Five false assumptions CMOs make about global rebranding

Today, brands are worth more than ever before. Millward Brown estimate that the top 100 global brands are worth a combined figure of £2.6 trillion. And yet Chief Marketing Officer’s (CMO) are coming under increasing pressure from the C-suite to demonstrate the return on investment of marketing spend.

In many cases the vigorous market forces and the need for brands to continually differentiate themselves from their competitors creates a demand for a rebrand or a refresh of an identity. And the responsibility for delivering the new brand and making the project a resounding success most often falls at the door of the CMO and the marketing team.

All too often however, we see the compelling and imaginatively conceived vision of a new brand fail to live up to expectation. What started as a great idea or identity quickly becomes fragmented as organisations fail to deliver the brand in an orchestrated fashion. More often than not, the reason for this is a series of false assumptions CMOs and their colleagues make about planning and implementing a brand change program.

There are five pitfalls that CMOs must void:-


1. The marketing team can handle the rebrand

It’s a common misconception within organisations that the ownership of the brand lies solely with the marketing team, and thus, if a company decides to rebrand, the marketing team alone will handle it. In reality, a brand is the ownership of all stakeholders and its ultimate success will be determined by how well these stakeholders can unify to manage the transition from old to new.

The stakeholders who afford brand change plans the most gravitas are those in the C-suite. Without their backing the brand change program will simply not get off the ground. To gain their full support the marketing team need to deliver an end-to-end plan that details exactly how the company will undertake such a project and the effect it will have. The plan explains to the CEO how long the rebrand will take and what it will achieve, it describes to the CFO how much it will cost, and it specifies to the COO the organisational changes required and the timescales involved.

Once this plan has been signed off it must be shared with all internal stakeholders. A brand is built from inside the organisation and the key is to ensure all employees are fully engaged behind the brand change from the word go. They should understand why you are doing it, what you hope to achieve and how it will affect them. Remember, your employees must love the company before the customer ever will.

The role of the marketing team in a brand change should be to put the plans in place and orchestrate the various departments together as one, ensuring that all efforts remain ‘on brand’. Thereafter it is the role of all stakeholders to really bring the new brand to life.


2. Rebranding is all about the logo

The unveiling of a logo is often seen as the marquee moment in a branding program. Months of focus groups and refinements of design concepts have finally got you to the stage where you have a vibrant new identity that is true to your core brand values and that can’t be translated into something offensive in an obscure foreign language. But in reality, creating a new identity is only the tip of the rebranding iceberg. There are many other facets to consider before your brand translates into the customers conscience.

The CMO should ensure that they don’t get overly caught up in in the creation of the new brand identity and that they understand the intricate complexities of the customer journey and how each brand touchpoint combines together to create a compelling brand story. They must consider how the customer or audience will experience the brand and how it will immerse itself into their daily lives. The branded environments need to reflect the brands positioning and provide the same positive experience for the customer wherever they are in the world. In much the same vein, the tone-of-voice and visual language should be consistent to ensure that it’s instantly recognisable across the globe.

Internally,the CMO must consider how the brand will be expressed through the culture of the organisation and the behaviour of its employees? And how will the workspace environment reflect the brand?


3. We need to focus on the brand design first

This is perhaps the most common false assumption CMOs make, and unfortunately for them, it can be the most costly. If there were to be one golden rule when starting a rebranding process it would be that ‘strategy, design and implementation should never be considered in isolation’. All the dots must join up.

All too often CMOs get caught up in the glitz of the design and don’t make sufficient plans for how the brand will be implemented. They don’t have a strategy for how the 2D designs will become 3D assets that people can see, feel and experience. When you consider that for every £1 spent on the design, an average of £20 is required for the implementation you begin to understand how big this false assumption really is and how detrimental to the future success of the brand it can be.

Before any rebrand project begins the CMO and the marketing team should determine three key aspects; The brand strategy – what do we want to achieve with our vision and what are the timescales and budgets? The design – who will do this and what will it look like? The brand implementation – how will we bring the brand to life?

Only once these aspects have been addressed and sufficient plans put in place, should a rebranding project begin.


4. We have the expertise in-house to manage the rebrand

On average a rebrand takes place once every seven years. But when you consider that the average tenure of a CMO is three years and nine months, and that in 2014, one third of of marketers will be looking to move organisations, it raises one big question – how many marketing professionals have actually experienced a full rebrand process in their career? All too often, the answer is not enough.

While some CMOs assume that they have the expertise in-house to manage the rebrand, they soon realise that this is not the case. They often find they do not have the local knowledge of world markets to implement the brand consistently across the globe. They do not have the expertise to analyse their assets and pinpoint those with the lowest cost and highest reach and they do not have the experience developing the different rollout scenarios for the new brand.

The key for the CMO is to bring in an implementation partner at the earliest possible point. This partner will ideally be a brand implementation agency or a group of consultants who work alongside, or within your internal marketing and facilities teams, ensuring all gaps in knowledge are plugged.


5. Our branding project has finished, now lets move onto something else

A branding project is never over. Even once that final sign has been put in place or the last vehicle in the fleet has been branded, it’s still very much a case of ‘business as usual’. In fact this is just the start of the journey.

The success of your brand is unlikely to be fully realised in the short term, it can often take many years before you can truly determine how successful the rebranding project has been. Because of this the management of the brand and the maintenance of the assets are vital. You must ensure that the brand identity always looks immaculate and that every customer, no matter where they are in the world, has the same positive experience.

It’s also important to remember that most organisations embark on a rebranding project to enable them to grow into new regions and territories. Therefore, the company must ensure that all future communications, touchpoints and branded environments stay true to the original vision of the brand.

If a CMO can avoid these five common pitfalls and put in place an end-to-end plan that addresses all eventualities, then they have provided the new brand with the best possible platform to succeed. If a CMO fails to plan correctly and they get too caught up in the short term vision of the project, the brand is most likely doomed to fail and the CMO will find it extremely difficult to demonstrate the return on investment of marketing spend that the C-suite so require.

In 2013 Endpoint’s Strategy & Development Director Tony Lorenz held a live webinar where he discussed the false assumptions outlined above and details the steps that organisations should take to ensure a successful implementation of their brand that lasts for the long term.

Click here to view the full video of the webinar.