There are typically a number of factors an organization considers when contemplating whether or not to rebrand, but the Washington Redskins only needed one. The market has changed.
That dilemna faced the Washington NFL franchise, prompting their recent decision to drop the “Redskins” name as well as the Indian head logo. The organization has been under mounting pressure from sponsors in recent weeks to rebrand following the social uprising that occurred after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. The conversation about racial injustice has risen to heightened levels. A growing intolerance to names or representations that are racist or offensive in nature is demanding change.
The franchise has used the name since its beginning in 1933 when it was initially founded and based in Boston. Longevity does not gurantee protection of a brand name.
The team might remain nameless for the 2020 season. If it even occurs. But recent communications released from the team about the impending change indicate their hope is to have the new name in place before the season begins.
It sounds like the organization is attempting a speedy turnaround on this undertaking. The NFL and its member teams are unique institutions. However, as brand advisors, we would not recommend that organizations move through a rebranding process this quickly. Above all, it’s important to get it right.
Rebranding a many-layered process
Choosing a new name is typically only one aspect of a major rebrand. As Certified Brand Strategists, we look at everything about an organization through a brand lens. If an entity has not undertaken an internal review in recent years that examines who they are, what they do, how they do it and why they do, then that’s an essential starting point. A good brand consultant or brand agency will lead an organization through various brand development exercises which consider all these aspects of their business.
This self-assessment is the first step in brand development. And necessary before the exploration of potential names ever begins. After that, the outcomes will direct how other layers of the rebranding process move forward: identifying brand distinction, developing communications around that distinction (the branding part), examining and improving consumer touchpoints and building a company culture.
Good rebranding will identify and communicate distinction
A good discovery process will help a company confirm, refine, or reposition its brand distinction. Without that distinction, any brand can become generic or worst-case scenario, a commodity. At that point, the battle for business becomes about features, benefits and price. Not about brand.
Any new name an organization considers in a rebrand should be reflective of the brand. It should communicate what makes it unique and distinct, whether defined by its products, services, or employees. And, for the Washington team, maybe its fans or season-ticket holders? A brand name should differentiate your company in the marketplace. Does it sound good? Is it memorable? Is it relevant? Can you explain it easily? Does it inspire your employees and customers and help create connections? Is it reflecting the personality of the organization? Does it celebrate your mission and your values?
In addition, a thorough legal search will also be part of this process. Your brand advisor will want to make sure your chosen name does not infringe on any trademarks or existing usage by other organizations. Domain name availability searches will also be undertaken.
Rebranding touches every aspect of an organization
A talented design team will then take the reins once naming has completed. That group will begin creating new logo designs, color palettes and all the other assets that are intrinsic to the expression and needs of a specific brand. This could include websites, business cards, signage and stationary. Additionally, other assets might be uniforms, vehicles/fleet branding, PowerPoint templates, social media platforms, marketing materials, and tradeshow materials.
As part of that design process, they’ll also create a brand standards manual. This will outline how the logo and other brand assets should be used. This document is very important to share with team members and channel partners so that the look of your brand stays consistent across all applications and platforms.
Needs will vary by the type and size of business. Some assets will need a much longer lead time to replace than others. Post-launch, other content will be necessary to tell your brand story as it continues to evolve.
A complete rebranding process can take months, and in some cases, a few years. It is highly dependent on a variety of factors including the size and complexity of the organization. For example, how quickly does your organization make decisions? Is the funding available to execute a complete rebrand in one sweep or will some elements need to be phased in over time? And critically important, are middle managers equipped, enabled, and inspired to do the work?
Strong planning and organizational skills and familiarity with the process are key to creating a realistic timetable and to moving through all the phases of a rebrand and the eventual launch in a smooth, efficient, and orderly fashion. And the forethought to give special attention to the internal rollout revealing the new brand to your team and stakeholders.
Making the brand promise a reality – building a strong culture inside
Establishing a strong brand isn’t a marketing initiative. It’s a corporate initiative. In other words, it will only be effective if championed from the top down by the leadership of an organization. The brand must become the responsibility of everyone in the organization, from the CEO to managers to each employee along the line. To achieve market leadership in any business category, everyone in the organization needs to understand his or her role in bringing the brand promise to life.
This entails outlining and examining every point of contact or interaction between the business and its customers and stakeholders. Then studying how each impacts the brand. Touchpoints at all stages of contact should be reviewed: those prior to purchase, during the purchase experience, after purchase and other factors that influence purchase decision. Therefore, every facet of the company is subject to scrutiny, from operations to customer service to finance to HR.
The next step will be to decide what optimal delivery looks like at each touchpoint and then to assess how well your team performs at each one. Optimal delivery has recently changed for lots of companies in a post-COVID-19 environment which has caused many to rethink and revise how to best meet customer needs. Any internal examination will uncover strengths and weaknesses. What follows? Strategically prioritizing what areas you need to focus on improving first.
Internalizing the Brand
That should lead to an examination of what resources are needed to make the changes be realized. It might include training to cover a gap in skills or knowledge. It might entail new hires or implementing some new processes, systems or technology. Roles and responsibilities might need to be shifted between managers or departments. Evolving will likely include experimenting with different design models. Then testing for outcomes. Then reviewing, changing and retesting those outcomes. It’s ongoing if done right.
And most importantly, these outcomes will guide the transformation of the organization into a brand-driven business. Do all the employees understand the brand promise? Is the work force engaged and living the brand? Are management teams on board and fully supporting this rebrand effort? If not, the majority of the preceding work will not have long-term impact.
Brand building not for the faint-hearted
Most small and mid-sized companies do not have the luxury of the elevated visibility, franchise status, or financial resources of an NFL team when they decide to rebrand. Nor will they experience the huge publicity the Washington NFL team will receive once they go public with their new name.
Regardless, the need to stay relevant and nimble in our fast-changing culture almost forces healthy companies to internalize processess which examine their brand on an ongoing basis to guide adaptation and improvement.
Above all, an organization that undertakes a brand building process or an authentic rebranding will need a clear and consistent level of commitment from its leadership to truly transform. And the staying power to see it through continuing evolution in years ahead.
But the rewards are there for those willing to make the commitment. A team doesn’t make it to the Super Bowl with one star player or by winning a few games. It makes it to the Super Bowl when the entire organization is involved, committed, and engaged and believes in the mission of the team and what it is trying to accomplish. The same stands for your brand, it’s HARD work, but if everyone does their part, you might go home with some hardware.
About the Author
As EVP at BrandSavants, Sharon heads up account management as she thrives on connecting with people and building relationships. But she also has an unrelenting interest in all things research which has her always on the look for the critical insight which will make a difference.
At BrandSavants, we transform organizations by elevating the brand conversation. That catapults our clients' thinking which grows brand value and increases worth.