Why Rebranding Is Really Hard and Takes a Really Long Time

new-brandA couple of days ago, a Matrix Group client, a major trade association was quoted in a a major news story. The news organization quoted a statistic that the association promotes through its website, about the benefits of working with its members. The trouble was this: the name of the organization was wrong in the news story. You see, the organization had rebranded with a new name five years ago, but the news story still used the old name. This, despite a major effort to educate the industry, the press, trade publications, yada, yada. Ugh.

For many years, I chaired a benefit auction for a local non-​​profit. The benefit was successful and well-​​known but one year, we were close to panic when ticket sales were much lower than anticipated. We quickly organized a phone campaign and found out something startling: many longtime benefit attendees did not recognize the name of the organization on the envelope. You see, the organization had rebranded with a new name three years earlier and we figured it was time to use the new name (on its own, without the “formerly” name) on the return address. Guess we were wrong.

These stories point to the difficulties and challenges associated with rebranding campaigns, especially campaigns that involve a name change. Most organizations do a fine job communicating the changes via their websites, letters, postcards, emails, email signatures, voice on hold messages, advertisements in trade publications, and on and on. Trouble is, people aren’t necessarily paying attention. The letter, ad or postcard doesn’t register until your customer, partners and prospects decide they want to interact with your organization, on their terms, on their timeline.

So what are the lessons here?

  • Know that rebranding is a long-​​term effort, it’s going to require constant and intense communications, and some people are still going to miss the message.
  • Use every communications vehicle possible to communicate the changes: website, email, letter, postcard, magazine article, magazine ad, banner ads, voice on hold message, email signature, video, news stories, etc.
  • Renew the old domain name and point it to the new site for as long as you can bear.
  • Make sure there are plenty of references to the old name on your website so that search engines will associate your new name with the old one.
  • Keep reminding your audiences of the reasons for the rebranding and reinforce the new name and images.

How about you? Has your organization rebranded? What communications challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

2 thoughts on “Why Rebranding Is Really Hard and Takes a Really Long Time

  1. At the organization I worked for prior to Matrix Group, we went through a large re-​​branding effort. We had had a strategy in place to communicate the re-​​branding to our internal audiences as well as external ones. This was a very long process as not only did we need to have a communications strategy in place to communicate the new brand, but we also had to educate our volunteers, sponsors and staff on everything that comes with re-​​branding and persuade them to embrace them.

  2. So for a while there on NPR, what used to be “Corporate Executive Board” was advertising that they were now “CEB”–then gave no web address, just said to “google them”. I was so confused by that whole ad–why didn’t they explain why they rebranded and changed to CEB? Why no web address? What do they even do?

    I guess it was good that they were getting the word out, but they could have used that opportunity to provide some insight into their new brand. Sigh.

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