Six ways to use strategic marketing during a rebranding

When Susanne Batchelor joined third-party logistics company NFI as SVP of marketing in 2008, the 75-year-old organization had never advertised with more than a brochure and had no cohesive name, logo or brand for its 11 divisions. Batchelor spent more than a year talking with everyone at the company – from drivers, dispatchers and logistic center workers to senior management – to come up with one brand the whole company could embrace.

Once everyone was behind a new brand, Batchelor received a small starting budget, so she gravitated towards vehicles like public relations and a makeover of the NFI website. Batchelor then launched a direct mail campaign targeting the company’s top 100 loyal customers. NFI sent them a three-dimensional gumball machine with the NFI logo on it. The mailer also included a pack of gum and a message from the company president about combining all of NFI’s businesses. The company followed up by sending the top 100 customers refill candies for the gumball machine for the next 11 months, along with a message from each of NFI’s business divisions. In October, it mailed a mummy piñata, including a self-addressed postcard with information about the new brand and the campaign.

Batchelor says customers have returned more than half of the comment cards already. “I no longer hear our old names internally and externally. I hear NFI, and that’s how I know it’s working,” she says.

Batchelor explains six lessons learned on how to recreate a brand, even during a recession.

Get everyone on the same page. When you’re rebranding from a house of brands to a branded house, make sure everyone on senior management is on board. If even one person is not in agreement, you have a lot of hard work on your hands, says Batchelor.

Equally market the brand internally and externally. A lot of companies want to spend all their money externally. However, when you have almost 6,000 employees, it’s important to make sure that the people who talk daily with customers, even truck drivers or dispatchers, get the company name and positioning right.

Pare down your customer list. As much as you want to, you can’t market to everyone. So concentrate on your top 50 or 100 customers and really get the message out to your best ones.

Align the brand with your sales team. This is your brand breaking point. If your sales people are not saying the new name correctly or using old logos or business cards, all that hard work is for naught. Companies should have a lot of meetings with the sales team and be vigilant about chasing down old logos, because the sales people are the direct link to old and potential customers.

Take advantage of sponsorships and speaking opportunities. You don’t have to be the top sponsor, but you can be at many shows by just sponsoring a small amount, and your logo will get posted. “Attendance wasn’t great at shows this year, so we offered ourselves all over the place as speakers,” says Batchelor.

Engage with social media. It’s not just the website; it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and more. “We combined all our scattered company LinkedIn pages and did the same for Facebook,” says Batchelor. “Then we created one cohesive, branded page for each social network so they all have clean brand and logo positioning.”

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