Brand Transformation: What, Why and How?

By Elizabeth Tindall, Will Cunningham, Greg Giles and Caitlin Devereaux


Impacting Banner

What do you do when you experience a drop in sales? How do you react when rapid growth outpaces your predictions? Both could be a reason to take a good hard look at your brand.

Whether sales have slowed or your success and expansion has rapidly outpaced your strategic plan, rebranding can be the tool to fix your pain point or guide your renaissance.

Reasons to Consider a Rebrand

Companies often choose to rebrand when faced with certain challenges or when they are seeking to refresh, reposition or grow their brand.

Common Goals for Brand Transformation

  • Reduce client and/or employee attrition
  • Expand or enter new geo- or vertical markets
  • Correct negative product or service impressions
  • Launch or spin out a new product, line of business, or company
  • Protect from changing economic or governmental pressures
  • Update the brand to penetrate larger or more sophisticated client tiers

After diving into the initial discovery process, we sometimes uncover other areas not initially identified by the client that are deemed high priority by customers or employees. We help our clients uncover gaps or challenges that can interfere with reaching their organizations’ goals.

Why Brand Transformation Matters

A strong brand is pragmatic. It can help deflect damage from industry events and enables you to better leverage your strengths. We believe the rebranding process, when carried out correctly, is a rare opportunity to align your employees, customers and work processes.

A rebranding effort should address your company’s real business problems, not merely aesthetics. For example, instead of discussing how to make your office environment appear more attractive, think about why your current office is inadequate for meeting with clients, or how your surroundings compare with or reflect the quality of work you offer.

Rebranding allows you to communicate changes and future direction to your employees and the marketplace in a visible, definitive manner.

The Brand Transformation Process: What’s Involved?

The overarching goal of a brand transformation is to elevate your brand above “features and functions” and to help you identify and discuss true differentiators. By default, many companies and employees speak only about the things they make or do, yet this hardly addresses customer need.

Instead, companies should focus on defining their critical success factors to satisfy their customers’ greatest needs, wants, or desires. Think about the unique value your organization adds around culture or customer service, such as grit, ingenuity, or progressive thinking.

Business Example

Instead of simply claiming, “We make awesome shoes,” Nike inspires their customers to become awesome athletes. Rather than boast about great computers, Apple focuses on how their devices help make life simple for their customers.

How To: Kick Off a Rebrand

The brand transformation process can seem daunting, chaotic, or fraught with uncertainty. When executed correctly, however, it can be segmented into manageable steps that focus on research, tangible findings and demonstrated need.

At BrandExtract, we help our clients kick off the process with a 360-degree assessment that investigates perceptions of the brand across the industry. Internally, we study how the brand lives and manifests itself in the workplace. Externally, we examine how people experience your brand and how it appears in the marketplace, and then evaluate the competitive offerings.

The assessment looks for a company’s true competency that is either untapped or taken for granted. A transformed brand conveys the “soul” of the company, or what it is truly about.

During your discovery process, make sure your team helps you conduct qualitative research to gather in-depth knowledge within each cross-section of the company, examining different departments, tenure levels and job functions to get a comprehensive view of the organization. At BrandExtract we like to pull in representatives from each of our internal teams, including Account Management, Creative and Web Development, to help us gain insight into the heart of a brand.

Get Started

Make a plan to interview personnel from each of your key stakeholder groups. This will include company leadership, staff from each department and as many customers or clients as possible. Develop questions that will reveal organizational strengths, opportunities for improvement, or a shared vision.

How To: Capture Culture and Personality

Use the brand transformation process to develop the most true-to-life representation of your organization. If the people within your company work a certain way, the brand should match that spirit and reflect it in the most authentic way possible. Make sure to accurately depict the type of people that your clients will be working with and the quality of service they will receive.

Business Example

A bank that only staffs one teller during lunch hours, a time frame during which many customers choose to run errands to the bank, should not focus on a customer service–oriented message. If the majority of customers only ever experience the long lunchtime lines, this brand promise will be perceived as inauthentic.

The process can become more difficult with large, expansive companies that contain several departments and subcultures.

Get Started

Be prepared to get conceptual in this stage. Experiment with new ways of thinking about your brand. For example, ask yourself: If your brand were a person, who would it be? Match your company to the qualities of a famous figure to start a discussion around your brand personality.

Tips for Corporate Branding:

  • Avoid any branding messages that feel too manufactured or scattered.
  • Create a brand promise you can easily back with delivery and performance.
  • Observe how your company performs in comparison to the brand promise. If an organization fails to deliver, customers will feel betrayed, frustrated, or deceived.

How To: Move Forward With a Brand Position

Designing the brand experience and concept is the first step before execution. We have found that some clients feel more comfortable developing multiple avenues within a single brand position to express different options for look, sound and feel. This can help you visualize the brand solution in formation.

A brand does not transform overnight. It can take time to implement every idea and close all the gaps. The transformation is an evolution based on budget, priority, resources and time. Focus on big, critical impact points first.

A brand launch represents multiple important elements, such as messaging and design, coming together at once. Other pieces, however, may still be developed over time after the initial launch. Address progress against your overall plan on a quarterly and annual basis, all while taking steps towards the complete brand evolution.

Get Started

To prioritize individual projects within the rebrand, determine the core experiences or contact points that drive your brand experience. Stay organized with a detailed project plan, and understand that the process does not end with the initial launch.

Elements For a Successful Brand Transformation

A few key attitudes contribute to an effective rebrand process:

1. Belief

When leadership believes they are capable of carrying out a rebrand, the process can truly inspire top-down change. Driven by culture and held to the standard of authenticity, the branding process helps uncover the higher purpose of the organization.  Employees can genuinely engage with their roles and become believers in the greater organizational cause.

2. Stamina

Building a new brand requires patience, a willingness to change and comfortable shoes. We push clients to take a journey. There is no “silver bullet” to brand transformation; rather, it helps to pick a path and stay consistent.

3. Honesty

To gain the most from the rebrand process, you have to be willing to take an honest look at your company and sort through a little dirty laundry.  The most successful brand transformations rely on openness and trust coupled with grit and perseverance.

If you think your company is ready for a transformation, read some of our clients’ own rebrand stories to see how they experienced the  process.