A Chief Marketing Officer’s Guide: Corporate Identity Rebranding and Brand Implementation

Today, with increasing competition and choice, companies look for ways to connect emotionally with customers, and create lifelong relationships. A strong brand stands out in a densely crowded market-place. A corporate identity rebranding must be viewed like a strategic growth accelerator. It is an investment in your organization’s future, much like the commitment to building new facilities or branching into a new business line. It should deliver enterprise-wide benefits, based on a clear understanding of your business proposition, and generate support for growth into new business categories, and employee alignment behind a common brand and service promise.

The reality is that most organizations may only go through an M&A process once every 15-20 years; which means most Marketing executives may only go through this once or twice in career. What this means is that organizations that participate in corporate brand change often do not have the internal expertise to lead this scale of integration and brand implementation project. With millions of dollars of cost, and tens of thousands of man hours of internal labor involved, corporate identity rebranding is the definition of “high risk, high reward.”

For corporate identity change to be successful, supporting business strategy transformation is often required that is disruptive, including as it often does: organizational restructuring; management team changes; rationalization of product and service line portfolios; channel strategy changes; reconfiguration of supply chain and distribution arrangements; and workforce attrition. With this long and formidable list of areas to cover, it isn’t surprising that rebranding results can be mixed.

We begin with the most common reasons for rebranding and a discussion of the nine key considerations that every Marketing executive should ask that articulate the following critical questions: the reason for the rebrand; the opportunity and opportunity cost; timing considerations; both the resourcing and organizational readiness for a project of this scale. Next a typical Rebranding Roadmap & Timeline is discussed and a Rebranding Framework explored.  For medium to large size companies, seven- or eight-figure investments will be required, along with tens of thousands of internal man hours. Moreover, the Marketing Communications organization will remain in a high visibility spotlight for the duration of a project that might take the better part of a year before it is substantially launched, and multiple years to both fully complete the brand conversion and to bring the expected benefits to fruition. To meet these challenges a proven framework and a range of expertise (both internal and external) is required to help ensure rebranding success.

We finally explore the key, but often neglected role of a Brand Implementation consultant role which is not usually a service that a brand or creative agency offers.  Brand Implementation is a complementary but separate service which is based on the premise that how you implement the brand is as important as what you implement. The degree of difficulty, range of costs, quality of implementation, and the overall success of the project (both real and perceived) comes down to making hundreds of good decisions. Brand Implementation involves the assessment; scenario planning; strategy development; best practices usage; costing and detailed planning; and full conversion of a company’s branded assets to the new corporate identity as either part of a corporate rebranding or as the result of a merger or acquisition requirement. Given that the brand implementation always relies on internal personnel, who have knowledge and experience in each area of the organization, the process is not about adding a large team, but instead, establishing a layer of expertise specific to brand integration, to assess, integrate and track the long list of “moving parts” required.  Finally, the importance of the internal project organization, communication plans and of course employee and other stakeholder engagement are also discussed.

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