How to get your team behind a rebrand

Gemma Ballinger

When you’re managing a rebrand, it’s essential to get the senior stakeholders onboard. But building a team from different areas of the business will make the work more cohesive and easier to implement.

Plenty of time and effort goes into selling a rebrand to senior stakeholders. And that’s understandable. As decision makers, they bear the ultimate responsibility for investing the marketing budget wisely so they need to be happy.

But do you give as much thought to your teams implementing the brand? Being landed with new guidelines when they’ve had little involvement will be challenging, frustrating and demotivating. It could also mean the rebrand will have minimal impact or, at worst, is doomed to fail.

If you want the best outcomes from the brand process, it’s vital to bring your whole team on the journey.

Include a range of stakeholders

Stakeholder interviews are an excellent way to gather intelligence, as people will usually speak more openly one-to-one. Hearing from the CEO, CMO and Head of HR will give you the views of the ultimate decision-maker, the person driving the project and the one responsible for living the work internally.

This may be your only chance to engage the CEO early and gain insight into why they want to rebrand. It can also help you understand any tricky relationships or politics before they become barriers.

Once the leadership have voiced their hopes, fears and frustrations you can engage department managers. Ask them to gather feedback from their teams. The people using the brand every day will have really practical feedback on where things don’t currently work, which is vital when the agency is solving challenges further down the line.

Choose the team wisely

Engaging the marketing executive, salespeople and engineers, from most-established to newest team members, will give you a true picture of what the company thinks and how aligned they are. You’ll also get a sense of who can be a champion for the new brand when it comes to launching and embedding it in the business.

Choose your numbers wisely. ‘Design by committee’ kills creativity and can stall the process. While a wider team of stakeholders need to be aware of progress, you’ll never get a consolidated view from 12 people in a room, and what starts as ambitious thinking will inevitably be watered down.

Be prepared to give your teams tasks to do. Maybe even a bit of homework. You’re all in it together and collectively responsible for success.”

A maximum of five people making decisions in the room is a good rule of thumb, as an odd number avoids stalemate when it comes to voting. Failing that, be clear from the start about who can overrule the group and make decisions to drive things forward.

Circulate documents or bring people in to give consolidated feedback when needed. Along with the agency, discuss the best time for external testing. This can really help to validate decisions with your audience and overcome emotional responses that don’t ladder up to the strategy.

Do your homework

Be prepared to give your teams tasks to do. Maybe even a bit of homework. You’re all in it together and collectively responsible for success. Although the agency will drive the project forward, it’s a two-way process and client-side people will need to invest some time in the outcome. Whether it’s collating references and organising feedback, or writing content and engaging other stakeholders, everyone has a part to play.

Projects can fall down when client teams underestimate what’s needed from their side, which can lead to a late or rushed delivery. Although it’s hard to ignore ‘business as usual’, it’s important to allocate some proper time and resources, not just budget. This is where a sprint approach also helps. We can tell you exactly when you need people available to review, test and give feedback on the work.

Break it to make it

It’s essential to make your creative team part of the rebrand team. Your in-house designers, marketers and product developers will be working with the brand every day, so they need to be involved in getting there. Your people also know all the challenges they’ve faced before. The best projects happen when client and agency act as one team, and agree on the best way to deliver the new brand system, whether that’s online guidelines, component libraries or full screen designs in Figma.

There can be hesitancy from internal teams to an agency coming in. Are they taking our jobs? Will they look down on what we’ve done before? Do they understand my discipline? We take time to show our process and reassure them. A successful outcome will depend on their insight and skills, and working together means the finished work is very much a collaborative effort.

Try to get to know the people working with you, so they feel like an extension of your team. It may sound like a cliché, but it’s a fast-track to the best work.”

In fact, our way of working is radically open. When working with in-house design and product teams we have an ‘open file’ policy. We share working files throughout the process and, at the end of each sprint, encourage the client team to test the system to breaking point on live examples. We then iterate to end up with a visual system which has been fully tested throughout the project.

View progress together

At key project milestones, invite the agency to share progress with your wider team. This keeps everyone up to date and helps avoid the feeling of ‘us and them’ which can come from working with an external team.

For some of our most effective projects we’ve made a ‘progress wall’ or series of posters showing the latest work. Having these on view somewhere in your building helps people get comfortable with the work and adapt to change, without too many ‘ta-dah!’ moments.

Although we’re all working more remotely now, try to get to know the people working with you, so they feel like an extension of your team. It may sound like a cliché, but it’s a fast-track to the best work. Conversations outside of a meeting room or Zoom often do the most to build the relationship and improve the working process. Then, when challenges come up, it’s easier to address them together.

So, when embarking on your next rebrand, take the whole team on the journey — and treat the agency as part of that team. Bringing the right people together will make the project more connected, more enjoyable and more effective. It’s the only way to make sure the vision is fully realised.

If you’d like to know more about how we work with our clients, drop me a line.

Gemma Ballinger

From a junior role to running the place, Gemma (she/her) joined Output as a Business Development Executive and worked her way up to Managing Director and Partner. The journey has given her a wealth of stories to share, from solving business challenges through design, to creating a positive work environment and being a woman in a leadership role.