If change is indeed the only constant, then it makes sense that the way an enterprise presents itself to the public eye might require periodic adjustment. After all, even the most well-known companies — Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and recently Meta (née Facebook) — recognize the need to reassess their public identities and presentation from time to time.
Similarly, you might choose to rebrand for any of several reasons: a merger or buyout, adapting to a strategic shift in clientele, better reflecting the aspirations of existing clients, a geographic expansion, a general “refresher” to maintain relevance, or many others. But whatever the reason behind the effort, it is critical to invest the necessary time in analysis, planning and design as you determine the aspects of the public-facing message and image.
Three essential and very basic steps should precede any rebranding effort. In fact, without them, your rebranding is unlikely to be successful.
1. Put in the time.
Think of this in much the same way as your discovery process with your clients. You need to engage in a very deliberate process of gathering input from key stakeholders, both internal and external. You wouldn’t dream of opening an account for a key client without gaining the most thorough understanding possible of what matters most to them, what their goals are, what their past experience has been, and so forth. In the same way, as you begin assembling the pieces of the revised image that you intend for your firm to present, you need granular data about expectations, priorities, needs and hopes to validate the structure and style of your new brand.
2. Know where you are.
Basic to any journey is understanding your starting point in relation to your intended destination. As you learn about the core aspirations implied in item No. 1, you’ll almost inevitably also learn things about your current positioning that you didn’t know. What do your key clients and principal team members think about where you are right now? What opportunities do they see? What’s on their wish list? What already resonates with your core demographic, and what could be improved?
3. Gain commitment.
You need buy-in from key stakeholders and core clients for the direction of your rebranding. Otherwise, you won’t have the necessary alignment or support for a successful outcome.
In recent years, we have seen rebranding efforts from household names like Meta and Starbucks (mentioned above) as well as Petco, Pottery Barn, Adobe Creative Cloud and others. What marketers can learn from these efforts goes well beyond industry-specific considerations. Any firm considering a rebranding effort can profit from several takeaways:
1. Your intended audience should drive your efforts.
We’ve written previously about the importance of understanding your firm’s ideal client persona, and this is nowhere more important than when designing and implementing a rebranding effort. The more you understand about the clientele you want to reach, the better your chances of designing a rebrand that will reach them.
2. Know what your target audience likes — besides financial management.
When Pottery Barn rebranded, they made sustainability a core piece of their message. Why? Because they knew that current and prospective customers felt strongly about environmental concerns and would reward the company for supporting ecological stewardship. For your firm, this might translate directly into an image and messaging built around impact investing. Or your target audience might identify strongly with the ideas of tradition and legacy, as reflected in their preferences for certain types of recreation, architecture or other important pursuits. Whatever the “theme” is, you can discover it by knowing as much as possible about what appeals to key stakeholders beyond specifically financial or investment-related concerns.
3. Your rebrand must be consistent with your performance.
In other words, your rebrand can’t promise something you’re unable to deliver. If you are building your messaging and image around efficiency driven by technological innovation, will your systems and processes allow you to back up your claims? If you are rebranding around the concept of highly individualized services, do you have the bandwidth to offer the required face-to-face time? Be sure to carefully think through the implications of your messaging, both internal and client-facing. You can’t afford a mismatch between what you say you are and what you really are.
A successful rebranding also requires a thoughtfully prepared, detailed rollout plan that includes thorough communication with both internal and external stakeholders. Everyone at your firm should understand the rationale and goals for the rebranding. Messaging to clients and other external stakeholders should be backed by solid research and consistent presentation through interlocking media to achieve maximum acceptance.
With the proper preparation and guidance, you can rebrand your firm to remain relevant, effective and strongly connected to your core stakeholders.
Gretchen Halpin is co-founder of Beyond AUM, a growth, marketing and technology agency that specializes in serving financial advisory firms. A strategic visionary with over 25 years of leadership and marketing experience, including a history of starting and growing successful companies, she pioneers the strategy and growth initiatives that drive success across every aspect of business while ensuring that decisions are aligned with her clients’ overall mission.