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Over the past year, we’ve seen a megatrend in the world of marketing. Everywhere you look, brands are trying to change the way people think about them.

The reasons for this are all over the map. In most cases, companies want to proactively reshape what their brand represents. Some efforts involve temporary transformations: Payless Shoes and IHOP used creative (and well-publicized) stunts that urged consumers to rethink the value and breadth of their offerings. (Despite the success of its campaign, Payless’ announcement that it will be closing all its U.S. stores proves that ‘shifting perceptions’ doesn’t always mean ‘saving the business.’) In other instances, such as WW truncating its name and expanding its mission and Dunkin dropping the “Donuts,” brands make deeper changes written in permanent ink.

In other scenarios, brands are essentially forced into action, as negative public perception dictates an urgent need for change. For Wells Fargo and Uber, rebranding efforts sent clear signals that the companies were looking to move on from recent scandals, break free from past leadership and making an effort to reestablish consumer trust.

The point is, rebranding projects can be motivated by many different things and achieved by many different strategies. Despite all those variables, the same crucial groundwork is necessary for any rebranding campaign. These first steps will help you plan effectively and ensure your rebranding efforts are built on a rock-solid foundation.

Know where you’re coming from

Rebranding campaigns can be invigorating, because it’s exciting to think about where your brand will be with a few key changes. However, it’s equally important to know exactly where your brand stands before any changes are made.

Many of our clients state a desire to “move the needle” with a rebranding campaign. With that in mind, you can’t tell whether the needle has moved – and how far – without extensive knowledge of your existing brand. Deep insights into your current demographics, audience personas and customer preferences provide benchmarks that will help you measure post-rebrand success.

Unfortunately, many people aren’t wild about change. With that in mind, you must consider the possibility that a rebranding campaign may reach new audience segments at the expense of alienating some of your existing customers. When it comes to messaging and other key elements of your rebranding campaign, you shouldn’t just wing it. In order to ensure those elements resonate with target audiences, you’ll need to engage in message testing with your target market.

Know where you want to be – and why

For quite some time now, scary-sounding words such as “disruption” and “transformation” have been driving forces in the business world. Things are changing fast, and the primary motivation behind your rebranding journey might be to better position yourselves for the future of the market.

First, you’ll need to ask some challenging questions about your brand. Are you leading the industry? Are you lagging behind the industry? Are you just kind of keeping up? Are you aligned with where your industry is headed?

The answers to these questions can come from a lot of different places. Competitive analysis will help you understand what industry leaders and growing companies are embracing. Case studies will help you pinpoint best practices and potential missteps. Trends in investing and stock prices will help publicly traded companies identify key areas of Wall Street interest. All of these things can help determine whether your brand needs a perception shift – and what that shift should be.

Know what it will take to follow through

Truly changing your brand is not for the faint of heart. It’s a highly strategic business decision, not just a “makeover.” There are plenty of costs -- and risks -- involved. There’s also a lot of work that needs to be done after the visual and messaging elements are complete. Redefining your brand may involve rethinking your organizational structure and your talent pool to align with your new vision.

In these scenarios, many of your MVPs will come from within your organization. Your human resources department and your employees can provide valuable input on what it will take to attract the talent you’ll need for future success and how your company can change to set talent up for success. This is especially important when your rebranding efforts involve a shift or an expansion from one market segment to another. You may need different types of skills – and different processes – to walk the walk.

That’s a huge reason why big companies are adopting the “start-up mentality.” Start-ups and smaller companies have an advantage when it comes to putting new ideas into action: They’re nimble enough to experiment, test segments and float ideas to get a feel for the right direction. Those are incredibly valuable traits to have during times of change.

Know when to ask for help

Want to discuss your rebranding plans to make sure you're on the right course? Connect with me and let's talk.


This article first appeared on Lisa's LinkedIn.