Gone are the days of a rebrand equating to a simple refresh of a company’s name and logo. In a business landscape saturated with competition, choices, and a consumer desire for deeper connection, these steps barely scratch the surface of what it takes to build a brand that is meaningful, differentiated and customer-centric.
In over three decades of experience, I have led through my fair share of transformation — most recently working with stakeholders at a global scale to smartly integrate 10 unique brands into a new human-driven consultancy that connects brands with people and culture to drive positive change.
And while there is no single approach to building a brand, it’s essential to build a human-centric strategy that ensures employees and customers equally relate to its essence. If a new brand or a rebrand is on your horizon, here are four critical components to include in your roadmap to ensure internal stakeholders are engaged as ambassadors and the customer is oriented as your north star.
Step 1: Establish your foundation
The ethos and foundation you set as a company will dictate how your brand is perceived — not only in your employees’ behaviors but also in the products and services the company offers. That said, every decision made, and action taken should map to purpose, strategic priorities, and behavioral values embodied in the brand, remembering that your employees are often the best representation of your brand.
Today, having a corporate purpose is more integral than ever to a brand. But not just any purpose — one that focuses on the humans it serves. And if that purpose and/or mission is not engrained and authentically acted upon, it will not only fall flat but has the potential to backfire and degrade the brand’s equity in the marketplace.
In fact, 92% of executives feel a customer-centric company purpose delivers better business benefits than a purpose that does not commit to the customer, according to recent research. Unfortunately, only 38% of these same executives say their company has a customer-centric purpose that is deeply embedded in the mindsets and actions of employees — and therefore the way the brand is represented to customers and other external stakeholders.
To be most effective, a company’s purpose should manifest beyond marketing — in employee experiences, customer experiences, and certainly the products and services offered. It should be treated as a timeless truth that every decision points back to. And, in unconditionally honoring their reason for existence, brands benefit from the clarity, confidence and meaningful connections with customers, no matter the climate.
Step 2: Listen to employees and customers
Before making any big organizational change, it’s important to walk before you run. Take the time to immerse yourself with stakeholders — internally and externally — and listen to their feedback, perceptions of the brand and the competitive landscape. This can be accomplished through many methods including surveys, one on one conversations, and immersion tactics. Tuning into internal stakeholders will give you a sense of the challenges in the current environment: What is working, what is not and where possibilities can be harnessed. And by listening to consumers, you gain insight into what is currently valued and areas for innovation. By first understanding the “why” for your brand, you have a clear line of sight into where your brand could be going. If stakeholders feel heard and understood from the start, buy-in, adoption, and advocacy is much easier along the journey.
Step 3: Architect and co-create
Once the foundation is set, it’s imperative to test and communicate your intention for a rebrand with all stakeholders and be open to pivoting and multiple iterations. Think about creating a formal or informal advisory board of relevant stakeholders or a panel to test messaging. The brand’s foundation and purpose is one that stakeholders will need to resonate with, act upon and advocate for, and there is no better way to establish a sense of ownership than letting stakeholders get some skin in the game through co-creation.
Step 4: Innovate
While foundations should remain steadfast, the world is constantly evolving, customers are constantly evolving – and so should brands. It’s a good idea to leverage qualitative and quantitative data to keep an ongoing pulse on industry nuance and search for ways that align with your brand ethos to connect and build lasting relationships with customers and employees.
The bottom line
There comes a time for any brand — regardless of industry, size or success — for a refresh or total rebrand, depending on your circumstances. Rather than succumbing to the age-old trap of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” and waiting for something to indeed “break,” now is the time to assess what your current brand stands for and how this aligns with key stakeholders’ wants, needs and values. Through establishing a foundation of purpose, gaining stakeholder buy-in, co-creating along the way, and opening your organization up to true innovation, brands can stand to reinvent themselves in ways that are authentic to their mission and serve their customers and employees better.
This article first appeared in entrepreneur.com
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