Not long ago I was surprised to discover that a client of mine that had recently completed a rebranding effort had sent out some messaging to investors under its former name. It turns out that the company was still using its old name with some audiences.
In this case, the company had good reasons to hold onto the benefits of its old brand, so it retained it as a subsidiary to its newly named parent company. And that’s not unusual. Many well-known brands or and products are owned by corporate parents you’ve never heard of (just as many well-known corporations have low-profile subsidiaries or product lines).
So there was nothing wrong with this company’s decision to do something similar. The problem was that the company had not made that clear, and so it caused confusion by discussing a brand that many thought had been “retired.” We quickly recommended they address the issue.
A corporate rebranding – the selection of a new corporate name, color scheme, and collateral – is a significant event in any company’s life, requiring a massive effort from nearly every department.
There are many reasons a company might choose to rebrand. It could be making a fundamental change in a strategic direction, but that’s not always the case. It might simply be seeking to refresh its public image. Or following a merger or acquisition, the firm might want to choose a new name that highlights its combined capabilities or strengths.
While management teams usually focus primarily on maintaining customer relations and strengthening their position in the market following a rebranding, for public firms we strongly recommend also considering the investment community. The following are a few of our suggestions to help execute a successful rebranding in the eyes of your investors.
- Keep your rebranding plans quiet until you’re ready to go public. That means no hint-dropping or any efforts to warm analysts up or gauge reaction to your new brand before your go-live date. I understand the temptation, but this is one case where you have to jump in head first. Anything else risks confusing investors, something you never want to do. Make sure that all public-facing changes, including your new website and the publication of all new corporate collateral, happen simultaneously upon go-live.
- Have a crisp story around the need for, or the benefits of, rebranding. When you do go public, the first thing investors and analysts will want to know is why you needed to rebrand and why you chose your new brand. Strive to tell a concise story with two or three points that succinctly articulate why the time is right for a rebranding and how the business will benefit going forward. You’ll need a new investor deck that tells your story, and you should also issue a press release. Remember, too, to ensure that your website address (and all employees’ email addresses) are switched to incorporate your new brand.
- Ring the bell at the exchange and change your ticker symbol. It’s simple enough to schedule an opportunity to ring the opening or closing bell on the NYSE or NASDAQ, and these ceremonies are replayed several times a day on cable and national news programs, giving you a broad platform from which to communicate your new brand to investors. Simultaneously with your rebrand, we also suggest changing your ticker symbol to further distance the new brand from the old image in investors’ minds.
- Execute the rebranding in conjunction with an earnings call. Like you, the investment community is busy. Although you should issue a press release about your new brand, that action alone will not garner the level of attention this milestone deserves. The best opportunity to announce the rebranding is on your quarterly earnings call when you will have the undivided attention of your analysts and top shareholders. Discussing your rebranding efforts on your earnings call allows you to proactively control the message, will level-set your key constituents, and will likely eliminate numerous one-off conversations.
Investors often get overlooked, it seems, when it comes to communicating about corporate rebrands. In our view that is a large – and avoidable – mistake. If you’re considering a rebrand, we’d be happy to discuss the best approach in more detail.