Transformation: Where art meets science

By David Graham, VI360

Designing a new brand is exciting. A new logo is unveiled to a round of applause. The brand story is told, and the brand objective is summarised in a compelling slogan. The new visual identity is revealed and the room buzzes with questions and excitement. Then the project Gantt charts come out and the room goes quiet.

Implementation planning can be less exciting than the design phase, but it is a critical part of the process. In a medium to large business, the cost of brand rollout can account for as much as 10 to 20 times the cost of the initial creative design. The details of choosing the right materials, suppliers and processes may not turn as many heads, but these small and sometimes-overlooked factors are equally crucial to forming a good brand impression and a transition that’s completed on time and within budget.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

A clear rollout plan is one of the most crucial elements of a successful brand transition. Anticipating the challenges and preparing for them allows the transition to flow smoothly with a minimum of disruption and expense. Having prepared answers to the most common questions before they’re asked can relieve anxiety and help to keep the business running smoothly during the transition. This is especially important when the rebrand is driven by organisational changes such as mergers or acquisitions.

Every rebrand tends to face some common questions: When will the change happen? Where do I get the new logo and when can I start using it? Will everything change overnight, or will there be a phased approach? Which parts of the business will change first? Why do they get to change before we do? Who is responsible for changing my part of the business? Where do we order branded materials? And so on. A detailed project plan will answer many of these questions in advance and identify areas for time and cost savings as well as potential pitfalls and risks.

The challenge: ensuring consistency after launch

Once the new brand has been released, one of the greatest challenges is to ensure that it is used consistently and correctly across the business. There may be only a few people working with the brand, or there could be hundreds or thousands across different departments and geographies, each with a slightly different interpretation of the brand. Without clear instructions they will improvise their own solutions, resulting in a variety of ad hoc manifestations. Incorrect graphics and poor reproductions of the logo begin to appear, along with inconsistent colour matching, quality levels and materials. As a result, what looked beautiful and coherent on screen can end up looking fragmented and ugly in reality.

The good news is that with effective implementation planning, most of these issues can be minimized or avoided altogether. Having clear brand policies and support systems in place prior to launch is crucial to ensuring post-launch consistency. It’s helpful to tailor your brand guidelines for each level of involvement: a simple overview for most people, with more detailed specifications for those who will be working with key brand carriers such as signage, vehicles and workwear. Establishing relationships with trusted suppliers right from the beginning allows them to play a role as brand guardians, ensuring that everything they are requested to produce meets the design standards and quality levels expected.

A highly visible and responsive brand team can make all the difference to a smooth transition by providing team members with the timely information and resources they need. As your brand team will be very busy, it can be helpful to set up a brand helpdesk to support them by capturing questions, providing answers and solving day-to-day issues, as well as identifying unforeseen glitches or negative trends and escalating them before they grow large enough to derail the project. Digital Asset Management tools are fast becoming a core part of this toolkit, but nothing takes the place of a quick email or phone call to sort out a problem and get the project back on track.

Ultimately, everyone is a brand custodian, whether it’s IT rolling out new email signatures, a marketing intern finalising a brochure, PR rushing a timely press release, a site manager ordering new uniforms or a logistics manager rebranding an entire fleet of trucks.

A great idea multiplied by great execution equals great results

A brilliant idea is only the first step: successful transformation requires thorough planning and consistent implementation. To achieve this, rollout planning and compliance monitoring cannot be an afterthought. By preparing in advance with well-crafted brand policies and a detailed project plan, excellent results can be achieved for minimum cost and maximum brand impact.

David Graham is Managing Director of VI360 North America.