One of the most consequential and long-lasting decisions a marketing leader can make is to change the organization’s brand.
A brand’s messaging, positioning, and visual identity permeate all aspects of the company’s go-to-market activities and usually endure for many years. We frequently engage with clients on rebrands, helping them sort through the business justification and process steps using the Forrester Brand Lifecycle Framework as a guide. And based on my experience of client inquiries over 2021, the pace of rebranding is rising.
There are many reasons for the uptick in rebrands. One is that the volume of global M&A deals in 2021 hit an all-time high, with a staggering 62,000 transactions that exceeded $5 trillion in combined value for the first time. Large strategic deals are one of the prime triggers for reconsidering a brand, often because the value of the newly combined companies isn’t cleanly captured in the old brand identity. A second reason for elevated levels of rebranding is the pandemic, which has refocused the minds of executives on the value a brand can bring to the business, with some finding that their brand is lacking. In Forrester’s 2021 Brand And Communications Survey, 54% of respondents stated that the pandemic would result in permanent changes to their brand strategy.
A good example of a rebrand done right is Thoughtworks, a global technology consultancy headquartered in Chicago. When CMO Julie Woods-Moss joined in 2019, she realized that the company needed to better align its corporate brand, company purpose, and employee branding. She also recognized that there were many inconsistencies in the way the brand was activated globally, with numerous variations on visual identity. Once Thoughtworks decided to rebrand, it also decided to run the project internally, without an outside creative agency (Thoughtworks had an internal design team that had extensive agency-side experience). Much of the project was managed using a 40-person steering committee, an intentionally eclectic group of employees that built broad engagement and a sense of inclusion.
The rebrand was successful because it gave a new voice for the organization and presented employees with new ways of becoming brand advocates. You can find out more about the Thoughtworks rebrand in this case study.
CMO Woods-Moss has a few words of advice for companies reevaluating their brand: “First, do the research so you have the necessary data to drive defensible decision-making. Second, try and be agile and break the project down into manageable chunks, iterate, and be open to emergent ideas. And finally, get broad engagement from across the company; the outcome will be much better because of the insights you gather.”