He’s a terrifying little creature and he gives me the creeps.
Pingu. “Noot noot”.
The face of evil. Don’t let him fool you, he’s a bad penguin.
Can he teach us exactly how we can communicate our new brand internally, so our team are invested and excited about the way forward? In all fairness, probably not. But if you’ve ever read any of my blogs, you know full well that won’t stop me.
So, hold onto your weirdest uncle’s favourite shoehorn, and stay with me.
It’s a common one. You’ve decided that rebranding your business is a necessary exercise for whatever reason. It could be a merger or acquisition. You may be starting out on your own. It might just be the right time for a refresh.
Your clients will need to be invested in this process – after all, they are the people we’re really speaking to with a new logo, company name, or visual identity. But let’s park them to the side for a moment and focus on your team. Whether it’s a group of 5, 50 or 500, a branding exercise can unravel before it ever sees the light of day if they aren’t on board.
If your people don’t believe in what you’re doing to begin with, how are they supposed to be invested and committed after launch? Sure, Stockholm syndrome might kick in after a few months, but we need everybody pulling together if this is going to work.
I heard the phrase a while back: “How well a brand is delivered externally depends on how well it’s understood internally”.
Naturally, the bigger your team, the harder you must work to communicate the change. You’ll find yourself surrounded by conflicting opinions. Much like Pingu found himself surrounded by police officers in the episode ‘Pingu steals a joint of pork from ASDA’.
So, what can you do? I’ve overseen well over 100 brand launches at The Yardstick Agency, and here are seven things that have worked well.
1. Choose your committee wisely
You don’t need your entire team to be involved in the branding process. Usually, for the initial discovery meeting (where we firm up the brief, learn about the business and discuss possible concepts) we have:
Sole adviser firms: The business owner
Smaller firms (5 to 10 advisers): The business owners and senior management team
Medium-sized and larger firms: A mixed committee
Let’s focus on this mixed committee. Who should be present? It needs to be large enough to represent the business, but small enough so that it’s manageable. Those present must participate, and the opinion of everybody is equally valid.
A recent project is an excellent example. The firm was around 150 strong in team members. The committee they assembled consisted of:
- The business development manager who was leading the project
- The managing director
- A director from an acquirer
- A director from a smaller business also being acquired
- A financial planner with 30 years of experience
- A junior financial planner with 5 years of experience
- The operations manager
- A member of the client support team
- A young member of the team working as adviser support.
They were an engaged team and everybody in the room had essential input to give. It may seem like a lot but, for the size of the business, it worked wonders.
It will no doubt remind you of the classic episode ‘Pingu plays ice hockey’. Choosing his committee poorly, meant that Pingu saw Robby the seal disgraced and disqualified for cheating.
So, you’ve formed your branding committee. Everybody knows they need to attend the meeting, but do they know what it’s in aid of?
Take the controversial episode ‘Pingu and the school pet’. Apparently, penguins have pet crabs, and it was Pingu’s turn to look after it for a bit. You can guess what happens: lack of education in animal care meant that Pingu got pinched, and I’m pretty sure the crab died or went missing or something. A very sad episode.
In discovery meetings, we work out the fine details. Perhaps your values are in your head, but you need to feel them out during the session. That’s fine, but tell your team why you have engaged a marketing agency for big picture stuff. Give them the context of what you want to achieve and why it’s so important.
For many of them, it will be their first time going through this process. They might not know that their subjective opinion is secondary to the question “is this right for our clients?”.
It sounds obvious, but education is key.
3. Stop any leaks
We’re out of the discovery meeting. Your team knows all the secrets of this rebranding project. Before they run about telling everyone where they’ve been for the past three hours, outline some disclosure rules.
Branding projects are exciting, as of course you want to share the news. But not everyone they tell will have been on the same journey and will know the specifics of what problems we’re solving.
The last thing you need is an opinion based on half (or none) of the facts. So, until we have something tangible to present to the team properly (more on that later), don’t let the penguin out of the bag.
In many ways, this is like the time Pingu’s boat got struck down with an awful case of holes and started sinking. He didn’t stop his leak and ended up getting stranded for three weeks. Not a big deal for the slippery wee fella, but in a branding project, miscommunication and poor timing can throw many a spanner at your head.
4. Make one person the point of contact
If everybody is in charge, nobody is in charge.
In the episode ‘Pingu looks after the egg’ (I’m sorry, but we’re in too deep now), the family has an egg, and for some reason, Pingu is in charge of incubating it. Obviously, as he’s a malicious little thing, he wonders off without telling anybody.
There will be various meetings throughout the process where the whole committee is present. However, when things move to email, nominate one person to become the main point of contact.
I’ve seen it done well, and not so well.
Generally, if everybody emails their thoughts piecemeal, you get several issues:
- Some people ‘replying all’ while others don’t
- A person emailing after a certain thing has been agreed with “oh I didn’t see this, no I disagree”
- Key thoughts and ideas are likely to be missed in gigantic email threads.
This isn’t to say that we don’t want a lot of opinions. Quite the opposite. But have internal comms and then elect one member of the team to become the face for your house stance on the questions being asked.
Two large projects come to mind where we had a conduit, and their hard work resulted in brands with huge internal commitment.
5. Be engaged and don’t throw curveballs
If somebody needs to be involved in the project, get them in from day one.
A rebrand can only get so far without key stakeholders having to make decisions. If somebody has the power to veto the direction we’ve all decided to take, and they’re not involved in the process, we have a problem.
And in a similar vein, don’t wait until right at the end to say what you really think. Be engaged, be honest, and don’t pop up right at the end with something we should have been told way earlier.
I’m a huge believer that good ideas can come from anywhere, and it’s never too late to change direction (providing it’s for the right reasons and isn’t attached to firm logistical deadlines such as print, events or authorisation dates). But it isn’t a good use of your time or budget to yank the steering wheel simply because somebody just started paying attention.
Take the miraculously unbanned episode ‘Pingu and the chicken satay surprise’. Pingu and Robby the seal check out the new Indonesian place round the corner. Unfortunately, Pingu forgets to tell the chef that Robby has a terrible peanut allergy, leading to his final appearance on the show.
A dark episode, but one that we can all learn from.
6. Present it the right way
Right, where are we in the process? We’ve had our discovery meetings. The designers have created a few concepts, and your branding committee has chosen one and developed it into a perfect final outcome.
One clap for each team member.
But now comes the unpredictable part. You must reveal your work to the extended team. These will naturally be a mix of folk that are resistant to change, open to wildly different ideas, or indifferent about everything. They’re all going to react slightly differently.
This is why it’s so important to present your rebrand in the correct way.
Take them on the journey. Explain what the problem was before you undertook this project. Tell them exactly what you told us. Build a big picture around the why. It will give them vital context that they can use when deciding how they feel about the change.
And consider how you will unveil the new visual identity. Rather than an email saying “here’s how it’s gonna be”, bring everybody together. Hold a team-wide meeting or event to launch it properly. Some clients have had things made with the new logo on to give away at that meeting. Notebooks, water bottles, pens. Simple stuff, but it’s more tangible than just seeing it on a big screen on a white background.
Other clients have asked us to use mock-ups to show how a business card, or banner might appear. Showing how great the new brand will look plays a massive part in easing people’s concerns.
For example, I made this mock-up for a previous blog.
7. Accept feedback sensibly
Listen to your team, but apply a generous dollop of common sense.
Not everybody is going to love it as much as you do. We’re human. We have subjective feelings about stuff, and we like what we like. So be aware of what you want when you ask for feedback.
A recent internal survey that a client ran during a branding project received these two comments:
“I love the colour, it’s perfect”
“I hate the colour, not for me”
If you don’t handle this sensibly, you can easily eliminate the entire rainbow.
That isn’t to say ignore feedback. If somebody flags something that nobody else caught, then we’re all ears. But comments that boil down to personal preference need to be filtered. If we’ve done our job properly, the thinking of your branding committee should be aligned.
Be confident, communicate, and give context. This will minimise much of the “I don’t like it because it makes me think of <insert brand that looks nothing like it>” style comments.
And unrelated, but if you’ve made it this far, you’re committed to the bit.
Did you know that three Pingu episodes got banned? One because a walrus was too scary, one for Pingu’s mother giving him a good hiding after running away from home, and one because it showed penguins on the toilet. Weird.
And, in 1993, David Hasselhoff released a rap song called Pingu Dance. A meeting was had, and several people agreed that it wasn’t an insane idea.
I’ve had the privilege of playing a part in branding projects of all shapes and sizes. The above points can all be accurately laid over the projects where all people within a business are invested and excited ambassadors for the brand.
And that’s where you come in. If you’re about to undertake a rebranding project and need everybody to noot to the same tune, we can help.
Email email@example.com or call 0115 8965 300.
And don’t listen to Pingu Dance. You can’t unhear it. Heed my words.