Fallacy of re-branding applies to airport’s strategy

“Oh, you’re a brand consultant? Our company just went through a re-branding effort six months ago. We’ve all got new business cards, a new logo and new ad campaigns coming out.”

I cannot tell you how many times I hear this and similar statements from those I meet on a daily basis. And I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to hear how much time and effort is literally wasted in creating new marketing materials, calling it “re-branding” and not doing anything in terms of restructuring the internal architecture of the organization’s brand itself. Call it “putting lipstick on the pig,” if you will.

In fact, David Barrows, of the Design Agency, says that “40 percent of marketing is wasted, due to ill-informed, de-motivated staff undermining the promotional promise.”

Sad, very sad.

More sad news from The Chartered Institute of Marketing:

  • 69 percent of chief marketing officers believe investing in the customer experience is the best way to build their brand, (however…)
  • Only 31 percent of CMOs believe their leaders understand what brand means for their own part of the organization.
  • Only 22 percent of CMOs believe their employees understand their role in delivering a branded customer experience.

It just proves the lack of true understanding of the difference between the function of marketing and the function of branding. So let’s get clear.

Marketing (simplistically speaking) is the act of communicating and disseminating information about the brand.

Brand-“ing” is the process of identifying, defining and becoming a specific perception in the minds of your audiences (employees, customers, vendors, community). When you brand a company, you’ve done the due diligence in defining the core attributes associated with how you want to show up and be perceived by your audience.

Unfortunately, when all we do to “re-brand” is re-design the logo, create new messaging, and hope our customers and employees “buy into” the difference, without re-inventing the Brand DNA architecture, our customer experience, or our employee engagement, etc., then congratulations, all you’ve done is create a new marketing campaign. And research shows a full 40 percent of your efforts (if not more) may go right down the drain.

Recently, I heard a news report that the Colorado Springs airport, looking to attract more traveler traffic, was seeking proposals from advertising agencies to rethink its messaging and other visual communication pieces (as a re-branding effort).

I am, once again, cringing at that short-term thought process. The worst thing you can do is “continue to apply new lipstick on the same pig” through a marketing campaign. Travelers are smarter than that. What happens to the customer’s perception when the overall experience remains the same, and just the messaging changes? It creates cognitive dissonance, discontent and indifference. Not something CMOs wish for as their overall ROI.

True re-branding efforts start deep inside the organization, at the DNA level, for transformation to be sustainable. Here are the steps:

The re-branding effort should come from a core brand task team made up of people representing all areas of the organization.

The team should flesh out key attributes and desired perceptions as well as unique differentiators authentically expressed through the actions and behaviors of the entire organization.

Compose a powerful brand promise that positions the brand in a new light, puts a new stake in the ground to live up to as a re-branded company.

Then, all attribute outputs must be defined, and then communicated, consistently and distinctively, and enlist, equip and empower the entire employee culture. Tangible actions like rolling out a new company-wide brand vocabulary, a redefined brand story, re-tooled processes that enable the brand attributes to be affirmed, and countless other internal architectural and behavioral tweaks make up a highly effective re-branding effort.

This is a continuous internal process. Not an external marketing event.

Once the internal work is done, assess if you are ready to go to market with the new brand position, have effectively engaged employees, and have elevated the customer experience and promise. Are you able to truly walk your talk? Once agreed, go to town on the marketing. Then, and only then, have you truly done the due diligence of re-branding your organization and growing your business brand exponentially — by walking your talk and building trust.

Who’s ready to dive in?

Suzanne Tulien is principal and founder of the Brand Ascension Group LLC.