The Challenges of B2B Rebranding: Part 1

Rebranding vs. Brand creation: How is the process different?
Rebranding is a more complex exercise than creating a new brand for several reasons. Rebranding is like shades of grey. It runs the spectrum from updating a visual identity to fundamentally repositioning a company to deliver more value to customers and create more distinct competitive advantages.

Companies that seek to reposition themselves in a rebrand must “redesign” their culture, operations, products and services, go-to-market model, and more. 

This level of rebranding deals with an organization’s deepest sense of purpose, values, and vision. 

A different level of expertise is required because the rebranding strategy is not “created” – it is uncovered. It’s more like an archeology and anthropology exercise to reveal the “truths” about what the business or brand has become among employees and customers, what leaders envision it to be in the future, and what the marketplace desires and will allow it to become.

Another key difference is the effort required to articulate and institutionalize the final strategy. In creating a new brand, you may be starting with a clean sheet on virtually every aspect of the organization. Examples include startups and product or service offerings that will operate as a stand-alone business unit from the parent organization.

However, in most rebranding situations, a key challenge is redirecting an organization that has been in place for years or decades. Beliefs and behaviors are deeply engrained among employees and customers. Policies and procedures have become institutionalized. Customs and norms are poured in concrete.

Therefore, the equation for success can be more complex. For example, you need to develop and tirelessly socialize a “change perspective:” a compelling reason for the need to change and rebrand. It is also essential to enlist and equip internal “change champions” – visible stakeholders and influencers within the organization – who will help advocate and institutionalize the rebranding strategy. You must spend more time communicating to employees, partners, and customers, and listening to their feedback, in a rebrand.

Finally, depending on the degree of change in the rebranding strategy, it can require more effort and time to achieve success than to create a new brand. This often is the rationale behind the development of subbrand and stand-alone brand strategies.

What are the biggest risks and missed opportunities in rebranding?
Strategically, the biggest risk is only approaching a rebrand as a cosmetic marketing exercise vs. using it as the “tip of the spear” that drives a meaningful change throughout your business and into the marketplace. A new brand strategy without changes in operations, product development, your go-to-market approach, and revenue generation is unlikely to be seen as anything more than a “new paint job.”

Culturally, the biggest risk is not including employees in the process. And then, present the new brand to them as something that is happening to them, not through them. If they don’t feel involved, when customers ask about the change, they will be greeted with rolled eyes and cynicism. Too often, companies invest in big launch events to ‘wow’ their people then send them back to their desks for business as usual. This approach never fosters the desired change of a rebrand.

From a customer and sales perspective, the biggest risk is not including customers and sales in the process. Customers don’t care about your branding as much as you do. However, involving customers in your rebranding journey often leads to strengthened relationships and loyalty. Most companies don’t create an intentionally choreographed plan with their sales force to create “selling opportunities” during the rebrand. Missing out on direct revenue generation from a rebranding is often the biggest missed opportunity.

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