Picture this: You and your staff have spent the past several months collaborating with a branding design firm to revamp your organization’s logo, messaging, and communication tools, and the date you’ve set for proudly revealing it to the world is fast approaching.
A lot’s at stake. You’ve invested a great deal of time and money in your rebranding effort, and you hope to introduce it in a way that gets your audiences as excited about the new identity as you are. You want your internal team to start using the new logo, messaging, and brand tools in the correct way, right away. What you don’t want is an uncoordinated transition with a lukewarm response — or worse, a mix of chaos, confusion, and pushback.
The process for developing a winning brand rollout plan will be collaborative — shared between you, your internal staff, and your design team — and should include all the details about who, what, and when. It begins with making a list (or several different lists, based on who needs to know what), writing down your plan, and clarifying all the tasks and expectations so everyone’s ready to roll when the big day comes.
What details should your plan include? Here are six steps to a successful brand rollout strategy.
1. Define your rollout objectives.
What’s your vision for introducing the new logo and branding elements? Are you hoping for big and splashy — or does it make more sense to release the brand to target groups over a period of time, in stages? The size and visibility of your organization, and reasons behind why you rebranded in the first place, could help you decide the best approach.
2. Determine your budget.
Updating business cards and stationery is one thing; replacing signage on buildings and graphics for a fleet of vehicles is another. The budget you set for rolling out the new branding will be influenced in part by your objectives (see above), but also by practical matters such as these. Is spending thousands of dollars to develop a fancy reveal video a good use of funds? For some organizations, it could be. For others, that money might be better spent on printing new sales collateral, for example.
3. Take an inventory.
What resources (employees, vendor relationships, venues, tools) are available to help you with the rollout? Depending on your budget and staffing abilities, you may need to rely on your branding design firm to ensure your long list of rollout tasks do indeed get done.
4. Create a timeline for the rollout sequence.
Introducing your brand won’t be a one-time event. Even if you decide to make a big splash with a high-energy public introduction, there will no doubt be many internal and external stakeholders whose buy-in you’ll want to get from behind the scenes, first.
Attention will need to be given not only to who you must communicate with about the new branding, but also in which order. For example, you might choose to start with key company staff, then board members, then major customers or donors, and lastly the media and general public. Depending on the size of your organization, there could be managers in certain departments who will need to know as early as possible how the new branding could impact their team and projects. Overlooking someone important, or sharing the branding with a certain group too soon, could throw a wrench in your rollout.
5. Tell your story.
Whether it’s a presentation to stakeholders, a video on Instagram, or a press release distributed to local news media, introducing your new brand is an excellent opportunity to shape and share your organization’s larger story. You’ve invested a significant amount of energy and diverted resources away from other projects to develop the new branding — not to mention the costs associated with hiring an experienced design firm. Why did you do it? Does the timing for your new branding coincide with other changes in your organization? Now is the perfect time to remind all involved why the effort was (and will be) worth it.
6. Anticipate what happens next.
This step involves both outward- and inward-facing considerations: preparing for public response, and also equipping your team with the tools they need to implement the new branding effectively.
To begin, think about how your target audiences are likely to react when they see the new branding. While some will cheer, others will question. If yours is a nonprofit or government organization, the public could become cynical about the amount of money (perceived or actual) that you’ve invested in the rebranding effort. Without a point of reference for the time and money that a major rebranding effort entails, it’s easy to understand why some members of the public will be less than thrilled. One way to temper negative feedback is simply to avoid asking for public input in the first place. (I’ve written more about how to manage outsiders’ input here.) I also recommend telling your audiences about the processes—including a thorough research phase—that guided you to land where you did.
In the meantime, you’ll want to empower staff and other stakeholders with easy-to-access logo files, comprehensive brand guidelines, and flexible templates. Then, anticipate what additional needs and questions will arise about how to use the new branding. Would an all-staff training or recorded video webinar reduce the amount of redundant questions you’re bound to be asked in the coming weeks?
Case study: Linn-Benton Community College
Madison Ave. Collective recently completed an extensive rebranding project for Linn-Benton Community College (LBCC) that included assisting with the rollout. An important aspect of the plan was timing: it was decided that their public branding reveal would coincide with an annual September gathering of more than 300 faculty and staff, held a week before students arrive on campus. A good portion of the 90-minute meeting was dedicated to introducing the new logo and brand messaging, and sharing the college president’s vision for the future. At the end, everyone walked away with an LBCC logo T-shirt and other freshly-minted swag. More importantly, they left with a good feeling about the direction the college is heading.
In this case, the choice of when (piggybacking on an existing event) gave our client the opportunity to share the why behind the what with a captive audience of key stakeholders. Good things are happening at LBCC, and the new brand identity is part of it.
For many people in attendance that morning, the reveal had been eagerly expected. Several months prior — and long before we began sketching our first logo concepts — hundreds of LBCC staff, faculty, students, and alumni participated in an online survey we developed to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of their existing (now previous) branding. The survey was just one part of an in-depth Discovery phase that also included one-on-one interviews with key leaders, focus groups with staff and students, and multiple rounds of review with a 20-member rebrand task force comprising a diverse body of the college’s stakeholders.
In other words, buy-in for LBCC’s new branding didn’t only happen at the big September event. It occurred with selected individuals over a period of weeks and months, all while building energy and buzz in anticipation of seeing the fresh new look on campus. So in a way, preparation for rollout took place long before designing the new identity system had even begun.
Introducing your new brand identity will be an all-hands-on-deck effort, and the importance of proper planning can’t be overstated. When done well, you’ll know who’s doing what and when, you’ll get early buy-in from the right people in the right order, and you’ll take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to share the organization’s story with your target audiences.
Whether you choose to keep it low key or make a lot of noise, rolling out a rebrand is never a one-time event. A winning strategy will not only guide you in the months and weeks leading up to the public reveal, it will also help you anticipate what happens in the days that follow it. Ultimately, a well-executed rollout plan will strengthen your organization’s brand image— its reputation, awareness, and place in the market—for years to come.
Further reading: How to Navigate Public Input When Designing a New Logo