How to Rebrand A Company in Four Steps

Once a company decides it’s time to rebrand, what happens next?

Every few years, business owners get an itch to refresh their brand. However, it’s important not to rebrand without a strategic reason — such as a diminishing bottom line.

Once a company decides it’s time for a facelift, there are four steps that are crucial for the success of the rebranding — and future of the company.

1. Research

Branding experts stress that research up front is critical for a successful rebrand.

“Take an audit of the brand, what it means to customers, what is the value of the brand and the competitive marketplace,” said Jess Ferdinand, vice president of marketing for Houston-based Pierpont Communications. “Once you do that, there are pretty clear signs of where the opportunities are.”

Thorough research means talking to all relevant audiences — such as clients, potential clients and employees. Many marketing firms have research teams devoted to conducting surveys, evaluating data and drawing conclusions using technology.

Research helps identify the unique emotion a company owns in the marketplace, said Patrick McDonough, chief creative officer at BrightBox Inc.

“The ultimate goal is to be legendary,” he said. “We want our clients to be the Harley Davidsons of their industries.”

Houston Methodist, formerly known as Methodist Hospital, underwent a massive rebranding in 2013, to own its name in the marketplace, said Laura Lopez, vice president of marketing, communications and public relations for the hospital.

As the hospital garnered significant national attention, its leadership wanted a name that would set it apart from the other Methodist hospitals nationwide, she said.

And the organization did its homework — it talked to potential patients, consumers, physicians and employees to find out what name resonated best.

The positive reception to the name Houston Methodist showed people “overwhelmingly understood why change was needed,” she said.

Doing the research, getting everyone’s input and continuing to communicate that the hospital hasn’t changed except for the name made the transition successful, Lopez said.

In addition to revealing what needs a change, research will also show you what’s still working.

“The balance is finding out what’s good to retain and what needed to be seen as new and relevant,” McDonough said.

Houston Methodist found this to be the case.

“The unique ‘M’ and interlocking ‘O’ and ‘D’ had meaning,” Lopez said. “Clearly we didn’t want to throw away anything that was working. The graphic treatment honors the past and our vision for the future.”

McDonough doesn’t think James Coney Island is retaining enough of the past.

While the iconic hot dog man and “Since 1928” are still part of the new JCI logo, McDonough thinks the small scale “really deemphasizes history.” He said revitalizing a historic logo is a sign of strength, and downplaying history may lack confidence.

“The goal for a new logo is to be able to draw it in the sand,” said McDonough, meaning it should be simple.

Depending on the industry, the logo might be text-based or graphical. And, “I wouldn’t put anything there that doesn’t communicate something.”

Many business owners are scared to change their logos because they feel emotionally tied to the image that brought them success.

But McDonough reminds clients that giants like Pepsi, Apple and others have changed their logos many times.

“They think the logo encapsulates their brand, but branding isn’t a logo — it’s the emotional impact,” he said.

The most important piece of the logo is that it represents forward movement for the company.

“It should represent where you will be,” he said. “You should grow into it, not grow out of it.”

2. Communicate

Another main factor in a successful rebrand is to get your employees on board.

“The best brand ambassadors are your employees,” Ferdinand of Pierpont said.

Employees talk to customers every day and may have more insight about the course of action needed. It’s critical to get employees’ buy-in and to make sure they grasp and understand the goals and mission of the rebranding, she said.

Every employee, from top executives to the nighttime cleaning crew, should be able to succinctly explain the new brand promise, Ferdinand said.

“Make it special for them,” she said.

Their input should be involved during the entire process.

Page Southerland Page LLP, a Houston-based architecture and engineering firm which just underwent a rebranding in December.

The company is shortening its moniker to Page, and new messaging will use Page/, forward slash and all, to represent the possibilities for the future, while still honoring the original name of the 115-year-old firm.

“It reflects what most ambitious professionals out there are in search of,” Page Senior Principal Art Chavez said. “It’s not that it was time … because we always evolve, but occasionally you have to take a bigger leap.”

3. Execute

For a major organization, rebranding can require many steps. Everything from signage, to business cards, to letterhead to lab coats needs to be updated to reflect the new logo as well as the brand’s feel.

“There are always a lot of little details, you can’t ever underestimate the little details,” Lopez of Houston Methodist said.

“With the right strategy, laid out appropriately, you capture 95 percent of the things.”

McDonough also suggested timing everything to hit at the same time, so the website, event launch, brochures and social media all have the same look.

But with the growing number of communication channels, syncing the message can be tricky.

“It’s more difficult than ever before,” said Alex Lopez Negrete, president of Lopez Negrete Advertising. Customers need to hear about the change through social media, mobile and digital messaging as well as traditional media.

The best way to hit all the touchpoints is to take stock and go through them systematically.

“Look the beast in the eye,” Lopez Negrete said.

4. Celebrate

After considering internal details, the pros recommend making a splash everywhere a customer may come into contact with the brand.

And, the rollout should be fun. A launch party is the perfect media event to create consumer awareness to help frame the change as positive, McDonough said. In addition, it shows that the company is growing and evolving.

“Make as big a splash as possible. Make noise. Eliminate confusion,” he said.

Unifying employees is also important. When Page announced its rebranding, it did it at a celebratory meeting in which promotions were named and employees received customized notebooks, polo shirts and travel mugs with Page’s new logo. And, when employees got back to their desks, their screensavers had been changed so even workstations were branded consistently. 

To see the original Houston Business Journal article, please click here

Contributed By

Katy Stewart, Houston Business Journal