Four tips for successful rebranding or strategic repositioning

Four tips for successful rebranding or strategic repositioning

Whether the aim is to rename an organisation, rebrand a corporate identity, strategically reposition a product or restyle a magazine, the success of the project hinges on how quickly and how fully change is embraced. By communicating in a smart way, you can overcome resistance to change and ensure your message is perceived positively.

A rebranding exercise or the strategic repositioning of a brand, product or publication – print or digital – is a risky undertaking for a communication team. The slightest error in judgement can have serious consequences. What’s the best way to pull off this balancing act?

Our teams have recently been involved in several strategic repositioning and/or rebranding projects. Based on our experience, here are four tips that will boost your chances of success.

1. Be honest, but creative

(merger/acquisition + name change + strategic repositioning of a product)

However sensitive the message might be, don’t fall into the trap of non-communication. A failure to communicate is often – and rightly – perceived as a deliberate attempt to hide the truth, or even as a kind of betrayal of trust. In any event, this approach is detrimental to your client relations.

Having said that, a sensitive message doesn’t have to be a negative one. The power of storytelling can work wonders.

2. Make sure your people are involved

(name change of an organisation + identity rebranding)

Rebranding is always a costly strategic exercise, but this doesn’t mean that all the decisions have to be taken by the upper echelons of the organisation – no matter how competent the management team may be. Involving the rank and file in the process of creating a new corporate identity has many advantages. The more people are involved, the greater the chance that the change will be embraced and that crucial details will be identified that make all the difference to the success of the project.

There is a difference between choosing a new name or logo and creating a whole new corporate identity. A new identity is more than a façade; it should also embody a mission, objectives and values – all essentials that the company should “exude” at every level. Otherwise it will be nothing more than an artificial theoretical exercise.

To put theory into practice, we suggested to one of our clients that we should prepare for its rebranding with a series of workshops, attended by a wide range of profiles within the organisation.

The diversity of views represented generated valuable input, which made for a lively discussion. The end result passed the qualitative pre-tests with flying colours. Our approach also ensured that the change was accepted more easily and facilitated internal and external communications.

3. A good briefing is worth its weight in gold

(communication about repositioning a product/brand)

A rebranding or strategic repositioning project is, by definition, tough. The large number of people involved does not make the task any easier. It may seem obvious, but the quality of the briefing is crucial for ensuring effective communication.

It all starts with making a detailed list of the tasks involved and a realistic planning schedule. Schedule management and excellent briefing are inextricably linked. Granted, it’s no easy feat to prepare a good briefing, but it can save you a lot of time – or prevent you wasting it, depending on the circumstances – as the deadline approaches and every minute counts.

The time you invest in a briefing will pay dividends at the approval stage. This is when traditionally the pressure is piled on, increasing the chance of mistakes being made.

A briefing must always be clear and precise, so never underestimate the importance of context. Every detail matters and can make all the difference. Something that is self-evident to one person may not necessarily be so to others. That may seem commonplace, but it’s one of the most common errors made when it comes to communication. We call this the “knowledge trap”: you assume that the other person thinks in the same way as you do. So imagine each briefing as a document intended for a complete stranger. This will make the end result that much more precise and relevant.

4. Opt for a multidisciplinary approach

(strategically thinking about communicating the change)

For some time now, we’ve been looking at certain communication challenges in a broader light, getting our whole team involved. The idea is to make full use of the multidisciplinary talent we have in-house. In other words, even if the project assigned by the client requires only one specific discipline – copywriting, for instance – we consider other angles too.

The input of different areas of expertise often contributes significant added value. Consider, for example, the languages in which your message will appear.

The multilingual character of communication and the corresponding cultural differences do tend to be overlooked in the early stages. How many campaigns, marketing initiatives or communications are produced (and sometimes approved) in just one language, without a moment’s thought for translation? 

The same goes for images. Taking visual communication into account, even if only copywriting is required, offers a wider perspective and increases the chances of getting it right. The aim is not to turn out a text, but to achieve results. So think about visual communication right from the word go.


Pascal Mageren, Editorial Project Manager
Pascal Mageren, Editorial Project Manager

Pascal Mageren

Editorial Project Manager