Rebranding - the SWAT team approach


Towards the latter stages of the branding process you will know who you are and why you exist. You will also know how you are going to position your proposition creatively. What target consumers respond to. How to "speak" and "dress" in your new brand visual language. You are committed to changing how you creatively present the brand. Exciting times.

Well maybe.

Typically you will also have hundreds of pieces of communications - both marketing and customer - which now will need to be brought up to speed as swiftly as possible to ensure an effective customer experience is maintained. This throws up its own challenges. This is the bit of the branding process nobody likes to focus on. This is the bit they don't tell you about at the start.

How best can you attack this monumental task? How can you implement new designs across a mountain of communications? I've seen two approaches to this problem - both have hugely negative effects. I've outlined them below but I also have another alternative: the SWAT team approach. Keep reading...

1. Piece by piece

By this I mean you start redesigning parts of your communications bit by bit - so that over time all communications will eventually be redesigned and consistent.

This approach seems logical from the businesses perspective. Select what is most important or convenient. Then systematically go through each piece of comms and re-skin / rewrite them in accordance with the new visual language / tone of voice.

However, this approach does not tend to be customer centric. If you change one part of a customers journey (e.g. only work on marketing comms but customer comms you leave in 'old brand' style), customers will have an inconsistent experience and their opinion about the brand may become negative - "they can't even give me a consistent experience" or worse "is this the same company?". Advertising, positioning the brand one way, brings customers to a website which looks different. User journeys look different at different stages. Not good.

Customers will drop out of user journeys if your comms are not joined up. The more drastic the brand repositioning is, the more drastic the negative effect on the customer or prospect if the communication design style is different.

The other issue with this approach is that it is very easy to miss things. Some unpopular areas of customer comms might never get around to be looked at or may be overlooked. The dream of having everything redesigned may never be reached and for years ahead small populations might get 'old brand' style communications.

We don't want that.

2. All in one go

From a customers perspective this would be the ideal. Everything is redesigned in keeping with the brand evolution in one go.

However, if you have got to the end of your brand positioning process and have only just begun to think of its roll out, you may find yourself in a situation where if you redesign every piece of comms the brand will be way out of date before you can go to market.

Also by the time you review the amount of work needed to implement and work out a plan to get it all done, the market may have moved on. You will be constantly playing catchup.

It could take months, or even years, before the new brand style is ready.

We don't want this either.

Brand communications & hindsight - a side point

As a side point - these challenges highlight the need for businesses to be smart when it comes to their communications. As businesses scale it is rare they think about the growing mountain of communications they are spitting out. They do not document it and often are not aware of how many routine customer comms, or types of marketing comms, they are producing.

I imagine a world where this is got to grips with.

With hindsight businesses would have a clear list of all the comms they send out, the location of the original design files (e.g. for emails or letters) and the ability to swiftly amend them. I'm talking about a system which documents all comms.

Ideally this system would contain and attach the name of the person responsible for those specific comms. Even more ideally it would be digital and be being updated with regular data analysis of the effectiveness of the comms to which it refers - but thats a deeper layer, maybe for another post.

Also with hindsight smart businesses would have been doing a full audit of their comms at the start of the branding process. That way, by the time they have a new look and feel to reflect their new positioning, they don't have any nasty surprises about how long it will take them to take it to the market place effectively.

However that is all hindsight.

What if we are at the end of the process and now trying to work out how to implement our new brand style? This is where the communications 'touch point audit' has to come in.

Touch point audit

A touch point audit needs to be done if a planned and effective rollout is going to take place - either 'piece by piece, 'all in one go' or in the SWAT team approach I'm going to outline later.

An audit is just that. A documented review of all of your communications. This can be done in something as simple as an Excel document. One of the best ones I've seen was for a global brand and the team compiled it in InVision, grouping comms into stages which could be clicked on for examples to display.

I would propose that someone in your organisation is in charge of producing a thorough audit of all your comms. Depending on the size of your business this could be quite a task. Every touch point needs to be gone through and listed. Examples of the current piece of comms needs to be documented. Design files need to be located. This needs to be done as a matter of priority because without knowing what you are dealing with you will not be able to effectively plan the brand repositioning rollout.

To do this properly I would suggest that every stage of your customer journey is reviewed from your audiences perspective. Set up each stage and map out the communications which go on during that stage. Here's a very rough example of the broad steps:

AQUISITION

Awareness:

• Digital marketing

• Email marketing

• Website

Consideration:

• PDF downloads

• Brochure

• Sales presentations

• Contract documents

Decision:

• Sales telephone scripts

• Proposal documents

CUSTOMER

Onboarding

• Welcome letters

• Welcome emails

Account management

• Enews letters

• Statements of account

• Customer portal

Delight activity

• Birthday emails

• Celebratory comms

Obviously the list above is very crude and will change depending on your line of business and what you have set-up.

Adding complexity - another side point

Again, another side point which you might want to do after your brand roll out, (or, if you have time, during your audit) is to consider your audiences in your mapping. If you've done your branding process properly you will have defined audience personas to whom your brand exists for. At each stage consider documenting what each persona is thinking, feeling, doing and seeing.

This exercise in itself can throw up gaps in the existing customer experience. Make a note of areas which need to be improved, and set up a plan to ensure the brand story will be consistently told throughout.

Anyway - back to the main point of this article:

The solution: The brand SWAT team

So - having got your touch point audit documented you have two choices. You can slowly and methodically go through each of the items in your audit - maybe testing results and not only re-skinning but rewriting and redesigning aspects of the experience in accordance with the new brand positioning. You might need to sync up with product managers or heads of parts of the business to make this as effective as possible. The temptation is to painstakingly take ages to try to get things perfect.

Although very valuable, this may take months or years. How can these long time periods be negated? You could roll out completed areas 'piece by piece' or you could wait until its all been done as I've outlined above. But each of these options carries those huge negatives and the brand will suffer whichever option you choose.

My suggestion is that you create a nimble "brand SWAT team". SWAT stands for 'Special Weapons and Tactics'. It originally referred to an elite police marksmen who specialised in high-risk tasks such as hostage rescue. However, the term can apply to any group of specialists brought in to solve a difficult or urgent problem.


Photo by Ben Koorengevel - Unsplash

In the context of a rebrand, this should be a team of highly motivated, multi-disciplined, designers and copywriters. They should be experienced and be used to high paced environments and working to clear deadlines in sprints. Headed up by someone who is given full authority, they go in and redesign, reskin and rewrite comms pieces alongside the person responsible for that area of comms. Their aim will not be perfection but to do the best job they can in the time allocated to each area of the audit. It will be agile. Fast and furious.

Set them a time frame - e.g. 4 weeks. Divide up the customer journey into chunks and have them focus on each chunk at a time. E.g. 4 chunks = 1 week per chunk. Thats how long they have to complete all the comms in that chunk.

This will bring focus and because of the short timescale, a surprising amount of consistency to all the comms this team touches.

Most importantly they need to have the authority to do this. Empower them. Trust them. They have the broad brand understanding. They understand the brand strategy and the brand story that needs to be told to the audience. If they do not have this authority then the process will stall as product managers get nervous about amends being made.

To appease these concerns this work will need to have the support of the leadership team who, after all, will have committed to the rebranding for the good of the business and customer in the long run. After the SWAT team has gone through the initial comms, a more refined and focused approach can then be taken up by design teams to enhance the work of the Swat team ensuring that further testing and an even better experience can be obtained.

This approach means that even if you come to the end of the branding process and suddenly realise you have a huge mountain of communications to redesign it can be done swiftly. At the end of 4 weeks (or whatever time you set) your rebrand will effectively be rolled out and your design team will be in a position to do deeper dives to enhance the customers experience.

The brand SWAT team is the best suggestion I have to get your new brand up to speed swiftly if you have not got an effective plan in place when you get to the end of your branding process.

When you finish this process, the touch point audit document can become a helpful tool to keep on top of all of the brands communications in the future. Managed effectively it will mean you don't have to face the same challenges again saving time and money in the future when the brand needs to adapt to become creatively relevant to it's audiences.


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