Opinion

Supporting an industry in crisis: Lessons from rebranding during a pandemic

Failure to plan is a plan to fail, argues Simon Le Grand, director of marketing and product management at Lightspeed.

Undertaking a full-company rebrand can be a difficult process at the best of times, with the well-established risks of losing recognition, customer retention and brand loyalty. Yet, during a pandemic, when marketers and brands are forced to completely rethink how they engage with customers, it can be even more challenging. Here are some ways to overcome those challenges to ensure a seamless rebrand during a pandemic.

Outline a comprehensive plan

Planning is most likely at the top of every marketer’s to-do list during a rebranding process, but it is equally important to stay agile when the industry it operates in is changing faster than ever. Despite returning to some semblance of normality in Australia, the pandemic is continuing to redefine many things we have come to take for granted. This means that it’s important for the plan to remain flexible to account for changing focuses and shifting timelines on rebranding deliverables.

Another core component of this plan should be setting clear KPIs and measures of success, and tracking these closely through every stage of the project. These might include metrics like branded search volume, direct traffic, and the percentage split in paid and organic traffic.

A phased approach to rebranding is often preferable to ‘ripping off the Band-Aid’. Not only can it mitigate any significant downturn in customer acquisition, but it can also reduce any potential friction or confusion for existing customers. Perhaps even more importantly, it can provide you with the opportunity to listen to the market and your existing customers, and adapt your plan and messaging based on metrics and feedback.

Put your customers first

2020 showed us that listening to our customers and our industry, and understanding their needs in an ever-changing environment is paramount to marketing success. This means that it’s important to ensure that your customers’ needs are put first and that they’re at front-of-mind throughout the rebrand journey.

To thoroughly understand your customers, first evaluate their experience and interactions with your brand. Consider working backwards through the funnel, for a more cohesive overview. Start with the product or service itself, to get customers familiar with the new brand, and introduce the new brand at stages in the funnel for new customers. Once they’re familiar, you can begin running brand awareness campaigns, ramp up acquisition marketing activities and, finally, redirect important assets such as your business website.

Refine your rebrand messaging

Once you have a solid roll out plan in place, make sure to refine the rebrand messaging and tone your new brand will convey. Initially, getting the high-level messaging to customers will be important, and a strong brand narrative is paramount here. If you have bandwidth and budget, it could be wise to survey existing customers (and prospects) about the old brand – such as what they like and dislike about it – and weave this into your story.

Approach your messaging from the mindset of a customer: answering questions such as ‘Why should I care about the rebrand?’ and ‘What value will it bring to my day-to-day?’, ‘How about the future?’. Once your high-level messaging is defined, ensure any associated customer benefits are well communicated. With many moving parts, it’s important not to forget to schedule internal training to ensure all employees are aligned on the new messaging, phrasing and updates, such as service, account management and sales teams, to mitigate any risk of confusion for both customers and employees.

Alignment between product and marketing

Strong alignment between the rebranded product and your marketing activities is vital to ensure a seamless transition during a rebrand. Not only can this help to build a deeper and shared understanding of customer needs across teams, but it can give you the ability to design effective solutions, pilot them and promote them in the most effective and rapid way. This alignment also helps in the creation of consistent messaging that resonates and speaks to what customers need at that point in time.

The role of content marketing

Not only did operators need to change their business model to meet the changing needs of customers during the pandemic, but B2B marketers needed to change their approach, with operators seeking information, advice and guidance like never before. As a result, marketing efforts during times of need can help define the brand further during the transition. Positioning your brand as a trusted source of thought leadership, and providing actionable insights that help businesses adapt and thrive has proven incredibly effective in the post-COVID era. The two-fold benefit of a strong content marketing strategy is that it acts as a retention mechanism: ensuring the loyalty (and survival) of existing customers, and an acquisition tool: attracting new customers to a brand and its associated products.

The potential of losing recognition, customer retention and brand loyalty are all risks associated with rebranding, particularly for well-established Australian-founded brands. However, a solid understanding of your customers, a comprehensive plan, an authentic brand narrative, alignment of different departments and recognition of the important role that content marketing can play, will all go a long way in encouraging a successful transition.

Simon Le Grand is the director of marketing and product management at Lightspeed.

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