What companies do you think of when you hear the word “united”? Take a moment and think about the top three brands that come to mind.

BMA Chicago March 2015 Luncheon

Was United Stationers on that list? Diane Hund, vice president of marketing for United Stationers, asked that very question last week at the March luncheon. The audience responded with United Airlines, United Way and United Healthcare. United Stationers did not come to mind for anyone. Hund and her team knew that was a major problem in today’s reputation-driven market. That lack of recognition convinced them that a brand overhaul was necessary to increase brand equity.

Making the Impossible Possible
Hund and her team accomplished the majority of their rebrand in five weeks. FIVE! For anyone who has been part of a rebranding process, you know that’s an incredible feat. Throughout those five weeks, Hund identified five best practices necessary to accomplish a successful brand relaunch.

    1. Rebrand for the RIGHT reason
    Identify WHY a rebrand is necessary. If you’re going to rebrand simply because somebody wants to put their name on something, it’s just not going to work. It may be a crisis that spurs a rebrand, or maybe your customer has changed. Hund used KFC as an example of customer-driven change. The company’s vision hadn’t changed; their customers’ needs evolved. People no longer wanted endless fried food options; they wanted healthier alternatives. As a result, KFC needed to de-emphasize fried food and associate their brand with lighter choices.

    2. Find your internal brand champion
    You’ll need an internal influencer, aka a brand champion, on your side. This should be a senior leader who can create buy-in throughout the organization and propel the project forward when challenges arise. Hund explained that there are endless obstacles in the rebranding process: budget cuts, shareholder votes, legal approval, etc. Having a high-powered influencer on your side will help you leapfrog past those obstacles or, at the very least, overcome them faster.

    3. Build an internal team and get help
    To relaunch a brand successfully, you should partner with an agency that can bring expertise and an outsider’s perspective to your rebranding project. However, your team needs to be much broader than your corporate marketing department and your agency. You should involve stakeholders from all corners of the organization. Hund’s team at United Stationers included members of the marketing, legal, IT, finance, HR and sales departments. Last but not least, don’t forget to include your brand champion!

    4. Budget with the rule of half
    A successful rebrand requires money, and lots of it. The good thing about B2B is that a rebrand is not nearly expensive as it is for B2C. You know what’s the most expensive thing to change? Your digital presence. Websites, videos, digital content — all of those assets need to reflect the new brand. Unfortunately, whether you’re B2B or B2C, the rebrand budget is just like your marketing budget: It gets cut in half every year. Hund suggests you take the amount you think you’ll need and double it. This way, when the inevitable budget reduction happens, you’ll still have the funds necessary to support a successful rebrand.

    5. Timing is everything
    One of the main factors to consider is the timing of the actual launch. Is there an event that’s appropriate to pair with the brand launch? Great! No matter what, establish a clear timeline for your team that allows you to prioritize and meet your given deadline.

    For United Stationers, the idea for a brand relaunch originated in 2014, but it wasn’t approved until January 2015. Then, the launch date was set to coincide with a large customer meeting in the beginning of February 2015. That meant Hund and her team had to condense their original plan to fit a five-week time frame. Thanks to great planning, they allowed enough time for senior leadership feedback, shareholder approval, legal approval and many other aspects outside of the department’s control.

Don’t forget to sign up for next week’s Breakfast Seminar, “Getting Brands Battle-ready: Brand Vandalism in the Digital Age” with Steve Earl, managing director of Zeno Group’s European region.