From Uber to CareerBuilder to Google/Alphabet (and SeaWorld on the horizon?), organizational rebranding has been top-of-mind lately. Companies rebrand for a variety of reasons—whether mergers and acquisitions, reputational issues, or strategy shifts, among others.

No matter the reason, there's no denying that a rebrand is a major decision—and an expensive undertaking—that shouldn't be taken lightly.

A company's ability to execute has a direct effect on future success, so the process should be strategic, collaborative, and rooted in actionable intelligence.

Marketing is often at the helm of what is a cross-functional "mega-project," and its task is to ensure smooth, synthesized efforts.

Among the various areas to address, here are five to-do's that are vital for a successful rebrand.

1. Intelligence gathering

What needs to change? How do we get there? For the answers, it's important to survey the following:

  • Key internal stakeholders who have a firm grasp on your company's strategy. Their insights often inform subsequent surveys among other important audiences.
  • Employees. Make sure you collect enough demographic information (How long have they been with the company and in what function? And so on.) to understand the context of their responses.
  • Customers, particularly at types of companies targeted with your future strategy. As with your employee survey, it's important to gauge their perception of your brand now—along with whether they associate it with any of your aspirational attributes.
  • Market experts and analysts for additional insights about the landscape.

Often, an important output is whether rebranding will also encompass a renaming. That is, are perceptions of your company so steeped in your old positioning/reputation that they can't be peeled away?

At Brainshark—after more than 15 years helping companies improve all types of business communications—we recently rebranded to demonstrate our commitment to the sales enablement market. (Many of these tips are therefore based on personal experience!) Our intelligence gathering, conducted with a branding firm partner, confirmed that our roots in training and content, along with our history aiding sales, meant keeping our name would be an asset; however, it made sense to add a tagline to make our new focus clear.

In addition, an essential part of intelligence gathering is competitive analysis. Work with your team to achieve an intimate understanding of the market, including how competitors message and visually represent themselves, so you'll be equipped for differentiation.

2. Positioning development

Next, to create strategic, competitive positioning, synthesize the perspectives gleaned about your company and the market into key insights.

One critical question to answer: Do you want to take an extreme, new position or straddle the old one? If the former, how much of a departure will the new positioning be?

Your previous analysis should provide helpful guidance. Also, strive for positioning that's relevant and distinctive while speaking to both the rational and the emotional needs of your audience.

Another step involves collaborating on a positioning statement: an internal-facing statement identifying your company's target audience, frame of reference, points of differentiation and value. Though those are concise (often one sentence!), it's important to measure the impact of each word so you can articulate and justify its inclusion to the organization at large.

3. Brand-identity creation

This phase is particularly exciting; it's where strategy, positioning, and what had previously been intangible vision get translated into a concrete visual identity and tagline, as appropriate. Here are some tips:

  • Consider core values. It's important to infuse your brand identity with any core values your company has identified. (Ours at Brainshark, for example, are "energizing," "knowledgeable," and "collaborative"—so, at every step, we evaluated our positioning and brand identity with those qualities in mind.)
  • Do your homework. As mentioned, when evaluating positioning and a new visual identity/logo, research the marketplace with the goal of differentiating yourself.
  • Don't underestimate color and its ability to connote attributes. Where possible, use color to convey core values, and consider whether your palette will stand out from competitors'.
  • Location, location, location. Think about the different places/scenarios your visual identity will appear—as a logo on your website, as icons on Twitter and other social media sites, etc. You may need to craft different icons that are visually appropriate for the various scenarios.
  • Test. Test your positioning, visual identity, and tagline with target personas. Do they exude your core values? Speak to your audiences' pain points? Capture attention? Hopefully a resounding "yes" will buoy you to forge ahead. Collect feedback in a way that can be easily shared with organizational stakeholders.

4. Content development

As you apply your new positioning and logo across content and campaigns, be prepared for an ever-expanding list of items that need to change—from your website to business cards to email signatures and much more!

Among the important content to-dos: The creative team should develop style guidelines for organizationwide dissemination. You might also consider creating an internal "brand book"—synthesizing all the work around the brand to help forge an emotional connection. At Brainshark, we also made a brand video to convey our new identity and generate enthusiasm, and to share on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and more.

5. Activating the brand

Content will also help power a successful internal rollout. Create and disseminate an FAQ, and make "brand ambassadors" from each department available to answer questions about the new branding and how to apply it. If these ambassadors have been involved from the get-go as an information and feedback conduit, that's even better, as it's important to keep employees informed and to build enthusiasm.

To that end, try to build buzz as you reveal the new brand internally. For example, we held our annual companywide meeting at Boston's famed Fenway Park and unveiled the new logo on the scoreboard. Employees were excited! Although the internal unveiling can take many forms, you can also build excitement with promotional products—notebooks, mugs, fleeces, USB drives, etc.—with the new branding.

From public launch day forward, the entire company needs to be brand ambassadors. Take steps to make sure they describe your company in the same way—whether they're pitching prospects or attending a cocktail party. Of course, make sure your customers are also in the know, with easy access to your blog post, newsletter, or other communications that herald the change.

In tandem with the public launch, you should execute a brand campaign; remember, though, that all your subsequent campaigns, if done properly, carry the new brand, thereby lifting brand awareness overall.

The most important question (and the one at the heart of your rebrand): How do you know if you've made an impact?

It's important to get a baseline measurement of awareness for the new brand. Then, measure brand awareness at appropriate intervals to determine whether your marketing campaigns are delivering as hoped.

Good luck!

Throughout the course of a rebrand, marketers should be prepared to wear many hats—interfacing across departments to ensure the new brand is reflected, for example, in your internal software applications, in the product organization, and even, as appropriate, on your office sign.

If you plan carefully, make informed decisions, and drive alignment along the way, your rebrand should deliver value. Good luck!

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image of Robin Saitz

Robin Saitz is chief marketing officer at  manufacturing ERP/MES cloud software company Plex Systems.

Twitter: @robinsaitz

LinkedIn: Robin Saitz