Rebranding: Internal v. External

In the dozens upon dozens of major rebranding engagements and efforts we've been involved with, one thing has become exceedingly clear: rebranding an organization is equally important within the walls as it is to the outside world.

There is nothing quite like cutting through the clutter and showing a company what it looks, sounds, and acts like at its finest. It gets people re-energized. It gets them on the same page. It makes them want to become the company they see in front of them. It is motivational. It builds aspiration. And, more than anything, it gets people excited to go to work again.

In order to see why organizations crave a strong brand internally, let us quickly break down the lifecycle of an organization that leads down the path to status quo. This is the case of several companies we’ve worked with.

  1. The company is formed with an entrepreneurial spirit and a clear vision and passion, generally created by one individual.
  2. The company grows, and this individual shares his contagious spirit and wills the company to success.
  3. The owner sells to a larger organization, leaves the organization, stops day-to-day activity, etc.
  4. The company is left with a series of systems but no real soul or driving force. The brand reflects a “good enough” mentality but does not reflect any passion or sense of exceptionality.
  5. This goes on for some time. The brand becomes more and more internally focused on “what we do” vs. “why we exist for our customers”. Major difference.
  6. The company gets more and more layered, with more services/products, new departments, new technologies, etc. There are acquisitions, partnerships, business changes. All adding new personalities, layers, and needs.
  7. The business goes on cruise control on every level. Mission, vision, and values are created, but they are generally clichéd and empty. The outside world starts to lose touch.
  8. The brand starts to reflect a certain “say nothing” mentality. The internal staff, while still committed and passionate about their individual positions, has an increasingly difficult time when asked “what does your company do?”
  9. Internally, correction is attempted. Through meetings, retreats, and other common methods, a “reason for being” is attempted to be recaptured. Unfortunately, it is through people who are too close to it, have seen too many of these steps, and who have a vested interest in their own “piece” of the puzzle rather than the big picture.

That is why companies like ours exist. We are able to get to the deep issues, connect dots, and see the company from a 30,000 foot perspective. We can then start to rebuild the energy and thought that went into #1, no matter how big or diffused the company has become.

This is done in order to communicate to the outside world. But every single time, our effect within the walls of the organization is just as great. This, in turn, leads to an organization that lives up to its new, re-energized brand promise.

Advertising, B-to-B, B-to-C, Opinion


Opening the door: Making the connection with your audience.

Connection with your audience. The key to any good piece of marketing communications. Everyone says that, but does anyone truly know what that means? Is anyone willing to go to the lengths necessary to know their audience as well as they have to?

Just how well do you need to know someone? First, you must start with the premise that people are cynical. More than cynical. They’re downright annoyed by you. You’re the idiot in their doorway trying to sell them something they probably don’t need and they’ve got dinner on the stove with two screaming kids. Cynical people will ignore you. Cynical people roll their eyes when you try to sell them something. Cynical people might just hate you. Most will glaze right over you.

So how do you win them over? This is where the whole art/commerce thing collides, and most advertising fails. This is when you must become half “creative magician” and half “the-best-damn-salesman-there’s-ever-been”. You need to know your audience in a way that’s scary to them. In a way that will make them pause and listen.

How do you cut through? By being observant. By listening less like ad people and more like psychologists. It’s knowing that we’re all subject to the human condition, and we’re all looking for help, sympathy, empathy, gratitude, or, when all else fails, diversion. People want to be appreciated and helped. “I know exactly what’s wrong. And I can help.” If you’re dead on, they might just open the door.

There are brands that are great at this, but the vast majority just don’t get it. In this day and age of increased cynicism, people (believe it or not) are more receptive than ever to hope and optimism. The Detroit auto companies, for example, need to do more than a soft reintroduction. They need to create a movement around the premise of rebuilding America. One that makes people fall back in love with the American spirit - not necessarily just the car or the bargain du jour.

The key is knowing the specific audience and understanding the one thing that will have them open the door. Every brand has the power to do so. Every brand.