By Deb Stewart
According a recent study, organizations routinely spend 20 to 50 times the cost of brand development to fully implement and introduce their brand to the market. It’s no small task. Brand implementation firm BrandActive estimates that the scope of a typical financial services rebrand involves at least 600 individual branded assets in 24 asset categories. The devil, as they say, is in the details.
While the implementation phase could be the most complicated part of the rebranding process, it also offers great opportunities. Some of them your bank may not have even considered when it made the decision to rebrand.
Pay close attention to these key action items to spot the opportunities, get the details right and make the most of your rebrand.
This article is the fourth in our exclusive series about rebranding a bank. Click on the topics below to view the previous articles:
Start the implementation process while the rebrand is in development
“Financial analyses and timelines should be developed in parallel with branding work,” says Philip Guiliano, partner at BrandActive. “You need to be able to answer the questions: What is this rebrand going to cost? What are the options? How long will it take?”
He adds: “This means that a lot of data collection, analysis and planning is done while brand elements are still in development.” Getting ahead of the final creative decisions facilitates informed decision-making and improved time to market with the rebrand. “Keep in mind that rebrand isn’t just a marketing exercise,” Guiliano warns. “It is more than a stylistic revamp of the logo and messaging. Rather, it is the impetus for all departments of the bank to create a more cohesive brand experience and improve processes and quality assurance.”
So before you even see your new logo, here are some important steps to cover.
- Assemble the rebrand leadership team. Rebrand work groups should be established for each functional team: business lines and channels, procurement, facilities, human resources and others. Also, consider establishing separate work groups for legal, finance and other areas rather than expecting them to serve a purely support role for functional teams.
- Communicate your rebranding plans to these groups along with the overall goals of the rebrand (quality, time and budget). The scope of their role in this phase needs to be well understood.
- Identify those 600-plus branded assets and their interdependencies across channels, including print, web and social. Consider all asset categories, including legal, IT, HR, retail, products, regulatory and so on.
- Compile a full list of vendors associated with those branded assets.
- Conduct a branch survey if you expect your rebrand to change logo and other visual elements. Understand the square footage and layout of each branch along with specifics on the current branded elements.
Analyze, evaluate, consolidate, eliminate and centralize
“In many cases, banks may not think about holistic planning upfront,” notes Gina Bleedorn, chief experience officer at Adrenaline. “The area that is most often underestimated is physical infrastructure. An average cost per branch—including exterior signage—is $100,000.” Other areas that are often underestimated, she adds, are employee training and communication and issues related to the rebrand’s impact on marketing, facilities and other centralized staff.
Take the following measures to streamline the rebrand and reduce waste.
- Decide which materials are essential, which can be discontinued and which could be rechanneled from printed forms to digital systems. Gather all stakeholders that touch the assets in question and determine how to rationalize and improve branded elements moving forward.
- Identify ways to streamline or consolidate your approved vendors.
- Take some early wins. Many—even most—of those collateral pieces in the branch or in inventory could likely be eliminated or replaced by digital versions.
- Look at your processes related to production and management of assets. How are you handling inventories? What quality control process do you have in place?
- Make a distinction between day-one needs vs. branded assets with more flexibility.
- Look for opportunities to revise your governance model to maintain brand integrity moving forward—and to support a consistent customer experience.
Develop your budget and timeline and get final approval
Once you have a good understanding of what will be included in your rebrand—and you’ve looked for opportunities to help fund your rebrand through process efficiencies—it’s time to iron out the budget. How much will this cost? How long will it take? Not until you have the budget and timeline in hand will you be ready to share your rebrand strategy, naming, identity and potential elements.
To get to that point, make sure you:
- Define major activities, from planning through execution, and estimate time needed to complete each one.
- Understand the financial objectives of your organization. Fully leverage any merger integration opportunities. Minimize impact on operational earnings and profitability wherever possible.
- Consider developing multiple scenarios that address items like branch refresh at different levels.
Start communicating and keep communicating
Be prepared to maintain control of the narrative. “Consider how vital it is to acknowledge that you’re changing your name/ logo/ brand,” Bleedorn advises. “Do not let information leak out.” She points out that people are inherently afraid of change, so you should “mitigate the negative, then capitalize on the positive,” she says. “The more you embrace change rather than fear it, the more successful your organization will be.”
Consider these central tenets of effective rebranding communication:
- Three key groups require ongoing communication on what is happening with the brand: employees, customers and the markets that you operate in.
- You should always communicate to employees, customers and markets in that order. Your employees need to be able to respond to customers on the change. And customers need to know that you value your relationship enough that they are not the last to know about upcoming changes.
- Employee communication will be a major component of your implementation plan.
- Communication with branch employees must include training. They should understand the attributes of the new brand, know how to move from printed to on-demand collateral, support environment changes in the branch and generally feel good about what’s happening.
- Be transparent and own the dialogue around what to expect when. If you are rolling out the rebrand over a longer timeline, people need to know in advance. By managing expectations, you will avoid eye-rolling, fatigue or even negative press.
- Be sure to make celebrating with your employees a part of the plan.
Execute your plan
“We made the decision to execute our rebrand in seven months,” says Troy Steensen, marketing director of Security National Bank. “And we wanted to do that with a very tight internal/ external team, all operating under NDAs.” Even before staging an all-employee announcement event, he explains, the rebranding team inventoried and culled brand assets and vendors, revised procedures and produced all of the new brand assets—including exterior signage. “Employees even had their new shirts and business cards when we opened for business the next day,” Steensen says. “Exterior signage, customer direct mail, outdoor, online and other media hit the day after that. Maybe not the typical way to approach rebranding but it was absolutely right for our firm.”
While such a rapid turnaround is unusual, it’s not unheard of. “We chose to completely renovate all of our branches simultaneously as part of the rebrand,” says Diane Brennwald, director of marketing for Countryside Bank. Part of the impetus came from research focus groups that compared Countryside’s branches to funeral homes. “Not a good fit with our new tagline, It’s grow time,” she notes. “We put preview posters of the new designs in-branch on November 14, began construction December 15 and completed them by February 15.” Because branch associates believed in the need to change the bank’s brand image, they were willing to work at folding tables, keeping the branches open during the process.
BrandActive recommends the best-in-class project management skills necessary for this phase of the rebrand:
- Regularly report on progress.
- Closely monitor spend.
- Support the field—make it easy to do everything right.
- Manage vendors and provide strategic oversight.
- Maintain momentum and quality.
- Mitigate risks to ensure completion on time and on budget.
Maintain the integrity of the new brand
Brand governance during the implementation process is mostly about operational leadership. That means focusing on people, processes, systems, tools and training. BrandActive suggests three steps to ensure successful brand governance.
- First, define what is mandatory. That could include regulatory requirements as well as decision-making and approval processes.
- Next, consider what, where and when flexibility is needed. Also identify the tools, support and guiding principles needed to ensure a consistent and high-impact application of the rebrand. That includes ways to measure and track accountability.
- Last, prepare a long-term vision that allows your brand to evolve and flex with your changing requirements and your customer’s changing demands.
“This is one of those rare opportunities where you have to touch everything—so that means being an operational leader of brand change,” Guiliano says. “Understand the business dynamics and have a vision for current state vs. the future state.”
Steensen adds, “Rebranding is an opportunity to question why things have always been done the way they have. Don’t just swap out logos—challenge your team to improve the experience with every single touch point. From the base color of your promotional products to the language, design and imagery you use on every customer/prospect touch point.”
He maintains that every change is an opportunity to create an exceptional brand experience. “Be obsessive about the details,” he advises. “Because every single one of them matters.”
Deb Stewart is a contributing editor to ABA Bank Marketing.com. Located in Charlotte, N.C., she is an independent consultant working for the financial services industry. Email: [email protected].