HOW TO BOOST BRAND REPUTATION AHEAD OF THE SALE
This week on “In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century,” we continue with the next podcast in our series dedicated to the topic of preparing your business for sale. This series leads up to the physical event we are hosting at 5:30 p.m., on Thursday, Apr. 19, 2018, in Atlanta titled, “Prepping the Princess for the Party: Is Your Business Ready to Sell?”
When companies think about their brands, among the first things that come to mind are name, colors, logo design, and even a tag line. However, reputation is one of the most important―and most often overlooked―attributes for a brand. Brand reputation refers to how your company is viewed by others, whether it’s customers, prospects, partners or marketplace influencers such as media and analysts. Having a positive brand reputation means customers trust your company, and feel good about purchasing and recommending your products or services. Being able to demonstrate a strong and viable brand in the marketplace helps build value in the eyes of potentials buyers who might be interested in purchasing your company.
In the third installment of our six-part podcast series, show hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon speak with Peter Baron, Carabiner Communications founder and principal, about what companies need to consider from a marketing and branding standpoint prior to a potential sale. Carabiner Communications is a top PR firm in Atlanta, specializing in marketing and lead generation.
“Companies often don’t put enough strategic effort and muscle into creating visibility for their brand, whether it involves a rebrand or support to boost an existing reputation in the marketplace,” said Peter. “Another mistake we see is not investing enough in a particular marketing channel―for example, choosing to go 1-inch deep in 10 different marketing channels instead of going 6-inches deep in three of them that really matter. Determining where your customers actually are and prioritizing those communications avenues will help.”
Sellers are often so focused on the legal and tax consequences of a potential transaction that they often lose sight of proven marketing strategies and tactics―and even reduce budgets for these activities―that will help them increase the value of their companies.
During the course of the podcast, entrepreneurs, business owners and C-level executives will learn about the:
- Concept of brand reputation as part of the sale
- Considerations for rebranding
- Elements of a good brand
- Marketing strategies, tactics and assets involved with a rebrand
- Right mix of content to satisfy prospects’ and customers’ information needs
Learn how to develop an integrated marketing campaign to build or boost brand reputation ahead of a sale by streaming the conversation in its entirety in the player below, or download it to your mobile device via iTunes. Don’t miss a single episode, subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.
“Prepping the Princess” is an invitation-only event for C-level executives and business owners. The event will provide substantive information on the key elements, which most every business should possess, to make it an attractive participant at the sale dance. For more information on the event and to request an invitation, please go to preppingtheprincess.com.
Is Your Business Ready to Sell? Part Three:
How to Boost Brand Reputation Ahead of the Sale
(c) Trusted Counsel (Ashley) LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Speaker 1: It’s time for In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. Presented by Trusted Council, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information, visit trusted-council.com. And now, with In Process, here are Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon.
John: Hello and welcome to In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century presented by Trusted Council, corporate and intellectual property law firm. I’m John Monahon.
Evelyn: And I’m Evelyn Ashley.
John: Partners in trusted council.
Evelyn: Here we go John, yet another installment in our series on Prepping the Princess, is your business ready for sale?
John: This is our third installment, and actually, we are very fortunate to have Peter Baron here today, Carabiner Communications who has actually sold his business before.
Evelyn: Which makes it even more interesting, for the conversation.
John: Exactly. This of course is a program that we have been running, and there’s actually six of these, in the full installment. This should be interesting.
Evelyn: Yup. I think it will be really good information. As we know, our original series on Prepping the Princess from 2016 actually is still on the website and on iTunes and has lots of downloads still. This is definitely a set of informational podcasts that there’s a lot of interest and now to get that business ready, looking beautiful, to take to the dance for the sale. Of course, this one’s more on kind of marketing and branding which, for me I think is even more interesting and fun.
John: Joining us in the studio today is Peter Baron, principal and founder of Carabiner Communications, a top PR firm in Atlanta, Georgia. Carabiner Communications offers advice to clients on product positioning, lead generation and nurturing and digital marketing. Through more than two decades of technology and PR experience, Peter has
Evelyn: Emphasis on two …
John: Yeah, two. Peter has the skills to recognize who trends in opportunities, helping companies plan strategies accordingly. His client experience spans telecommunications, networking, healthcare technology, mobile computing, and myriad software solutions. Peter received a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and PR from the University of Utah. Peter, welcome to the show.
Peter: Thank you. It’s terrific to be here, thank you for having me.
Evelyn: Welcome back and thank you for agreeing to be one of the sponsors for Prepping the Princess, part two.
Peter: It’s a pleasure, it’s a pleasure.
John: Peter, as we discussed early on, you’ve already sold your business before. You have unique insight into this whole process. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what that business was and how that happened?
Peter: Yeah. We already prepped the princess one time and as Evelyn said, took her to the dance. Back in 92, you said I had two decades of experience. I leave it at two because if you say more than that, you start to look old.
Evelyn: No, never. Never!
Peter: I started a firm, it was a public relations agency, B2B tech focused, in 92, and the idea was that we would sell it, right from the founding. Most of the reason for that was that we were helping technology entrepreneurs position and gain prominence, and then they would usually sell for lots of money, and they’d disappear. They were similar in age to me, and I thought, I’d like to try that. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Sell a company and then disappear. You’re asking yourself, why am I still here? I guess that’s part of the story. We thought we would sell after five years, it took us eight. We ended up selling to a large multinational in New York that was in the process of buying hi tech agencies at the time. They were buying firms in California, all over the place. It was a very interesting process. We did some things several years ahead of time, from a marketing and a branding standpoint to get ourselves ready. One of which included rebranding.
We started initially naming the firm after the founding partners, so we sounded like a law or accounting firm. Not only was that not creative sounding, it was also not a brand that we felt could be maximized for value. We had 45 people in the company and we had the office in Austin and Raleigh and Atlanta. We wanted the firm to be valued based on its client base and amazing people and the things that it could do rather than on the names of the founding partners.
Evelyn: Right, and also have a name that would maybe stick in the head a little better than a list of last names.
Peter: Yeah, absolutely. They could buy the brand and continue to grow it.
Evelyn: I think that’s a really interesting point, just to segue for a moment. One of our other cosponsors on this event is Aprio, which used to be called Habif Arogeti and Wynne. A lot of the driver there, for them, which is a big deal, the whole concept of rebranding, is to make that decision, can be an extremely costly one as well as time sensitive challenge. That whole idea of, people can’t remember the list of names, which for years, I have been in that category. I can’t remember the names. You know, people say it’s just convenient because I don’t want to acknowledge who my competitors are, but I do think that there’s something very valid about the idea of, if you have something that is unique for what you’re doing, it’s so much better and easier for people to remember, so when they want to hire you, it’s easy to find you.
Peter: You’ve done it twice now with Red Hot Law and now Trusted Council. You’ve taken your own medicine. The example you used is very interesting, Aprio, now Habif. That’s what everybody’s called it, the first word of the partnership. After they did that they sort of dropped out of sight for a lot of people because when you make such a drastic change, you have to do an awful lot to recapture people’s attention, for those of us that are old enough to remember how Nissan became the brand that you saw on the car instead of Datsun, you remember when they did that transition, you had both names on the back of the car, with Datsun being really small and Nissan being big and over the course of probably three years, the typeface changed a little bit, and then the Nissan logo kind of moved to the middle, and of course, it has that circle, and then Datsun went away.
Now there’s a generation of people that don’t know that was actually the name of the company at one time, but it’s a road. You can’t just rip the bandaid off on a brand change like that, and have it work out. I’d be interested to see how the Aprio people think about …
Evelyn: How it’s worked out. You know, I think it’s really interesting, because that whole concept, I’ve always been really engaged by the idea of, the brand should be a vessel that you actually pour into what it is, what your products and services are, what your reputation is. It takes me back to, and this will also age me, I guess, but Anderson Consulting, when they introduced that they would now be called Accenture. You know, the reaction that most people had for, Accenture? That’s horrible. It’s terrible.
Peter: We all, I think everybody was negative.
Evelyn: Yeah, and now it’s, you know …
Peter: You know what it is now.
Evelyn: If you’re in the industry, you definitely know who that is.
Peter: There are some studies, and I should have brought the numbers, because I thought about that, but they had to spend an amazing amount of money on rebranding.
Evelyn: In order to be successful there, and they had kind of a challenge because they had, Arthur Anderson, that was involved in all of that double book keeping, cooking the books and all that kind of stuff. There was a real reason for them to depart from that …
John: That premium that you have to pay.
Peter: Listeners, google that one. It’s an interesting lesson, if that’s new to you. These things have to be done I think in a considered way. We made our brand change probably three and a half years before we sold. Then of course, the effort had to go in, new website, new collateral, new sponsorships, new lead generation campaigns, client communications, that all has to be done.
John: Was everybody immediately on board, in your company, or … ?
Peter: Yes, they were. In fact I think the employees liked it more, because all of a sudden now, they were sort of operating under the names of these people who got all of the credit. We have a vice president, and in the meeting, like, can Mr. Baron come? Yeah, he can, but I know a lot more than him. Why do you want him?
Evelyn: We really want to meet him, yeah. Well, it does. I think the idea of, it shrinks the size of your business, unnecessarily. Why have a list of names, right?
Peter: Yeah. Absolutely. I think it adds to your value to have a good brand, particularly if it enhances what you’re doing, like you … [inaudible 00:09:58]
John: Peter, we had discussed about how you have already sold your business. Tell us a little bit about the process. You said you sold it to a large company in New York, but did you have a banker? Did you have any representation?
Peter: We had an attorney, and we were glad for that. There’s a tremendous amount of documents that need to be prepared. You need to be represented, particularly, like when you’re selling like we did to an outfit that is buying companies like ours all the time. It’s easy for them, they have standard documents, and I think they probably feel that everybody should fit into these standard documents, but it wasn’t the case with us. We wanted, we thought we were special, that we needed particular consideration, and that this was a unique deal, and probably everybody feels that way.
We had good representation. Did we have a banker? No, we didn’t. We probably should have, to be honest with you, that was at a stage in my life when I didn’t even have a wealth advisor. I didn’t have any wealth. Everything I’d gotten was going back into the company and I had a young family. All of a sudden, I found myself with a lot of money, and I didn’t know what to do with it, or who to talk to. I actually got some bad advice, you know? I learned from that, but next time around it’ll be different. I’ll have a team in place that can really help me go through that process.
John: How did they find you?
Peter: They were finding companies like ours. They were being aggressive. The key motivating factor in the late 90s was growth. How do I scale my operations, particularly in tech? There wasn’t a lot of consideration to cost control, because everybody was growing quickly. They were just swooping up companies. Not so much for the clients that they had, but for the team. They needed those clients, the teams to service the big companies that were paying them lots of fees, right.
Evelyn: The bigger companies that were out there. That’s interesting. I do think that sometimes, people get … sellers get so wrapped up in the whole idea of selling, that they don’t actually know. They don’t know, and really don’t understand the benefit that can come from having an intermediary, like a banker who can actually negotiate the deal for you, because they’re very focused on what the real value is in that transaction. I think probably, potentially in a situation where you’ve got a buyer that is out, essentially doing a roll up or really, you know, actively buying. They might actually say, if you have an intermediary, we’re not going to do the deal, because of that same …
Peter: They want to be direct with naïve sellers, yeah.
Evelyn: A lot of times, it is to their benefit, and I certainly think from the tax perspective and kind of the planning there, most sellers are really unaware, unless they have a top tax advisor, of what benefits can be derived from really thinking about how this transaction should be structured and what happens going forward.
Peter: Yeah, totally right. That’s I think one of the benefits of this series, you’re also speaking to advisors like that who can let these companies know, that are preparing to sell, what kinds of things they should consider. I didn’t really have anybody that I could talk to about it, school of hard knocks. This kind of knowledge I think is very valuable. The one thing we did do, which was helpful to us, one of the partners left the firm about 18 months before we sold. Maybe two years. Our agreement called for evaluation, so we hired a company to do the evaluation.
Evelyn: An outside appraisal?
Peter: Yeah, and that was really interesting and very expensive, by the way. Then we had an idea for value of companies like ours. Wasn’t necessarily totally related to what these big companies were paying when they were buying them, but we kind of knew the ball park. We ended up speaking to three companies that wanted to buy us. We were hearing from them all the time, sort of pushing them off, and companies like ours sell for one times annual revenue. Our goal was to boost the revenue as high as we could possibly get it, and then be like, okay, we’re ready. That’s kind of what we did. We had three companies at that time, and we were able to look at each … the number was about the same for each one, but then we were looking for cultural fit, for ourselves and our people going forward.
Evelyn: Did you stay with them after the transaction?
Peter: We had to, we had an … that’s another naïve point. I think if we had a little perspective on it, plus we didn’t know what would happen. This was 2000, and then everything crashed in the tech sector. A large part of the deal was based on, or now with targets, right?
Evelyn: Future …
Peter: It turned out that those things were impossible to achieve, whereas previously, they would have been easy to achieve had we just kept on the growth curve that we were on. The growth ended for us shortly after that.
Evelyn: I think it ended for most actually, that were out there.
John: What became of your company? Did the brand survive at all with the acquisition, or was it completely integrated with your acquirer?
Peter: Completely integrated. This brand that we were so proud of and we thought they would love, they’d already bought another firm like us out in San Francisco that was twice our size, and they just rolled us right up onto them.
Peter: Yeah. We were gone, and then they started using that brand here in our market, and everybody was like, who are they and what happened to Socket, which was my company then.
John: How did you all communicate the change to your customers, and was there any … what was the real impact?
Peter: To the customers, none, really. Not for the first year because we were still able to charge what we were normally charging, but then we got all of the extra pressure to up our rates. There was extra overhead on it and pretty soon we were having to charge things that our clients couldn’t really afford, but that took about a year to happen.
Evelyn: Well, but I guess if the buyer was more interested in servicing larger clients, they already had kind of in their … although I guess given the nature of the market, too, it probably was a challenge still.
Peter: They only wanted big accounts, even when the times were tough. It seemed like the professional management team that was interested in us was more spreadsheet oriented than strategy, business, communications oriented. They almost didn’t care about some of the other external factors, which was the world we lived in, so to have this sort of monthly call with somebody where you’re just sitting down and going over numbers on a spreadsheet and talking about why you’re not going to hit those numbers, it got to be, “oh no, we got that call again.”
Evelyn: Right, yeah. Please, I don’t want to!
Peter: Can I leave now?
Evelyn: Well, and I think that, because we’ve talked about this quite a lot, and with clients that are selling, that cultural transition can be an even bigger challenge than the actual sale process, which is certainly a challenge. That whole idea of, hmm, all of a sudden I’m really an employee even if I have an ownership interest in the ongoing entity going forward. Sometimes that can be an overwhelming and really negative experience for sellers.
Peter: It can be tough. There were a lot of things about it that were exciting and interesting and new. To go from being a founder of a small company that grew to being on the US management team for this big company was a new experience. They probably never would have hired for me for that position had I not sort of come up the way I did. To be in that position, I learned a tremendous amount. It was very interesting and I learned a lot about what I wouldn’t do, too.
Evelyn: I think that can be, even if it’s a challenging experience while you’re going through it, because I too have kind of been through that. My boutique, years ago, was acquired by a much larger firm, and culturally, we were completely different, but in reflection, and not while I was going through it … because it was pretty horrible for me, but in retrospect, having that kind of platform transformation and a different kind of challenge. A different kind of client certainly was a really good experience for knowing what I did want and what I did not want at all.
Peter: Right, and how are you going to get that experience? You can’t go anywhere and pay for that.
Evelyn: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly right. Talk to us a little bit about, given the fact that you did change your name, but they did not keep your name, talk about the concept of brand reputation as part of the sale. It didn’t really sound like the buyer in that situation was of interest, but kind of on a general basis, I think we do believe that there is kind of a draw, if you have a brand. Talk to us about what you think is a good brand, overall.
Peter: Good point. They threw our brand away, it didn’t have any value to them, but I think they paid more for us because of the brand. I think we were able to grow faster. Get our top line number up, which is the only one we really cared about because of the brand and how we marketed, and how we positioned, we were able to draw people to come work for us, because they liked everything that we were into, because of the things that we talked about with our brand. Yeah, may not have gone forward, but it sure paid off for us. An example I can think of is actually similar story, if you look at a company a few years ago in town, Julex, it’s a small technology company founded with a technology that would help understand within a network, energy use. That was kind of new at the time, and it also turned out to be something that Cisco was really interested in, but couldn’t really figure out the technology to do it.
Cisco was doing a lot on networks, but wasn’t really controlling or monitoring energy devices. Julex got into that space, really built up their brand reputation for what they did, they were punching way above their weight in terms of the business that they were doing and how large they were, and ended up getting a really big number from Cisco.
Evelyn: Interesting. That’s a beautiful thing. We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be right back.
John: Peter, first, can you tell us a little bit about Carabiner Communications and the services you all provide?
Peter: Sure. We chose a funny name for it. The last company I had was called Socket PR, and you were supposed to think of an electrical socket. What we would tell people is we would plug you into whatever you want to be plugged, results or into your customers. The carabiner, for those listeners that don’t know what one is, that’s sort of that hiking clip that’s shaped like a letter C and there’s a little springy clip on it. I actually give them away all the time, because I’ve found some of the people I know don’t know what a carabiner is, but that’s kind of a marketing advantage, too, because they can interact with my brand.
What we do, the carabiner is a great, quick connector, usually with ropes, but that’s the business we’re in. Providing our clients with quick connections to their customers. For the most part, that’s the thing that they’re most interested in, is revenues, which are effected by brand, which are effected by positioning, competitive issues. That’s why we called our company that. That’s what we do, we do marketing positioning and messaging. Public relations comes into that, which is now our form of content, I think, a very credible form of content. Social media work. Lot of content preparation, a lot of writing. We find that we work with experts that really are busy, but there’s a tremendous amount of knowledge in their mind, but they don’t have the time to sit down and write it.
That’s kind of a journalistic skill, if you sit down and interview somebody well, and you’ve got a good writer, you can usually develop a piece that they can then look at and say, “yeah. That looks like I wrote it,” and then that can go on and be something that they can use. In addition to that, we do some lead generation work, some buyer persona work, some buyer journey work. Then we help construct email marketing campaigns, paid search campaigns. Some website work. Almost end to end marketing, and we love it.
Evelyn: Primarily in the technology sector, or across industry?
Peter: Well, service businesses as well, but primarily B2B if we were going to be somewhere. We’re a bunch of nerds, so we like it when there’s some tech involved. It can be medical device, there’s a lot of software, and of course software as a service is the big way to deliver software now. Some hardware as well, over the years we’ve really touched a lot of different things.
John: If there’s, I guess a lot of talk these days about integrated marketing, but it’s a little bit of a new term. Can you tell us what it is?
Peter: Yeah, I can. In the consumer world, many companies have realized that customers help themselves to information. The same is now true in the B2B world. Imagine this scenario, you want to buy a, let’s say a new coffee maker. You sit down at home one night, ask yourself, what’s the first thing you do, well, John, what would be the first thing you do if you wanted to buy a new coffee maker, you weren’t sure which one to buy?
Evelyn: He’d call his wife.
John: I am a meticulous researcher. I would hit the internet.
Peter: You’d go to the internet, which is what we find happens the most. Then you have to ask yourself, how does this coffee maker company that wants to get your business, how do they get their information in front of you, and that’s where integrated marketing comes in. They could have arranged to have an article written, maybe it was a review of coffee makers, and they did well. That was featured in an online magazine, but then they would also replicate that coverage on their website, but then they might also buy some search terms, there’s some google AdWords, for instance. They do a little bit of research and they find out what terms people are looking for when they’re looking for a coffee maker, then they write some paid search ads. It’s this combination of organic content and paid content. Then, if you were looking for a coffee maker and an email came through with a coupon from a company that you were interested in, would that, you’d probably open the email, right?
John: Yes. It’s funny you should mention this, because I just bought an ungodly expensive coffee maker.
John: I’m thinking about the whole process, and I also did buy it with a coupon from Bed, Bath and Beyond.
John: The 20% off, yeah.
Peter: Smart companies kind of understand what you’re looking for, that information, that data gets shared, and then they serve ads up to you, maybe sometimes if you visit a website, but you leave, they place a little pixel cookie on you, and when you’re shopping somewhere else, you might be buying concert tickets, and then all of a sudden there’s a little ad for coffee makers, like, how does it now?
Evelyn: They know!
Peter: That’s called retargeting. The picture that I’m trying to weave is exactly that. It’s weaving, you take these different threads with how a company can find a customer, and you pick as many of those as you can afford to do, basically. Some of them need to be thought leadership in their orientation. Some of them need to be highly credibly, because of course you can pay for and say anything you want about yourself. That’s the tough place where we are with internet based research now. You’re not really sure what to believe.
You read some amazing things, you’re not even sure if the reviewer is paid to say it. There’s a little bit of a vacuum right now for credible information and people are yearning for that. I would encourage any listener that’s doing integrated marketing to spend a little bit more time on the credibility piece of the equation, because it’ll make everything else that you do work better and be validated, to that point.
John: How effective is retargeting in the B2B context? A lot of times when I think about retargeting, I think about it in the B2C, I went into a shopping cart, like you said, didn’t check out. How effective is it?
Peter: It still works well. I don’t have the percentages with me, but it’s similar. Percentage wise, I think, to what you might find in the consumer world …
John: There is no checkout, of course, right? Is it a little bit different in how you approach it? Is it maybe, I don’t know … what’s a different strategy that people might use?
Peter: See, you might be retargeted with a case study, right? If you’re a CIO, you’re looking to buy some security kind of services or software, there’s a lot of companies to look at, but you need to get your story in front of them and your brand in front of them, you might retarget them with a Gartner study that shows you as a innovator in the category, or some customer information that’s a happy customer that’s really enjoying what they’re using from you.
The kind of content that you serve up needs to be suitable for the prospect that you’re targeting, and yeah, no, there’s not a checkout now button, but often, even on a B2B site, you’ll see one of those little pop ups, can I help you now? If you’re like me, you always close them.
Peter: You know what, it depends on where you are in the buying cycle, you maybe ready to say, you know what, yeah, have somebody call me.
John: Right. I guess you could get retargeted by web search adds too, following, after you hit a site, maybe that might track you throughout the internet, on the side, and could remember the business as well.
Peter: Yeah, it’s multifaceted, and there’s probably more than a small business can do but you need to pick the ones that you think would be the most optimized for what you’re trying to accomplish.
Evelyn: How successful do you think sellers are, that use LinkedIn to identify potential buyers?
Peter: That’s a great question. I don’t have specific experience with that, but my related experience would tell me that the formation of relationships via LinkedIn is pretty effective, if done well.
Evelyn: I would see that as kind of more of a B2B undertaking, in a way.
Peter: Right. Generally, one of the more effective ways to meet somebody that you’ve found on LinkedIn would be to see if anybody you know already knows them, and then ask them for a referral.
Evelyn: The introduction, yeah.
Peter: If there’s nobody, then you start following them and looking at what they like, maybe even commenting on what they like and eventually, you may have a question that you think they may respond to, but that’s a longer road, but not bad. You can learn a tremendous amount through LinkedIn, and hopefully you’re not trying to get a hold of somebody that has 25,000 followers because … that might be a little rough.
Evelyn: Seems a little challenging.
John: What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see companies make in their marketing or communication efforts?
Peter: Generally, or leading up to a sale?
John: Just generally, across the board, companies always say they want to drive more revenue, but they’re never doing X, Y, or Z.
Peter: Yeah, I think a couple things I would say on this rebranding issue is they don’t put enough effort and muscle into creating visibility for the new brand. It becomes the net negative experience for them, they’re all happy about their new brand, but they’ve basically disappeared. That’s a pretty big mistake. If they’re I business for a long time, eventually, they win, but in the interim, they lose a lot. Another mistake that you might see would be, not investing enough in a particular marketing channel. You’re going an inch deep in ten different marketing channels instead of going six inches deep in three of them. Prioritization, figuring out where your customers really are.
John: That’s really good.
Peter: You want to do it …
Evelyn: We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be right back.
John: Welcome back to In Process, we’re here with Peter Baron, founder of Carabiner Communications. Peter, at our Prepping the Princess event, you had an interesting handout that you gave out. It was five considerations for rebranding. Can you take us through those, for people that didn’t get one?
Peter: Absolutely, yes, of course. If you’re listening to this for the first time, there’s a copy of this in the book that you can get through the Prepping the Princess website, but we’ve developed a checklist, Five Signs that it’s Time to Rebrand, and let me just take you those at the high level. The first one is that your service offering, or your company mission has changed.
Perhaps as a result of evolving your service, offerings are a merger and acquisition. You find that your brand no longer conveys the vision of your organization. It might be too broad, or perhaps it’s even too narrow. That’s when you should really think about it. An example would be, in 2015, Honeywell Home med, changed its name to Honeywell Lifecare Solutions. That was a reflection of what it was trying to do in the marketplace, getting more into the future of healthcare management, blending with digital technology solutions, and they felt like their previous name wasn’t really going to carry that.
Another reason would be that your colors, your graphics, your fonts are outdated. Some logos, it seems last for ever, I think one of the oldest brands that people don’t realize is Kodak. That’s a brand from the 1930s. I’m sure they evolved the typography and the colors over time, but not a lot. We have an example in the handout of Microsoft showing its funky disco font, back when it first was founded up to the present day, where I think their brand representation looks a little bit like Google, they may not like me saying that, but they’re using those primary colors that Google does. Yeah.
Evelyn: It does. Bring confusion, that’s nice.
Peter: That’s probably why they’re going for it, you know? Who uses Bing? What’s Bing? Historical reference. The next one would be your target demographic or your customer needs have changed. Think of, well, in 2011, an example of this is Starbucks Coffee, changed its brand to just Starbucks because there was a whole market of people that they thought would enjoy their store, but didn’t really want coffee. They were more interested in tea or ice cream or fresh food and hand crafted beverages, which is what they’re doing now. Those considerations.
Another one might be that you don’t stand out against the competition. One of the examples that I have there is Southwest Airlines. In 2014, and of course they’ve been going a long time prior to 2014, I think people kind of understood that when you went on Southwest somebody in the aisle that worked for them would be telling jokes or throwing a Frisbee or something unusual, but what they wanted to do is say …
Evelyn: And you have to line up early in order to get a seat.
Peter: That’s right. It’s like flying in Europe. They unveiled a new look, a new airport experience, new aircraft livery, that’s a fancy word for paint job, and it was called heart, as in the thing that pounds inside of your chest. The rebrand helped the company focused on the warmth and compassion of its employees and putting people first, having people be the focus at the risk of historical reference, United Airlines is sort of in the business of throwing people off airplanes right now.
Evelyn: We have heart, our competition does not.
Peter: That’s right. Once the friendly skies, but maybe it’s time for them to do a little brand change. Give me a call, United!
Evelyn: Exactly, I think it’s time.
Peter: The last one we have on here is, there’s a real problem with your current brand, what a great segue for what we were just saying. If everything’s working well, there’s no need to fix it. It may be that an update would be in order, but if there’s a scandal that perhaps has occurred, Equifax could consider this, right?
Evelyn: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Doesn’t seem like it would be a bad idea, actually.
Peter: No, or there’s a societal or a cultural change that’s happened that makes your brand look culturally insensitive anymore. I wish I had an example. I could probably find one.
John: The Cleveland Indians, the Washington Redskins
Peter: Well, yes the Cleveland Indians one is on my sheet here. One of the others is the Lance Armstrong Foundation. For those of you who don’t know, Lance Armstrong was a famous cyclist who won the Tour De France a number of times, but it was later found out that he was using performance enhancing drugs.
Peter: Yeah, and he had a foundation that was very successful in raising funds for cancer research and work. They’ve since rebranded away from the Lance Armstrong Foundation to LiveStrong. I hope that’s been a successful rebrand for them, but … those are some times when you want to consider rebranding.
John: When you rebrand, is it just the rebranding or do you find the brand promise needs to change accordingly at the same time?
Peter: Yeah, the promise needs to go with the brand. Absolutely, so in lock step. You can’t, when you rebrand, for instance, pick a new name that isn’t supportive of everything that you believe in. What you want to sell to your customers. Some of the large consumer brand companies, like Proctor&Gamble, Unilever, massive, multi-million dollar global brands, these people are good to look at and study, because they tend not to make many mistakes when it comes to branding, and they evolve their brands. I ate cornflakes as a kid. I haven’t seen a box of cornflakes in a long time, but I’ll bet you they don’t look like they did when I was a kid, and they’re probably emphasizing different properties on their box now. Of course, they’ve added to their line, lots of products that make more sense, not only culturally, but because of what we’ve learned about food and the way that’s changed.
Evelyn: Right. Our attitudes towards content and everything else.
Evelyn: That makes sense. What I think is really interesting, because we’ve actually had a number of clients that have rebranded for a variety of reasons. We can actually add to that, sometimes you’re forced to rebrand because they actually have a mark that a very large company has, and maybe didn’t even exist at the time they chose their name, but because that company has actually protected it on a federal level and has a lot of cash, they’ve kind of just sucked up the market in a lot of respects, and can squeeze out, you know, a small brand holder, regardless of how valuable it could be to them. We see that, we often see that as an opportunity for the small guy, because it’s an opportunity to get the big guy, assuming that you actually have some legal grounds or pushback to get them to help pay for your rebranding.
You know, often the exercise itself can be extremely painful, because no one really gets the extent of what needs to happen in order to rebrand, until they actually go through that process. It’s kind of like selling your business. You can’t really know until you’ve kind of hit every button on that.
Peter: Right. It seems, I think when people think about a rebrand, they think, oh, new colors, design the logo differently, maybe a new name. That’s just really the tip of the iceberg. There’s a tremendous amount that needs to be done. You can imagine changing all the signage, all the business cards, yes we still use business cards in 2018.
Evelyn: For those of you listening in the future.
Peter: Website address, the URL you want might not be available or you might need to buy it from some guy in the Ukraine for an unearthly amount of money.
Evelyn: It’s true. This has been great, Peter. We always love having a chat with you about marketing, and it’s been fantastic. Thank you very much.
Peter: It’s a pleasure, thanks for having me.
John: We hope you enjoyed In Process today, if you have any questions, please reach out to email@example.com. If you’re interested in learning more about us, please visit our website at trusted-council.com where you will also find a list of our past and upcoming shows.
Evelyn: And you can find Peter at carabiner C-A-R-A-B-I-N-E-R C-O-M-M-S . com, carabinercommscom. We’ll see you next time.
John: Thanks for joining us.
Speaker 1: This has been In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. Presented by Trusted Council, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information, visit trusted-council.com.