Marketing Hack: How to Ace a Rebrand (Part 1)

 

Few resources actually provide practical advice for marketers looking to guide their companies through a rebrand. The process of rebranding can be complex, but there are actions a marketer can take to access all the hidden benefits. This includes getting the most out of an agency partner while navigating the perils of internal office politics.

That is why we’ve created a 3-part series for marketers looking to hack the rebranding process.

This first post discusses the period before a rebrand and what a marketer can do to position their department for a smooth rebranding process. The second post speaks to the initial stages of rebranding, and the third post addresses the specific situations marketers find themselves in throughout the process.

 


 

If you are a marketer, you are often in a pickle.

Every day you race between the C-suite, agency partner(s) and your internal team. Just keep the plates spinning, stay on budget and measure everything you can.

We understand the pickle.

We understand because many of our interactions with your fellow marketers begin at the most awkward seasons of their careers. Their brand is about to undergo some sort of puberty-esque transformation. During this season, marketers stand at the crossroads of weird internal power dynamics; running between us, their CEO and their own team members.

In other words, the pickle gets worse.

At some point in your career, you will encounter this process. That is why we’ve created this series of marketer-specific posts to address these pain points:

•Is there a way I can increase the influence of my department in the organization?
•How can I get the best work from an agency?
•How can I gain [more] credibility in the eyes of the C-suite?
•My boss has strong opinions about our brand and our brand strategy. What can I do to navigate that power dynamic?
•What is the best way to navigate conversations with my in-house team?
•What should I say during meetings with an agency and my boss?

Bureaucracy impacts the success of a rebrand

We’ll put our cards on the table.

During rebrands, it is easier to work directly with CEOs.

Don’t read that wrong. We love working with marketers like you. We speak the same language. Your team swims in the brand guidelines every day. You lead the teams who build campaigns, email marketing strategies, social media interactions, etc.

And you may have extensive agency experience. Or you attend conferences or workshops that address branding and design. With one foot in the creative clouds and the other in business reality, you are both reasonable and inventive.

But as you well know, you face an uphill battle.

You always have to get approval from the boss, which means another layer of bureaucracy. Together we can assemble a bulletproof rebranding strategy, but you still need your CEO’s signature. And your CEO wants to be the one who thought of the great idea.

There are ways that you can increase the chances of that fountain pen signing off on your plans, but you must be realistic regarding how the organizations perceives you and your department.

Internal perception of the marketing department influences the adoption and implementation of a brand strategy

Time for a gut check – What does your entire department specifically do for the organization? Does your team help other departments accomplish their particular goals or are they the drivers behind strategic change?

This is important because you can elevate yourself and your department in the eyes of the company. Accomplish this by identifying and cultivating strategic opportunities for other departments.

If you lead a team preoccupied with small projects, the CEO will not respect you as a strategic visionary. This is especially true in a rebrand.

The three levels of organizational influence

Acclaimed business professor, David Aaker, describes three common roles for a lead marketer. Depending on this symbolic role that the marketer plays, their level of influence in the organization varies. Aaker does not separate marketer and department. Meaning, the reputation of the department and lead marketer are intertwined.

The common roles for a marketer:

•Coordinator
•Advisor
•Strategic Planner

Which vignette below applies most to your situation?

Marketer as Coordinator:

Tony is an SVP for a large insurance company and oversees a tight-knit marketing team of 14. Unfortunately, the rest of the company always hesitates before sending his team an email. When they do, these messages treat his department like the in-house photoshop team, saying, “Please resize this document for our poster, thx.”

A common phrase heard in meetings is, “Send this over to marketing. I’m sure we’ll hear about it if we don’t include them.” Tony’s department operates as a brand guidelines governor, not a strategic powerhouse.

Tony genuinely wants to add value, but he isn’t privy to high-level strategic discussions. And because he has no alliances forged with the CFO, his budget is under siege.

The marketing power at Tony’s company is decentralized and distributed across the organization in silos. He is frustrated these silos even exist, especially because some are in other regions or countries.

In leadership settings, Tony offers to coordinate and assist the visions of other teams.

Marketer as Advisor (or consultant):

Anna is a marketing director for a health system in the Chicago area. While the power to make strategic decisions is not fully centralized in her department, the organization knows her team of 20 to be competent. Anna and her team are brought in to consult regularly in moments of inflection.

When the health system was transitioning from a one-location operation to a system of hospitals and clinics, Anna was often consulted on a variety of development initiatives. However, she often discovered these seasoned department heads discarding pieces of her advice.  

Her advice is coveted but is still accepted with skepticism. Department heads across her organization remark to their deputies, “take what you can from the marketing report, but they don’t fully understand the problem unique to our specialty.”

Anna’s boss is the COO who values objective reports and defers to the CFO’s fiscal hesitancy in board meetings. Anna presents to the C-suite roughly every 6 months, where her efforts are met with mixed results. Some power brokers like the CEO nod with approval at her persuasive ideas, but she still battles annually for a budget.

Strategic Planner:

Alicia has the ear of the CEO. Her position, CMO, was created to give her more room to operate. Alicia is a driving force behind both brand strategy and business strategy.   

As the strategic planner, Alicia is not brought in to consult on strategy. This is because the vision originates in her department, which she works hard to socialize. Because of this, brand power is centralized within her team of 20.

Her team works closely with other departments on strategic plans. This intense collaboration allows them to spot opportunities for future product lines.

Alicia advocates regularly for the brand to be understood as an asset, which makes sense to her colleagues in the financial services industry. Once she identified those who were key skeptics, the CFO and COO, she quickly forged alliances. Thus, the CFO felt invited to consult on her strategies before group meetings, and the CEO could trust her proposals.

How can marketers move from coordinator and advisor roles to strategic planner?

Part of this depends on company size. In large operations the org. chart is ever-shifting and influence is malleable. But in a smaller organization, elevating your perception is difficult. This is even more complex when the owner doubles as CEO.

One reason is money.

When the CEO doubles as owner, they sit at the strategic helm. And they are intimately familiar with the marketing budget. Often allocating resources to marketing initiatives feels like trimming profit from their personal accounts.

Leaders like this need to know you are operating within the boundaries of budget and time. Is there an end-date to this?

Presenting a strategic plan can elevate a marketer’s stature, but how are these ideas packaged?

How a marketer can package a brand evolution or revolution to the C-Suite

Can you spot an impending brand change months or years down the road?

As a strategic planner, you want to help your organization anticipate headwinds. But bringing up the concerns in a handful of meetings will not do.

The CEO will see your advice as another withdrawal from company coffers. Instead, marketers should study the CEO’s monetary goals and align their department with those desires.

Help them understand and categorize the core issue facing the company. Look for unmet communication goals. Too many marketers short-circuit the process by producing immediate tactical executions. Instead, show that you have done your homework.

What does this look like:

•Before proposing a new campaign, start with market research.
•Before advocating for a new website, conduct a marketing audit.
•Before another quarter of email campaigns, start with a language audit.
•Before presenting a new system of graphics, consider a customer experience audit.
•Before another PR campaign, commission focus groups.

These research-forward solutions act as lenses, helping to give the CEO clarity. Equipped with a clear understanding of the problem, the CEO can better position their direction to the board.

Presenting research from audits trains the organization to see you and your department as a source of objectivity. This also adds another layer of insulation between you and those who have their own agenda for the budget. This proves especially beneficial when entering a collaborative effort like a rebrand.

 


 

The second post in this series addresses these common questions:

•How will marketers know an agency is the right fit?
•What can marketers do and say to make the most out of meetings with agencies?
•How should marketers best prepare in-house teams for brand change?

To learn more about how to hack the rebranding process, see post 2.

About Daake

We are brand design experts who deliver transformative ideas to the nation’s marketing professionals and CEOs as they seek guidance, clarity and excitement for their brand.

We would love to hear more about what you have in mind for your next project. Call Greg Daake at 402.933.1094.

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