How to set the tone internally for a major rebrand

One of life’s biggest paradigms is that change is constant, and for businesses, a rebrand is the greatest signal of change.

While it may be more convenient to only highlight the many good things change brings, it can also potentially be the cause of more strain, can be costly, and in more extreme cases, destructive to businesses. But the success or possible looming failure of change is hinged on how well we are prepared for it.

Given the upfront substantial investment of time and money involved in a consequential decision like a rebrand, it becomes essential that we approach the process with careful planning right from the start. Drawing from our years of experience overseeing major rebrands across Africa, we’ve come to identify a number of key approaches instrumental to preparing your team and leadership toward a successful rebrand.

1. Set the scene for change

The most impactful way to start the conversation about change is to first lead by example. One of the simplest most impactful ways to do this is to set the scene where this conversation will take place. Take an out-of-office approach and choose an environment and structure that is non-conformist to what your people are already accustomed to.

Ensure that these sessions are not just informative but also interactive and hands-on. Include materials like colour-coded sticky notes, paper cards, and makers to stimulate engagement. Encourage creativity and explore additional ideas in a similar vein. This deliberate departure from the norm, becomes a tangible expression of your commitment to change, setting the tone for the discussions that follow.

2. Let’s talk about the past

It is nearly unfair to talk about the importance of the past without the sentiments of Terry Pratchett: “It is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don't know where you are, and if you don't know where you are, you don't know where you're going. And if you don't know where you're going, you're probably going wrong.”

Initiate dialogues within your team that delve into your organization's history and journey. Have the oldest team members come around to share their perspectives on the company's evolution. These sessions should extend beyond a mere recounting of events; they should become platforms for individuals to also discuss their personal journeys and how they have grown in the company.

In addition to creating a sense of continuity, encouraging an honest dialogue about the past also instills a shared appreciation for the company's historical foundation. This heightened sense of awareness among your team serves as a guiding light, ensuring that the principles and values forged in the crucible of the company's history remain steadfast throughout and beyond the rebranding journey. Use the following questions to drive conversations about the past:

  1. Is there a difference between who we were at the beginning of this organization and who we are now?
  2. If there’s a difference, is it positive? And are there parts of who we used to be that we need to bring back?
  3. What pivotal events or significant milestones in our organization's history have been the key turning points that shaped its trajectory?

3. Reflect on your values

Consider thinking beyond just “Excellence”, “Integrity”, “Respect”, and every other generic corporate value that has populated corporate communication materials and websites. Facilitate sessions where people discuss the values that have been the most true in your organization. Encourage your longest-tenured team members to share about what used to be the values and principles in the beginning, what these values have evolved to become, and what values are required for the future.

The single most important thing during this exercise is to identify a set of principles and values that truly reflect your organization's identity. By doing so, you not only reinforce a sense of ownership amongst your team and leadership but also ensure that the identified values align with the current and future aspirations of the company. Use the following questions to stimulate this conversation:

  1. What’s your perspective on the values and principles that were fundamental to our organization in its early days? And how have you witnessed these values evolve over time?
  2. What values do you currently observe as being the most true and influential in our organization? Are there any specific instances or examples that highlight the manifestation of these values in our daily operations or decision-making processes?
  3. As we look ahead, what values do you believe will be essential for our organization to succeed in the future?

4. The common destination

The preceding activities have mostly been about deep introspections about our organization’s past. It is time we looked into the future, and more importantly, how we plan to take the necessary actions to make this future, a reality.

Let your people take turns to reflect on where the organization will be in the next 20 years, as well as the changes that need to occur today to make this a reality. Once everyone has contributed comfortably to the organization's future direction, use the following questions to start a conversation about the necessary changes:

  1. What are we currently doing that we need to stop doing?
  2. What are we currently doing that we need to do more of?
  3. What are we not currently doing that we need to start doing?

5. Get ready to compete

As much as many of us would love to dwell in the idea of a world with absolutely no competitors, that reality will never materialize. That’s why a collective awareness of your competitive landscape is an important part of this process.

Let people take turns to talk about your industry and competitors. Use the following questions to further drive the conversation:

  1. Who is giving us a run for our money?
    • What are they doing better than us?
    • What are we doing better than them?
    • What are they currently doing that we could emulate?
    • What are they currently doing, that we should avoid at all costs?
  2. Is there a gap between what we think of ourselves today(our ideal image) and how we’re currently perceived by the market? What do you think that gap is on a scale of 1-10?
  3. How much do we stand out from the crowd in our market on a scale of 1-10?

The success of your rebrand is not in the conclusion of the exercise, but in the months and years that follow — it’s how your people embrace it, run with it, and defend it. By having these conversations with your team and leadership, you not only set the tone but ensure that all internal stakeholders rally around this big change, and leverage its positive effects to generate momentum and realize growth for your organization. Feel free to adapt and tweak these strategies according to the unique dynamics of your team and organizational culture.

See you on the other side of change!

Co-authored by Victor Fatanmi, Lead Partner, and Wilfred Alfred, Senior Strategist at FourthCanvas

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