Rebranding to be “nicer”? That’s good. Be sure you deliver.
A lot of organizations are talking about tweaking their brands these days. Life after COVID is expected to be decidedly different, after all, and brands are keen to show off their soft and compassionate sides. You can’t scroll through LinkedIn on a Friday afternoon without stumbling into a Forbes or Inc. article advising companies to do a better job of leading with our hearts.
That’s a good thing. If we can take anything away from the pandemic it should be a stronger commitment to being better.
Undoubtedly, evolving your brand is essential – it was a brilliant move for our agency a decade ago and the big red M continues to be our bat-signal. However, it wasn’t a magic elixir either – the skies didn’t open up with new business, nor did our weaknesses suddenly fade away. We had to fix stuff, and we had to prove we are as warm, confident and bold as that M. (Let’s be clear: we are!)
I anticipate we’ll see a lot of brands trumpeting their commitments to the planet and people over profits and prestige. Three factors will affect the success/fail of these strategies:
- How well brands deliver on those new promises over the long game. A giant cheque or a photo op aren’t enough. Leaders need to create deeply rooted policies that embed the newly-touted values into every nook and cranny of the organization. That’s easier said than done. And should be done before it’s said.
- People need to be empowered to act on the promise the way they see fit, within certain parameters of course. This type of brand strategy relies on an organic realism that can’t be achieved if we’re all marching through a carefully built tactical plan. Nice comes from the gut.
- Differentiation will be challenging if we’re all standing on the same platform. Companies will need to explore the spectrum of corporate responsibility, community leadership, employer branding and social innovation to carve out our space beside all the other newly “nice” guys.
I’ve heard dozens of stories from clients who reluctantly moved ahead with a rebrand because a new marketing executive or advertising agency said to. I’ll say it: occasionally marketing people are driven by ego. Seriously, it’s true. No brand should change solely because someone wants to leave their mark. The change may indeed be warranted but expect that person to make a sound business case.
A brand strategy shines a light on what’s real and genuine in the business – it’s not fresh paint on a broken old board. Fix or replace the board, make sure everyone knows how to keep it strong and secure, and deliver on the promises you make – then build the brand story, logo, and other shiny objects to attract attention to it.
Rebranding can be fun, it’s true, and effective, absolutely. But avoid the urge to say you’re something you’re not just because LinkedIn said to.