5 Obstacles to a Successful Rebrand that Nobody Talks About

10.16.18 / David Lemley

How many times has your company rebranded? Even if you answer, “Just once,” we’re guessing that felt like one time too many. And what was it all for? Were you able to achieve your goals? This may be hard to believe in 2018, but most people still mean redecorating when they say rebranding. They are talking about iterative packaging changes, new logos, and advertising campaigns. No wonder rebrands fall short.

We have identified the most common but usually unspoken circumstances that stand in the way of effectively and predictably changing your company’s market position via rebranding.

This white paper discusses strategies to manage leadership and team expectations, sacred cows, and data. These insights, along with our practical how-to response for each obstacle, will enable you to perform some organizational jujitsu, the real reason to embark on rebranding.

Most people think of creative translation issues when they think of rebranding failure. The reality is that the most common obstacles to a successful rebranding are further up funnel, during brand strategy development. And frankly they are further up the management ladder. That is, unless your definition for rebranding is really just redecorating. A true rebranding gets into the why, the how, and the what behind your brand. It’s not just skin deep and definitely not for the faint of heart.

Here are the obstacles no one seems to be talking about. Identifying and planning for these unspoken hurdles will increase the likelihood of succeeding

Leadership Dynamics

When leadership sees branding as a marketing objective rather than a business objective, their lack of engagement is a hurdle to the rest of their team. When this occurs, it is typically due to an old-school mentality with an inaccurate understand of what branding means.

Another surprisingly common problem happens when not everyone participates in the brand development meetings. These invisible influencers from adjacent functional silos in your company probably don’t intentionally set out to throw off your attempts to use branding as a driver to create meaningful change within the business. Regardless of why they're not there — whether you skipped them on the meeting invites or they've skipped thinking that all you're going to do is sit around and talk about the artwork and back of pack copywriting  — your brand has an enrollment challenge.

When leadership at any level within your organization rejects new ideas without consideration or dialogue, your likelihood of success is greatly diminished.

The Retail Voodoo Way to align leadership during the rebrand:
We require the key leadership of your brand to participate in every strategy session, complete the exercises, and voice their opinion within the context of the group assignment. We understand business (not just design) and have a bedside manner that will connect with your team at all levels.

Team Dysfunction

When companies are siloed and view each other as obstacles rather than allies, there is a persistent level of infighting and disagreement. Before you can manage the changes necessary to create meaningful change, it is important to get everyone on the same page. People inside an organization that is a prime candidate for rebranding often have conflicting agendas born out of frustration, team performance issues, and frankly a fear of losing their job. Before you know it, people translate this to mean that they need to fear compromise because the internal culture has silently declared it a sign of weakness. The root of this internal bias, whether real or implied, is the false belief that collaboration is the same as compromise.

The Retail Voodoo Way to enroll your team in the rebrand:
We use blind surveys for all key stakeholders in order to get everyone in the organization literally on the same page. This builds bridges and overcomes personal agendas quickly.

Misaligned Expectations

Clarity is tough. All companies are impacted by relationship dynamics. Just like in life, when people don’t talk about it they create unrealistic expectations around timing and costs. And these become the barriers to rejuvenation that the organization was likely seeking through the process of rebranding.

Once the company decides that rebranding makes the most sense, it’s natural for those involved in ensuring the rebrand “sticks” to want everything to happen all at once. Then it becomes even more natural to skip a holistic plan because it needs to involve everyone in leadership – and leaders can be impatient, high concept thinkers who don’t want the minutia (except for when they do).

Lack of alignment around the time and cost implications of rebranding stems from the C-suite spreads throughout the organization. If your leadership sees rebranding as a new logo and maybe a packaging refresh, then they are likely to ask the marketing team to make critical changes without addressing the financial implications beyond the short-term marketing tactics required. Plan for 2 years of marketing and operational implications based upon a rebrand. And then add 50% of the budget and timeline for implementation.

The Retail Voodoo Way to align expectations:
Prior to embarking on the rebranding journey, work with your team to establish how you will program and finance any operational changes needed to deliver on innovation, positioning pivots, and product portfolio alignment. Our philosophy is talk it out early and often. It’s your job to budget dollars and time, but we can help plan.

Outdated Brand Equities

A product legacy has run its course and needs to be cancelled. But this is terrifying for everyone in the company if the product in question is all that the company has ever sold (or it’s the original or it’s the namesake). At Retail Voodoo, we call these outdated brand equites "sacred cows".

Better-for-you food and beverage has become a new buzzword in the face of fast-paced evolution of consumer preferences (not to mention a playground for private equity), more single product brands, specialized ingredient-focused brands, and specialty processing brands have seen their once sustainable and market-leading position erode rapidly.

Moving away from a sacred cow is tough when you don’t see it. When your core product equity has a brand liability, and the organization responds to changing anything with phrases like, “That’s the way we’ve always done it," you may be in for a steeper climb than you originally thought.

The Retail Voodoo Way to identify, remove, and retire your brand's core liabilities:
Innovation and differentiation require new thinking. If it were easy, everyone would be a market-leading brand.

First, we assess your culture through research and key personnel interviews and look for your company’s appetite for change before making any recommendations. Then we will identify your brand's core liabilities, and use data to illuminate future possibilities that cross reference your brand’s past and present.

Misinterpreted Data

When your brand believes that your employees are your best customers, your team may become prone to make strategic assumptions based off internal consensus and call it data. This confirmation bias allows your brand to make up its own rules and innovate products that only you and your employees would use. When your employees and key stakeholders insist that they are your brand’s best customers, watch out – you have three years to change this before your position in the marketplace erodes.

The Retail Voodoo Way to data interpretation:
Employee and management opinions matter, they just aren’t data. To start, you need external data. We will bring in experts who specialize in authoring the right kind of survey for your brand’s unique situation. And help you curate which the off the shelf, syndicated data (like PEW, Mintel, Neilson, and a host of others) makes the best investment for your brand. Next, we question and then synthesize data into actionable insights that map to a brand strategy before sharing it out with the entire team.

Leaders, teams, expectations, sacred cows, and data. Holy hand grenades! It’s enough to send any marketer over the edge. But don’t go there. Take heart and give yourself a moment. Rebranding requires a level head, a strong spirit, guts, and some organizational jujitsu. If you are considering a rebrand and have exhausted all other, lesser involved avenues to affect change, give us a call.

Ready to talk about your project?