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Re-Branding: Three Steps for a Successful Team Transition

Image credit: Starbucks

When we think about re-branding, our first thoughts tend to go to the customer. What will they think? How can we best communicate our mission and our products with this re-brand? But for a re-branding effort to truly succeed, we must also pay attention to everyone within the organization. After all, a brand’s roots are in its people.

Re-branding means transition, and transitions are all about people and emotions — the tricky stuff. As enthusiastic as people can get about a new look, the re-branding process can create confusion, anxiety and insecurity.

A re-brand is usually a symbol of a greater organizational change. Many times, a re-brand comes as a result of new ownership or new leadership. Other times, it’s a necessary evolution to stay competitive in the marketplace. Whatever the reason, re-brands are usually not just change for change’s sake. They symbolize something bigger. But by going into the process with a full understanding of how to manage the transition, you will give your re-brand the best chance for success. 

To really get your people behind your new brand, you need to remember they will have to: (1) say goodbye to something (the old brand); (2) go through a period where they are unsure of what exactly is changing and what isn’t; and (3) understand and embrace the new beginning. Leading your organization through this three-step process will accelerate your employees’ adoption of the new brand and help your organization reap the benefits of its updated brand identity.

Step 1 | Help people say goodbye to the old

Some organizations have a harder time saying goodbye to the past than others. Letting go of old brand assets can be an emotional process. To help people grieve what they feel they’re losing, it’s important to acknowledge the greatness they helped build.

There are a number of ways to help people say goodbye. Many of these ideas won’t cost much money, but all of them could be very meaningful to your employees.

  • Host a “farewell party” and allow people to share memories of the past.
  • Clear out the gift shop, making sure each employee who wants one gets a souvenir from the “old days.”
  • Make a corporate scrapbook (hard copy or digital) of the old brand.
  • Put the retiring branded items into a time capsule so future generations can appreciate the organization’s roots.

Just as major life transitions are often marked by ceremonies, these activities honor the past while signaling to the group that it’s time to move on to something new and exciting.


Step 2 | Help people understand what’s changing and what’s staying the same

In a re-branding process, there will be a bit of a “limbo land,” when the old isn’t quite gone, but the new hasn’t yet taken root. This is not only true for brand assets, but also for processes, procedures and other things that might be changing at the organizational level. As you help people through this stage, communication is key.

Many leaders make the mistake of thinking that if they don’t know the answers yet, silence is the best path. In fact, silence breeds fear among employees. If they don’t hear from you, they start to assume the worst. They start rumors, begin looking for other jobs, and productivity falls. Employees don’t expect you to have all of the answers all of the time. But they do want to hear something from you. “Sorry, folks, we don’t have anything new to announce. Any questions?” is better than radio silence.

When you do know what’s changing, it’s important for people to understand what will change, what will remain the same, and why. They’ll need to know how the changes will affect their jobs and what they can do to be rewarded. They’ll want a schedule of changes as well as tools to help them fulfill their new responsibilities.

During the re-brand and/or launch, employees will also need what we call “branducation”  organization-wide education on what a brand is and how each employee is responsible for delivering on the brand promise.

Here are a few things to do and consider:

  • If the corporate mission, vision and values are changing, let people know how that will impact their jobs. Will job descriptions change? Will employee reviews change? Will bonus structures or other rewards change?
  • Will there be operational changes as a result of the re-brand? Will the organization be offering new programs or services as a result of the re-branding process? If so, how? If not, why not? Are employees welcome to submit ideas? How would they do so?
  • Outline things that will not change. When everything seems to be changing around them, people search for something to hold onto. If there are things that will remain stable, be sure to point them out. This type of clarity will build comfort by tethering people to familiar people, structures or practices.

Step 3 | Start a new beginning

Most organizations begin the internal rollout process here  at Step 3. By leading your employees through steps 1 and 2, you will have a much more emotionally prepared workforce. As a result, you’ll achieve greater success and better brand adoption.

Step 3 is where the real fun begins. This is when you give people the tools and training to embrace the new brand. There is an almost limitless list of ideas for this stage. You can use some of these ideas as you roll out the brand and save others for later to keep it fresh and alive in employees’ minds.

An important part of Step 3 involves providing employees with all of the new basic tools (such as PowerPoint templates, e-mail footers, business cards, letterhead, handbooks) they’ll need to implement the new brand in their day-to-day work. Be sure they know when they are supposed to switch over, and follow up to ensure old brand assets have been retired.

You’ll also want to find creative ways to help people really feel a part of the new brand. Here are some ideas, but be sure to customize your roll-out to suit your culture and new brand:

  • Conduct contests for chances to win branded items (Contests can include submitting stories of the brand in action, submitting pictures of the new brand in the field, etc).
  • Create posters with the new brand attributes.
  • Create an internally facing video about what the brand means and how employees, members and others fit in.
  • Develop an interactive game that tests people’s knowledge of the brand.
  • Launch an internal newsletter or blog for employees to share how they’ve lived the brand.
  • Conduct “brand bag lunches” that give employees a chance to recount stories about the brand in action or suggest ways the brand could be lived more fully within their departments.

Beyond the rollout

When re-brands don’t work, it’s usually not just because the brand team put out a logo people don’t like. It’s because there was no change-management component built into the process. Either employees weren’t involved in the process or leadership didn’t address the other changes that sparked the re-brand in the first place.

A great brand not only helps organizations tell their story to the outside world but also helps build a great culture by aligning and uniting people within the organization. To spark passion in the carriers of your brand, remember that there is a human component to any change. Embrace the change, embrace your people and they will embrace your brand.

Nancy Belmont is the Chief Inspiration Officer and owner of Belmont, Inc., a brand- and culture-building agency focused on helping organizations create deeper and more meaningful connections among their many stakeholders. She believes that organizations that embrace an… [Read more about Nancy Belmont]

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