of prototype concepts, high level thinking, some design or messaging work. Get input on that curated set. Revise that down to maybe a lead idea, get a little input and then finalize it. So you just have to lead those leaders along that journey and that path and to make sure you get multiple inputs from them.
"Thoughts on balancing the number of voices. Is there ever a risk of overload having too many voices in the room?"
I think having input at various parts of the process is important. On the front end is where you can get most inclusive, I think. You can send a survey to everyone in the company. Understand their general perspective as it relates to the brand. You can have workshops, you can meet with different teams, you can have, we call them kind of internal immersions where our team will go and meet with maybe a creative team or the video team or maybe the clinical team, whatever the right teams are. But we want to just make space for those teams to talk, to give us their input, to feel heard in the process. That does a lot. As you get into making decisions, that's where your question is really, really valid. Because if you present to the entire company, say there's three- or four-hundred people in a company and you present logo ideas, that's not going to go well. That's going to be pretty difficult and that's a little bit of a waste of everyone's time.
So you certainly need to think about how you get input on the front end and be a little bit more open-minded on the front end. The way we typically work with clients is we want to have a core team, maybe three to five that we work really closely with. If the CEO can be part of that core team, there's more success typically. We also want to work with a larger committee. Sometimes they're called a brand council, sometimes maybe they're called just the brand team. That can be anywhere from eight to 15, you don't want to have too many in that because we will work shop with them and we will want to hear from everybody. And if you have 20 to 25 or 30, you just won't be able to make a lot of progress. So we typically have that larger committee and that committee can represent multiple perspectives, usually a lot of middle managers from various different groups. So you get well-rounded input and perspective.
And then as you start to launch and roll out whatever decisions have been made, that's where I think it's important to, again, sort of open up and go broad. If you meet with key leaders and key managers, present the work, hear their feedback. They're going to have issues with the change, just give them space and help them understand the change. And then use that time to facilitate a conversation around what this really means for them. And it's probably less scary than what they think. I think that you just have to design a process with a lot of inputs and kind of think about an adoption and socialization plan as you go into it. And again, the point here is also that it's not just about the design work. It's not just about a logo, it's about this whole process to lead someone psychologically and socially through it to make sure that the change sticks.
"Do you take different strategies in presenting work to a C-suite? If your C-suite does not have a creative on it versus a C-suite member that is on the creative side."
If you are presenting to the C-suite, it is critical to know the audience and who is that decision maker and understand a little bit more about them. Are they logical and rational? Are they more emotional? So if they're a little bit more on the analytical business side, make sure you present the work in a way that helps them understand how this will solve the business problem. Be very clear on the business problem upfront and then connect every decision back to solving that problem. Don't say things like, "Well, I just liked this, we just really liked this." You want to stay away from any subjective presentations of the work. You want to connect decisions around color, around type, around layout, around image, around strategic, positioning, back to solving the business problem. On the other side, if it is more of a creative C-suite or a ECD, again understanding who they are.
Just because they're an ECD doesn't mean that they're not rational or logical. But if they are more emotional, present the work to them in a way that gets them excited. Use things like, "What if," or, "Imagine if." Use open-ended questions as you start to present the work to help them feel it and connect it back to the business problem as well. But a little bit more from a feeling perspective. I do think presenting the work, especially as it relates to a rebrand, is everything. I mean, that is the moment in which good work happens or it doesn't. Is getting C-suite buy-in on what you're trying to present. And I think the way you actually present it is everything. That it's more important sometimes than the work itself. Good work is really easy to present, bad work is really hard to present, but still there are ways that you can present the work and get more buy-in throughout the organization and set yourself up for success.
"Ideas to bring a single dissenting voice around? Where maybe you have strong support from the C-suite, but one partner is resisting."
I personally like to bring in the dissenting voice into the fold as much as possible. I want to hear from them as early and often as I can. I want to connect with them, build rapport with them. So sometimes when we're designing a core team, I don't think it's that helpful on a core team to have a dissenting voice, that small three to five. Typically, a core team for us is a CEO, a CMO or marketing director and maybe a creative director or maybe a marketing coordinator. Someone that's a little bit more familiar with the subject matter, what we're doing. That's a good core team. The brand council or that larger committee, that's a good place to have dissenting voices as long as they are somewhat healthy and they can have healthy debate and dialogue. I think that's a good thing. But if you can bring the dissenting voice into the fold, I have found they feel heard, they feel understood. You can be curious and try to understand their dissent and why are they asking this now?
I think a big mistake is when as creatives, if you're asking this from a creative perspective, when as creatives we just dismiss their feedback, we just dismiss. "Oh, of course, that's just like them. They're always dissenting. They're so hard to get along with." If you can put on some humility and try to be curious and say, "I wonder why they have an issue with that." You might actually uncover something that would be beneficial for the project and it's better to learn that earlier on than later on. I think you should, within reason, bring them into the fold, have one-on-one conversations with them. Try to understand their perspective, help them feel, hear them, feel valued, and that will probably ensure buy-in and that the change will actually stick and happen.
"Does this form change or alter when you're doing an in-house rebrand or branding a new product within your own team?"
I think that if you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I'm an agency guy, so you have to take that with a grain of salt, I guess. But I think the challenge for leading a rebrand initiative from an in-house perspective is that profit is not welcome in their own hometown. We come in as outsiders and it seems like we have all this expertise and our opinion carries greater weight, because the client doesn't really know all of our weaknesses or they don't really know everything about us. They don't work with us on a daily basis. We come in as outsiders and we have more gravitas with our opinion internally that that's a little bit more difficult. So you have to almost double down on the rationale and your relentlessness on belief in how you're solving the problem.
I think that it maybe just heightens a lot of what I'm sharing even more so if you're in-house, because you have to really understand the problem, you have to make sure it's the right problem. You have to have some research to validate it's the problem. You have to make sure you have good input and buy-in. You have to make sure that the work itself is connected back to the business problem. I think in-house wise it's just more difficult, honestly. And you just have to be more on your A game and you really have to deliver on all the things that we just talked about.
"Is the implementation of a rebrand a separate effort for most branding projects?"
I have seen it done both ways. I think the implementation is really important. Sometimes, you have PDFs that you present to clients that show the rebrand with mockups and what everyone was excited about in that presentation ends up being very different from what the world actually sees and interacts with. Connecting those two things is very important. And one interesting insight from the Warner Brothers episode on the podcast is the partner at Pentagram talked about, they landed on that logo pretty early. And a lot of the work was fine-tuning the color, making sure that the blue was consistent, creating a proprietary typeface for the organization, and implementing it on all kinds of key communications. The implementation part was a lot longer than the actual VIS, visual identity portion. I think the implementation could be led by the same agency that did the rebrand, because they have a lot of vision of what it should be.
I think it's best when the agency does these key signature pieces and maybe just helps model out what could be. While also working with an in-house team to kind of maybe help cast vision or help them see the way it should work. So it could be separate. At the end of the day, the implementation is what the world is going to actually see. It's just as important as the rebrand process itself. You really shouldn't envision the end of the process rebranding as, "Okay, we have brand guidelines and a PDF." That's not the finish line, that's just the starting line. And you have to have just as relentless a commitment to the brand as you start to implement and make decisions as you did in trying to define your identity and how you should visually verbally express that in kind of a vision casting way.
To me, the implementation is everything. There's a lot of different models that you can do to go about it. Some agencies will take a creative director and staff them in-house. We were just working on a project with a large grocer in North America, mostly in the southeast, and we collaborated on the brand guidelines with them. They did a lot of the design work with their own in-house team. And then our role was to help make really clear brand guidelines and design principles. And then we did a series of workshops with their 40 plus creative team just to help them understand the change and help them understand how to implement it. And to empower them with the spirit of the brand guidelines, not the letter of the law. And now they're starting to work on that implementation. So there's different ways that you can kind of approach it, whether it's all together or it's kind of blended together. I personally see it kind of blended.
"What are some strategies for managing rebrand projects where client leadership is perhaps weak in all four areas?"
"Do you ever not take on a project if the company doesn't have these leadership qualities, are they doomed to fail or can you work with it?"
So we work all the time with organizations. I wouldn't say “all the time.” There is the opportunity to work with an organization that has not gone through this before. They don't know what is really required. And we take that on as our responsibility as ourselves to lead them through this, to guide them through it. And sometimes there might be a leader who is not decisive, who dominates the conversation, who doesn't care to get input or maybe doesn't trust the process. And that's just the reality of being a professional services company. It's also like it would be great if we always worked with clients who had amazing aesthetic preferences, but that's not the case. We have to help them get to a place to understand how to be more relevant and attractive as a brand and it's our job to lead them through that.
If we work with an organization where maybe that's the case, where their leadership just isn't that decisive or the opposite, they're too decisive. We typically roll with that. I think of it a little bit of, if you've ever heard the metaphor of, or the principle of judo. Where judo isn't about meeting force with force, it's about rolling with the energy of your opponent. So if someone is a type A leader and they are dominating it, well, I like to facilitate it in a way where we sort of roll with that energy. I think about writing that bull, like old bucking bronco, and you guide it gently with your knees. You don't meet it force with force. So there are different kinds of approaches or strategies with that. I think if someone's not that decisive, we have to step in and fill that role. Maybe we limit options, maybe we come with a stronger point of view, maybe we build a stronger case for what we really believe in and we really push them to where they need to be.
So it happens. If you're a creative professional, that's going to be just part of your job. You either need to step up and fill that gap and be decisive and stronger in your recommendation. Or you need to learn to do the judo move and sort of nudge them in the right direction and do your best as a professional. But at the end of the day, it is their organization. It's their company. We used to say, "It's their flag, not ours." At the end of the day, we are coming in to help someone with their own identity and we want that to be amazing. We want to be beneficial and successful, but it's theirs, it's not ours. We can't completely own it, because it's actually theirs. So I think there's a little bit of that posture with my thoughts on that question.
"Do you have advice on creative strategy? Do you use a framework or is it case by case?"
Yeah, we do have a framework. We go through a strategic process. Typically, we're looking to define kind of an essential truth from a positioning perspective from an organization. And once we anchor that position, we use language and it's kind of a blend of poetry and rationale. We want to be clear in that language of how we're starting to position the narrative for the brand. Once we get that in place and leadership is aligned on it, then we start to make creative decisions. So if we want to be the world leading authority on X, Y, and Z, well let's make color decisions that feel authoritative. Let's also make colored decisions based on the competition and see if there's any open space to be really unique and different.
So we do go through a little bit of, we call it a creative sandbox. Where we look at the competitive landscape with typography, with a mark, is it an emblem? Are there letter forms that are out there? Are there symbols, pictorial, abstract? We do kind of a topology of everything that's out there in the competitive landscape. We look for white space. We talk about the strategy, we talk about the personality of the brand. We look at mood boards. We start to hone in on spectrums of personality. Are we hopeful and bright or are we serious and somber? And we have those conversations. So I think the key in my mind for creative strategy is translating the business strategy or the brand strategy, using those words and being really smart with your creative decisions on how those decisions connect back to those words. So whether that's looking at the competition or analyzing ways that you connect color or type to key pieces of a brand's personality. That's kind of how we approach it from a creative strategy perspective.
"What key factors do you look for when determining the effectiveness of a rebrand and how do you go about gathering tangible data to prove it was a success?"
It is hard to have tangible data, because like I said at the beginning, brand should permeate throughout the whole organization. So you certainly could look at typical business metrics, revenue, sales. We have defined six key areas in a model recently that we call brand impact factors. So if you know your brand is driving the business, you're doing these six things well. I can kind of share those. The first is around clarity. How clear are your communications? Do people understand what category you're in as a business? Do they understand your offering? Is the buying process complex or simple? From an experience perspective, are you clear from a brand? You can actually measure that through survey data and get feedback on whether or not people understand you. A good example of this is we worked with Boys and Girls Clubs and they had done a brand health study with Nielsen and they found that their brand clarity was really poor.
People didn't understand what Boys and Girls Clubs of America did. What do you actually do, again? It's a little bit like United Way. It's just this big sort of ubiquitous nonprofit, and they needed help being more clear on what they actually do. So you can use specific language, you can get away from jargon. There's some tactics behind that. Secondly, you need to be super distinct. Are you doing things differently than the competition? From an offering perspective, from a visual perspective, from a verbal perspective. There's ways you can think about distinction. The third thing that we look at also is governance and control. Is there a good workflow with brand assets? Is there internal documentation, is it clear? Who makes decisions? What's on brand? What's off brand? Do you have a brand school? Do you have a training program? You can start to look at and measure how much control you have around brand assets, and ultimately, are you consistent in your execution of brand?
We also look at attraction. Are you attracting new customers? Are you attracting employees? Do you have a relevant look and feel? Do you see growing things in traditional marketing channels like email subscriptions or social? There's a lot of hard data you can look at from an attraction perspective. Beneath that also is devotion. Are people really devoted and committed to you as a customer? Do you see a long duration of customers, or do you actually kind of have transactional ins and outs? That's not good if you do, so you want to look for longevity. And then lastly, is the organization aligned internally on brand purpose, on brand distinction, some of the other things that we mentioned. So you can do a survey and you can kind of measure that. That was a long-winded answer, but we look at those six factors as it relates to measuring ROI.