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The challenge came early one Monday morning: "We're considering rebranding the company. Give us a proposal and your recommendations."

And so, our marketing team went to work: researching companies that had gone through similar changes, quantifying the dollars involved, recommending very methodical processes for implementation, and developing a reasonable timeframe.

We received executive and board approval to proceed. But with a few caveats: "Have the rebrand complete by January 1"—which meant that instead of the 18 months we had proposed to complete our task, we had exactly six weeks.

This article shares key lessons on how we shifted from "OMG, they're crazy" mode into high gear, accomplishing the unthinkable.

People are everything

Here's an area that drives home the importance of quality over quantity: Despite the magnitude of tasks you'll be juggling, a large army is not needed. But what is needed is the right army.

The most important success factor is having the right people: those who share your resourcefulness, enhance one another's creativity, share a sense of optimism, bring an abundance of energy, and, as a whole, share a belief that you can actually pull it off.

There can be no weak links in this formula—you simply cannot afford to have anyone bring you down.

Establish your brand platform

Building a solid brand platform is like building the ark. Every piece—no matter how big or small—matters if you want to come out on top.

The experience itself was important because the exercise helped us understand how we wanted to be branded and how best to convey that message both internally and externally. What we were really accomplishing (without knowing it) was the foundation for all of our future marketing.

How did we do it? Here are the five pillars that helped us create our new identity:

  1. Core Identity. This is the central, timeless essence of your brand that is unlikely to change as your company explores new business services and markets.
  2. Extended Identity. This pillar encompasses distinct and meaningful associations that you wish to have attached to your brand. Know your external audience, and then decide the most important things they need to know about you.
  3. Brand Promise. The brand promise is a statement you make to customers that identifies what they should expect for all interactions with your people, products, services, and company—a statement of what your brand is committed to doing and being.
  4. Positioning Statement. Your brand's positioning statement provides guidance and key messages, explaining "who" the company is and what it does. Take a step back and think about an "elevator pitch" that everyone—from the intern to the CEO—can articulate.
  5. Brand Personality. Think of it in these terms: If your brand were a person, what adjectives would you use to describe him or her? Intelligent, considerate, authentic, successful, creative?

Include employees

Remain transparent and allow your company to be part of the rebranding effort. It might be hard on a few people to have a young and vibrant marketing team come in and transform the brand—and likely an unwelcome surprise for most to walk into work on a Monday and learn that the name of their company has been changed.

Involve employees in the development of the new name. In our case, we invited employees to submit suggestions for a new name.

Keep employees apprised of your progress. We used our internal employee newsletter to provide weekly recaps of accomplishments and plans for the coming week, which helped to establish realistic expectations, minimize obstacles, and provide advance notice when we needed help.

Host workshops as part of the rollout. We reserved one hour of time to create excitement and distribute promotional items (food always helps, too!).

Make sure you have a good story

Much thought was put into the new name. So I suggest doing what we did:

  • Put together a short video explaining the rebrand. Make it funny. Interview your CEO or CMO and some employees. Get their take on camera.
  • Create a blog post that gives a more personal take on the rebrand than one would find in your official announcement.
  • Begin the transition to the name in subtle ways, prior to the official announcement. We linked to a Q&A page (which included the video and blog links), anticipating questions that our audience would have: why, what's the name mean, have you been acquired, is the management team intact—all questions that naturally arise. By addressing those questions head on, we left no room for assumptions to fuel the rumor mill.

So, you see, whatever your story is, tell it! Make it mean something to the world. Defend your new name, knowing that it's the next chapter in your company's story.

Navigate the tangled web

Whenever you're rebranding your Web marketing in six weeks—with an ambitious scope and super-short schedule—you'd better be prepared for surprises.

One wrong character in the 1,000-line programming code can cause your entire page to crash; your database could fail due to a poorly written SQL statement; Google might not like your new ad and delay publishing by a week. We experienced all of that (and so much more).

And most important, "plan to plan"—make sure that you have your plan ready as early as possible. I would also recommend using project management software, such as MS Project, Daptiv, or Basecamp, to increase productivity and streamline communication with your project team.

All's well that ends well

Did things go off without a hitch? No.

Was it hard? Brutal at times.

Do we have some lasting battle scars? Probably.

But we did manage to come through on the other side with our sanity intact and gratified that we'd accomplished the unthinkable: a successful rebranding of a decade-old company in just 42 days.


This article is excerpted from an INgage Networks eBook written by Kristi Grigsby, Kathy Saenz, Darek Hys, Nicky Weston, and Courtney Wiley.

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Kathy Saenz is corporate communications manager for INgage Networks, an award-winning provider of enterprise social software solutions for government and business. Reach her on Twitter @KathySaenz.