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Although many marketers initially think the success of their rebrand hinges on the quality of the new brand design, marketers who have been there, done that tell a different story. They know that rebranding is a large and complex project involving many internal and external players; therefore, the ability to plan and execute a realistic rebranding timeline is essential to success.

If a company doesn't get the schedule right, the project could spin out of control. Missed deadlines can lead to major setbacks, from blown budgets to brand fragmentation.

Of course, organizations planning to transition to a new brand identity often want to know how long it will take them to rebrand. But there is so much more to implementing a rebrand than approving the new creative and planning the initial public launch of the new identity.

Rolling out the new identity across all branded touchpoints requires planning for branded asset change, gaining funding and management approval, addressing regulatory issues, educating stakeholders, and more. And the how for each of those items differs from rebrand to rebrand and company to company.

It's impossible to answer the question "How long will the rebrand take?" without first gaining a detailed understanding of your situation and rebranding goals. Companies preparing for a rebrand need grounded, data-driven time estimates to plan and budget appropriately.

Here are six things for companies and their brand strategy and/or design agencies to consider when creating a rebranding schedule.

1. Branded Assets and Their Lead Times

One of the first steps in planning any rebrand implementation is to take a comprehensive inventory of your branded assets—everything in your organization that carries your brand. After all, you can't know how long it will take to rebrand until you know what you are rebranding.

Conducting that inventory is a precursor to getting down to the nitty-gritty of how long it will take to transition each type of branded asset to the new brand.

For example, business cards will require a much shorter lead time than signage, which will likely take months to plan and manufacture. You'll need to factor in asset production lead times and layer those lead times into your cohesive rebranding schedule.

2. The Operational Cycles of Your Organization

Many types of operational cycles affect the timing of a brand transition, and looking at those can help you devise the optimal timeline.

Let's touch on a couple of examples:

  • First, in the case of packaged products, how many weeks or months of inventory do you have on hand? You will need to get a detailed understanding of current inventory levels and the rate at which that inventory will be depleted. Armed with that data, you can factor into your timeline when you want to make products with the new branding available to the market.
  • Second, when do various types of fleet vehicles come off lease? You don't want to spend time and money rebranding vehicles that will be retired in a few months. Then, from a logistics point of view, when will vehicles be available to remove old branding and affix the new one?

In short, the most efficient rebrands take advantage of operational cycles to transition assets in the most cost-effective manner possible.

3. Internal Review and Approval Processes

How does your team handle reviews and approvals? Who will need to grant approval, and at what points in the process? Your rebranding schedule must take such details into account.

Be realistic; don't assume that people involved in the approval processes will sign off on new materials in the same meeting in which your team presents them.

4. Resource Allocation Planning for Internal and External Staff

You can't build a realistic rebranding timeline until you understand who is responsible for each task. Roles and responsibilities for implementing the rebrand must be crystal-clear. That includes your internal staff as well as vendors and any other partners.

You need a realistic understanding of the available time each person or vendor can devote to the rebrand project before you can finalize your rebranding timeline.

5. Legal and Regulatory Requirements

Every rebrand has legal implications. Moreover, different industries must comply with different regulatory requirements when they rebrand. You need to understand which legal filings and regulatory requirements need to be addressed as part of your rebrand, then incorporate those into your final schedule.

6. Interdependencies of Mandated Timing, Business Drivers, and Budget

Many organizations set a goal of rebranding within a particular timeframe. (Sometimes, when rebranding is spurred by an M&A or divestiture, companies are legally bound to hit specific timing.) However, the ability to meet a timing objective is inextricably linked to fiscal constraints and business considerations.

For example, let's say you choose to sequence converting your branded assets in a way that prioritizes the buyer journey on your top-performing products. Although that is usually the right strategic business decision, the approach to asset prioritization will likely make scheduling more complex.

Similarly, a company's rebranding budget greatly affects cadence, and the availability of capital and operating funds drive it. (We cover that topic and offer tips on creating budgets in this article.)

Achieving Alignment on a Realistic Rebranding Timeline

A successful rebranding timeline is one in which people, processes, tools, commercial objectives, and budget all come together in synchronicity. To predict the right timing, you need to gain a solid grasp of all the details and minimize the unknowns.

But creating an effective rebranding timeline isn't just about putting the right scheduling pieces in place. It's also about alignment and clear communication.

Before getting started on a rebrand, companies must build consensus and alignment around a data-driven rebranding timeline in which numbers and facts drive fiscally responsible decision-making. It's critical to get buy-in from all key stakeholders. That includes everyone from the CFO's approving funding for the project to internal workgroups assigned with various rebranding tasks to the vendors' actually doing the branded asset transition work.

Everyone needs to know precisely what will be required of them and when. And everyone must be on board to make it all happen on time, according to plan.

So, when your management asks you how long it will take to rebrand, resist the urge to give a loose estimate. Tell them the importance of taking the time to get the rebranding timeline right. And turn to an expert resource to help make it happen.

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How Long Will Your Rebrand Take? Six Factors to Consider When Developing Your Timeline

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BrandActive has focused exclusively on the financial analysis, strategy and logistics of rebrand implementation and brand and marketing operations for 25 years. Our consultants help you achieve more, spend less, and build a better brand.