The purpose of rebranding a company, product or service is to signal change. Or it could be to protect, grow or offer direction for the next chapter of a brand's evolution.
While the rationale for a rebrand needs to be rooted within an organisation's business framework, the change needs to be clear through the entire entity and should be obvious at every client interaction.
Developing a strong and memorable brand requires some prerequisites — a strong business case for change and the investment of time, resources and specialised expertise. With a mandate from the board to refresh your brand, and the budget to support in-depth research and implementation, what should the CEO's role be in the process?
The CEO will have to choose between delegating to the marketing department, with the added instruction that he or she should be intimated about the progress, or monitor each step of the process. If it is the latter, the CEO brings to bear his executive experience and in-depth knowledge of corporate strategy to the table.
If the branding exercise is to be more than window-dressing, the CEO's involvement is an imperative. The next requirement is time.
A two-month schedule is the minimum required to develop a differentiated brand profile that ticks every box in increasing the customer base and building the company's reputation and overall profitability for all stakeholders.
Given below are some further non-negotiable steps:
n Assign responsibility of the brand building exercise to the marketing department, but ensure a cross-functional working committee is set up to be part of the process from day one. The CEO must involve himself as a working partner.
n With the committee and an external branding agency, list all the corporate and brand ambitions to ensure the evolution of a solid brand framework as a reference through every stage of development.
n Give your brand consultants full access to talk to the employees; observe daily procedures and prepare an honest, unvarnished report on their observations of what the company does internally… and what's not.
n Establish benchmarks and tracking parameters to guarantee an accurate evaluation of brand penetration before and during the exercise. Managing accountability of the marketing and brand team is paramount.
For example, ask for a monthly report along with the next few steps as this provides for transparency and clarity. More importantly, this will ensure that if there is a barrier to collecting information or getting approvals, it is addressed and resolved efficiently.
n Keep to a schedule. Maintain a schedule and commit to key presentation and review dates; share the board's meeting dates and ensure those involved in the project delivery are aware of the timetable.
n Communicate the outcome of the research, especially feedback from clients, potential customers and internal focus groups.
n Be open about the corporate brand ambition and stress the mantra: ‘A brand is not what you say about you, but what others say about you'.
n Premium brands are not built overnight. Work with the brand team to create realistic small wins, and be prepared to enact changes which have been identified as challenges during the research phase.
Nothing is more fragile or demoralising than a fledgling brand.
As CEO, make it your job to be passionate about your brand and live by example.
Approach and communicate with passion, enthusiasm, and real commitment and you can lead your team to transform your company into the type of brand you envision.
The writer is executive director at The Brand Union.