Transcript: That Rebranding Episode
A rebranding is a huge exercise, and one which most companies will never go through more than once, if at all.
Off the back of SpotlerUK’s rebrand from CommuniGator, That Marketing Podcast spoke to Stephanie Scheller, CEO of Grow Disrupt, about the many facets of a successful rebrand.
What I thought we’d start with, was that ours was, a top-down rebrand. Whereas your role in this is rebranding your Grow Disrupt conference on a regular basis. For people who don’t really know the Spotler story, we were initially called CommuniGator, acquired by Spotler, I think June 2018. And then the end of 2019 was the point we said, “Right, it’s now the time to bring the two brands together”. So, our was a top-down rebrand, whereas yours is from a “keeping the content fresh” point of view. So, I just wanted to get your thoughts on how that affected how we went about them?
We did roughly the same timeframe, which is kind of funny, ours was at the end of 2018, we went through and we rebranded the entire company top-down very similar to what you guys had to do. And so, it became something that we became very familiar with very quickly. And then we reached out to a company to develop a new brand for our annual retreat, the Grow Retreat. And they developed this gorgeous brand, but it was very specific to the theme that we had for that year. And I realised, after I got the brand back, I didn’t specify that I wanted a brand that could stand. And then the more I thought about it, the more I realised, “This is actually really great because we get the same people coming back every year. And we don’t want it to start to feel stale for them.” So, we rebrand it every year, we keep some hallmarks the same, but we design a new brand every year, it will keep it feeling really fresh. And so, we had to learn very quickly how to balance that side of rebranding, but not losing the essence of the brand itself, redesigning but not losing the actual brand. And it’s been a lot of fun to go through. It’s been a lot of growing, but I think it’s actually really helped us helped us grow. It’s certainly brought its own challenges, but I think it’s helped us grow quite a bit.
That was the first thing that that our team came up with when our marketing director said “This is the time frame for the rebrand.” is “How do we maintain a) that the brand awareness and also b) the essence of the brand while keeping it fresh? So, can you tell us a little bit more about how you walk that tightrope of keeping it fresh, but not still too familiar?
Yeah. So that really comes down to understanding “What are the core tenants of the brand?” And we did a tonne of client interviews, asking questions and trying to understand what was it about our brand that people loved on a subconscious level? So, we had to sit here and come up with really, really clever questions that would allow us to get our prospect to tell us a story. And to tell us about what it was that drew them to the brand beyond the colours and the logo and the design. But what was the core of the brand? Right? So, we had to look into “What is it we bring to the table that people really love?” And it’s the accessibility and the exclusivity of the Grow Retreat, which is the one we rebrand every year, right? So, when people start that they said “I love the fact that I walk into a room full of people I don’t know, but I instantly feel at home.” And we said “Okay, that’s good to know. So, what are they actually telling us?” It’s that community, they really love that. Okay, well, that’s a that’s a piece of the brand. We asked them, “If you had to describe this event to someone else, what would you say?” And so we get all these different answers back and again, we do the same thing again. So, what are they actually telling us? And then we figured out “Okay, this is our brand”, and we created a three-page document on “What is the core tenant of the brand”. And so, every year when we go to rebrand and rebuild, we, we look at those core tenants and say, “Okay, so how do we show this through the design? Through the artwork? Through the colours that we choose? How do we still relate this, to that core of what makes the brand work?” And in a more practical sense, we use the same font, we have a couple of shapes that we use pretty consistently.
Obviously, it was a slightly different experiences ours is *touch wood* going to be a one-off rebrand, we become part of this family,wWhereas yours is an annual thing. How do you set timeframes? And how do you balance the need to do it efficiently with being thorough?
Well, the good news is, because we’re redoing this every year, it’s we don’t have to recreate that brand document every year. We had to work really hard to create that the first year, but we don’t have to recreate that every year. So really, actually, we start, we’ve been moving it earlier in earlier. Last year, we didn’t end up doing the rebrand to like July for the January event. This year, we actually started the rebrand in February, for the for the 2021 event. And for the 2021 event, we’re actually going to start the rebrand for the 2022 event in November of this year. So we’re actually getting further and further in advance, so that way because what it allows us to do, because the thing with a new brand, right is you need to, you need to be able to open it in a splash, right, in a way that tells people “Hey, this is the new brand” in a way that gets a lot of people’s attention so that they’re paying attention. So, when they see the new brand, again, yes, you can use the same shapes, the hexagon, the fonts that you can use a lot of the same concept with the brand. So, there will be some feeling of familiarity there. But really, the best way to do it to launch a new brand is to is to do it with a big splash. And when we were looking at “What’s the best way to launch the new brand with a splash?” We’re like, “Well, you know, doing it at the previous year’s Retreat would really be the best way to do it.” So, we’re actually going to have this moment at the very end. I’m giving away a little bit of what we’re planning here! But we’re going to have this moment at the very end of the 2021 retreat, where we unveil the theme for 2022 and the new brand. We have coloured lights all around the room. And all of the colours on the lights will change from the old branding colours to the new branding colours. So, it’ll be a very big splash! We’ll launch the new website right then and there. I mean, it’s going to be a very big deal. And then I think the key is relating it to something consistent, right. So, we aren’t rebranding the Grow Disrupt brand. We aren’t changing all of that. And even when we rebranded Grow Disrupt, we kept the Stephanie Scheller brand consistent. And we tied that to the Stephanie Scheller brand as kind of the bridge between the two. And I think that’s really important if you want to get the most leverage out of your rebrand.
One of the things particularly that took us by surprise, when we were looking at the plan was rebranding on LinkedIn. We found out that requires a full-on press release, you have to write something up and submit it to them. I mean, we were changing our logo and our company name as well. So maybe that’s maybe not something that comes up for your event.
You guys had to send a press release to LinkedIn?
Yeah, we had to submit that to them. Our Marketing Director is actually the admin of the page. So he was handling the social media rebrands we did, We’ve made the images and came up with a splash of content to launch with. But actually getting changed from CommuniGator to Spotler, I think it’s actually at the time of recording still ongoing when we did it nearly a month ago. So, anyone looking for tips for getting a rebrand, that’s one: if you’re on LinkedIn, definitely think about that. It takes a little while to get to launch.
We do roll out a press release for the new rebrand every year. And I do think that’s really valuable. That was something we didn’t do when we rebranded from Scheller Enterprises to Grow Disrupt. And it’s something I wish we had done is just a press release, just putting it out there. And the beautiful thing is, you know, if you do a press release, even if it doesn’t get picked up by a whole tonne of platforms, you can still put it out there and you still talk about “Hey, our press release” and your network will still pay attention to it. There is something really powerful about the words “press release”. And so, you can still get a lot of traction just from using just from the words “press release”. Like right there. You get a lot of attention and it draws the name to it. This is something worth paying attention to. Because that’s the big thing. And it really is all about getting enough attention so that people know that the rebrand is happening, and then doing it in a natural way so that it still feels familiar when people see the new brand. So, you’re still playing on the synapses and connections and memories that people have already built with your current brand, for the new brand.
And maybe this is more to your point about rebranding from Scheller Enterprises to Grow Disrupt your, you’re starting to reach a slightly different target audience and a wider audience. So what we found quite interesting was trying to balance, I suppose the voice of the brand, especially for us, the interesting thing was that Spotler, our parent company, have their own distinct voice and CommuniGator has its own distinct voice. And trying to sort of marry the two, marry is the perfect word because they’re not becoming the same. But they’re sort of joining combining in a slightly different way. I wonder how you went about keeping that tone, but also pivoting to the new audience that you’re trying to reach with your rebrand?
Yeah, so that’s a really good question. Because we did not have to rebrand our voice because it was the same voice. So now I’m sitting here, going “Oh, how would we deal with that?” But I think it’s a good point. Because you’re, that’s something I think a lot of people forget is part of your brand is the voice. And to be able to say, “Hey, you know, this is the new voice”, you want to have some carryovers. So, this is where you might take some time to identify “What are the core tenants of the new voice versus the old voice? Are there some ways we can show the two coming together? And is there some value in potentially keeping some of the voice from the previous brand? Like, is there any value to that?” And bringing that, you know, maybe you your previous brand, joked around and had kind of a more of a comedic effect? You may say, “Well, is there some value in bringing some of that comedy voice? Some of that jokester voice into the new brand? Do we want to retain some of that? Did it work for the previous brand?” Does it make sense to say,” Hey, we’re bringing this new company on board, and we’re rebranding them to join us. And what we’ve loved about them is that they are, you know, they’re smart and thoughtful, but they’re hilarious. And we look forward to bringing the same to you.” And so I would do the same thing I talked about earlier, identify what are the core tenants, and then either say, “Okay, here’s how we’re going to transition them.” Or, “here’s what we are going to keep, in order to make the two brands a little bit more cohesive.”
It’s really clear from this, that a deep, deep understanding of the brand is critical. How you bought into your decision to reach out for a company to help with the rebrand initially, was it something you sort of you tried to do yourself and then said, “hang on, we need this?” Or was the company your first port of call?
No, I we tried to do it on our own at first, and I just realised it was a “forest for the trees” situation. I could not see beyond the day-to-day into what was what was it that was really making the brand work. And I wasn’t familiar enough with running stuff like the client interviews. We did feedback forms all the time. Everyone who goes to our retreat, they get a form to fill out after the retreat to say, “Hey, what did you think?”, but we never thought to take that into the level of “How do we figure out what it is people love and why this is working so well.” It wasn’t until I sat down with the branding company that I realised I’m too close to the situation. I’m trying to rebrand it one way, but I’m not doing a good job. Because, for a lot of small business owners, we operate from a very emotional place about our business, our business, our small business is our life. It’s our everything, right? And so, when we operate from this place, that is very emotional, it is hard for us to get those emotions to come out as words on our own. We often need help with that with communicating that well. And so, I realised I wasn’t doing a good job communicating it because for about a year, I was trying to try to rebrand it, but it wasn’t really catching on. And so that was when I reached out to a company, or actually a company reached out to me and said, “Hey, you have phenomenal stuff. And we really love this and this and this, we went to your events and we would love to do your rebrand, would you be open to that?” And of course, I was like, “Yes!”, because I’m realising I cannot do this myself. But they were the ones who really pulled a lot of that information out of my head in a way that made it useful. So I think it’s really helpful to bring in another company, I really do.
It’s interesting, the idea of using customers as a sounding board to understand what they like as the brand. That’s an actionable takeaway, if you’re thinking of going through a rebrand to understand what your customers like about your or potentially dislike, I suppose is the other way of saying “if you could, if you could change something about the company, the brand, what would you? What would you change?” Yeah, the other thing of it, I think, the emotional connection, I absolutely understand it for small businesses. But I think for the SME space, which is where we are, I would come back and say that’s absolutely the case in there. I think the culture was very strong, I think doesn’t sound terribly cool to put it out there. But we called ourselves “Gators” when we were CommuniGator. And we haven’t got a replacement name for colleagues that we sort of use internally. So, I see what you mean, about the brand having roots internally and externally.
There is and I think it’s really valuable to bring in that outset. Even for the larger companies like for the larger companies, first of all, the likelihood that they’re going to be able to I mean, they could probably afford to hire someone full time to do the rebrand someone who’s really talented, but at the same time, you know, there, it doesn’t make sense to hire someone to do like full time to do a rebrand like it doesn’t, you’re not going to, you’re going to spend a lot of money. Whereas you could spend a decent amount of money, but not a ridiculous amount of money to hire a firm to do your rebrand. And they’ll have that outside perspective. And I just think it’s a smarter way of doing it. I don’t think rebranding is something you do in house, even if you are a branding company, because again, you’re just too close to it most of the time.
Interesting. Our rebrand was run entirely by our own marketing team. And my counter argument to that would be that, who better understands how to communicate with with your customers and with your, your leads and the people that you’re hoping to reach in this new format than the people whose whose full time job that is?
Well, so with you guys, you had an existing brand that you were incorporating into, it’s not like you guys were building it from scratch, right?
The Spotler brand already existed. So, you were you were rebranding CommuniGator into Spotler. But it’s not like you were building a brand from scratch. So, I think that would be the distinction there. For me, it would be that it doesn’t make, it’s very challenging to build a new brand from scratch internally, I think in my experience. Whereas with you guys, you were incorporating one brand into the other. You’re not designing the whole new brand from scratch; I think that would make more sense to do internally.
That’s fair, point taken. I’ll take your point on that, particularly. Now that we have been through the mechanics of how we’ve each done it. You’ve seen other people go through the events, do you think there’s a sort of a range of good and bad reasons that people go through rebrand, I imagine, you know, my theory, I can’t prove this particularly but they’re that linked on the with the LinkedIn sort of extra layer of work that you might conceivably rebrand to shed a bad corporate reputation. So that’s not a not a great reason to do it, I just wonder if you’ve got any others that you’d put up there as terrible reasons to make these big changes.
Rebranding is really quite the exercise to go through. It’s quite a bit of work. I don’t know that there is bad reasons to have to go through it. I mean, really, if you’re having to rebrand to get away from a bad company reputation, you really need to weigh that very carefully. Because a rebrand is extremely expensive in time and energy and money. Your reputation has to be completely destroyed to make it worth going through a rebrand versus just going through a PR campaign to improve your reputation. Because rebranding is so extensive. So I feel like that is probably a terrible reason to go through a rebranding exercise on top of the fact that, you know, your reputation is terrible that you know, really isn’t fun at all, but I really can’t think of a whole tonne of bad reasons.
But the opposite side of that, the good reasons to go through a rebrand. If you’re in the midst of a growth period and your business is growing and outgrowing the previous brand? That’s a great reason to have to go through a rebrand exercise where you’re saying “Hey, you know what this brand worked for where we were at but it’s too limiting. Now, we need we need to spread our wings a little more” and I think that those are those are probably the most exciting reasons to go through a rebrand exercise.
In terms of going from Scheller to Grow Disrupt one of the things I keep coming across is using older reviews and older case studies and other material references us as CommuniGator rather than Spotler. is Do you think it’s important to rebrand those? Or do you think having that sort of sense of history is fine my my sort of worry with things like that as if a new company discovers that resource and say “Are they Spotler, are they CommuniGator?”, and mixed messages are the very last thing you want as a, as a marketer to be putting out there.
Sure. So, you know, I would go through and update those, but I would, I would update it in a way that referenced, “This was written as CommuniGator back in 2014, we rebranded”, you might put a little author’s note at the beginning. And so, then you update it to, you know, CommuniGator, you know, or Spotler, you know, you might do a “parentheses CommuniGator”, but I would update it. But I wouldn’t try and erase the history of being CommuniGator, right. So you still want to say, hey, this was, you know, this is who we were, and we did great. And we’re really proud to join the Spotler. And then you could reference back to the press release that you put out about the transition from CommuniGator to Spotler. And so, let’s say, you’ve got an old article that you wrote two years ago, three years ago, as CommuniGator, and you’re like, “Oh, we need to update this.” So, you put a little note that says, “This article is written, you know, at a time when CommuniGator and Spotler were two separate companies, we merged into Spotler, back in 2019. And, and here’s the press release to kind of walk you through what we did.” And so, then you reference people back to the press release. So, you don’t lose that history. But at the same time, you also don’t create confusion.
Right. So, what we ended up doing with a lot of our certainly SEO snippets on our website, we sort of brand them as Spotler, parentheses CommuniGator. So we get that continuity there. One of the debates we had was actually, do we does the confusion, sort of leave you better off shedding the brand completely? Or is it better to plunge ahead, and I think that’s a good answer to that to sort of acknowledge the sense of history, but to do to go all in on the, the new brand so people can have that big splash impact.
One thing you can do is keep track of everywhere where the old brand is referenced, and in another year or two years, you remove it. We left the Scheller Enterprises site up, we rebranded to Grow Disrupt, but we left the new site up for a couple of months. And then we put a note on there that said, “We’ve been rebranded, go here.” And then after I think six months, we started forwarding that we took the site down and we forwarded everything to the corresponding Grow Disrupt. For about another six months, we referenced the Scheller Enterprises rebrand, but then we took it all off, and we’re just Grow Disrupt now. But it was a process. There’s no flipping a switch, I think, because you don’t want to lose that brand equity.
It is the same with our social media handles; we still held on to the @CommuniGator handles, so we are able to get to revisit them and get back to them if necessary. We haven’t talked about how long to keep them for. But I agree that there’s a process, where you can keep moving through the rebrand, you get to get your website and everything properly rebranded, and then tidy up the legacy bits.
Yeah, you can put together a six month process where you’re posting once a week on the CommuniGator, handles, saying “Hey, we are now Spotler, in order to keep getting the same great content, join us over here”, or “Hey, by the way, here’s a really cool post we made over on Spotler that you should go check out and follow us over there.” Do that for a year or so and then phase it out and shut it down so that you do eliminate some of that confusion. But do it over time and be consistent. if you’re going to keep them, don’t just keep them and leave them empty; keep them and update them because CommuniGator didn’t disappear and that’s the key with rebranding: your old brand didn’t disappear. It got it got you know, embraced by this other brand and is not as visible anymore. But if people are looking for CommuniGator, you still want them to see “Hey, this has been updated”, a handful of times. You don’t need to be updating it daily, you probably don’t even need to be updating it weekly honestly, that’s kind of a probably a little bit too aggressive. But some updates to try and transition that following to the new platform, I think is important.
Yes, I suppose one thing to keep sight of especially in a takeover situation like ours was the the acquiring company Spotler in our case, you know, they visited us they came in saw came and met with us they came to the office they in fact actually bought their entire company over for for a pub quiz and meal with all of our staff, to see the culture match up.
So, it’s always worth remembering that they must have seen something that they liked in the brand, not just in the technical capabilities, because otherwise they wouldn’t particularly have gone through the acquisition. That’s is a reason to keep that brand history and keep some of those distinctive elements that make you what you originally, that got you to the point where someone said, “Oh, we want to bring these guys into our orbit.”
Do you think there are significant other pitfalls that anyone who’s considering a rebrand for good reasons needs to be to be aware of what you think we’ve mostly covered the things to watch out for?
I think the biggest thing if you’re going to be going through a rebrand is one is you don’t jump into it willy-nilly. You know, this is not something where all sudden, one day you wake up and go, “You know what, we’re rebranding! Come on y’all. Like, let’s go!” This is something that needs to be done with a lot of forethought. A lot of strategy, you need to look at “What are we keeping? What are we getting rid of? How are we going to transition our audience? How are we going to use the brand equity we’ve already built, the relationships we’ve already built, to catapult the new brand forward?”, because that’s what it really needs to do. If you’re bringing two brands together, and you’re going to get rid of one; I don’t know if this is super common knowledge, But Sprint and T-Mobile are two major phone carriers here in the US. And Sprint was acquired by T-Mobile. And this was two or three years ago. But they’re still working on that rebrand, and if you look, Sprint is still out there trying to recruit clients, it’s still operating as a separate company, while they figure out “how are we going to do this merger and bring the two companies under one roof?” It’s not something to be done overnight. You want to do it in a smart way. Because if they do this, right, here in the US, it’s always been, AT&T and Verizon, at the top of the dog pile, and Sprint and T-Mobile have kind of been working their way up from the bottom. And if they do this, right, what they should be able to do is catapult the remaining brand up to the level or higher than the other two brands. That’s the whole purpose of bringing the two brands together. And so, being smart about it, saying, “Okay, what assets do we have? What do we need to keep? What do we need to get rid of, you know, what do our clients say they don’t like?” that we want you know, this is a great opportunity to say, “okay, we’re doing away with that”, that’s the big key. And not to rush it. That was one of the mistakes we made when we rebranded was we started the rebrand process in February of that year. And by the time we got to July, I was like chomping at the bit, I was like, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go”. And so, we pushed and we hurried to get the rest of the rebrand out. And I wish we had taken a little bit more time to really plan the transition of all of our marketing assets over instead of flying by the seat of our pants. To really embrace what was working what wasn’t, and be a lot more clear with people about why we were doing the transition, and how this was a better fit for them and how they were going to love it more and not just, “Hey, we’re changing the brand” type of thing like what we did.
Great. Thanks for thanks for sharing your thoughts and helping us sort of bounce off each other in two different styles of rebrand. If people want to hear more from you, you’ve got your own podcast, Black Belt Selling, where can people find that if they want to listen to a bit more of your thoughts on all things sales?
If you go to our, our website, growdisrupt.com, you can get to our podcasts on there. I think under resources is where it’s listed. We also have a ridiculous number of free courses. We have some very cheap courses, but there’s some good free stuff up there. We have a crazy amount of articles, we have links to our podcast, we have a really cool quiz that we designed to help small business owners figure out you know, “What do I need to fix next?”, “What should I focus on first?”, “Everything needs to be fixed in the business, what do I focus on first?” So, it’s a great resource site and the best way to find our podcast or articles or get in touch with me if they have questions or any of that good stuff.
The final thing was aiming for on the podcast is having an actionable takeaway, that someone can go straight away and do. I’m going to suggest that the one from this is to take the time to really think about “What is the voice of your brand? What do people like about it and dislike about it?” And then, whether or not you’re planning a rebrand, if you’re planning a new a new marketing campaign or a new set of sales outreach, then it’s written to help you beyond a rebrand. So hopefully that’s something people can take away.
Yeah, I think you’re I think you’re spot on. The only thing I would add to that is document it. Get it in writing, it allows you so much freedom with your marketing, so much scalability, so much room to grow if you document it. It really is a phenomenal exercise; it takes some time. Talk to your clients, ask them what they love about your industry, ask them what they hate or ask them what they love about working with you, ask them what they hate about your industry. Never ask your clients what they hate about working with you because they’re never going to say they’re going to be like “Oh nothing I love you.” But if you ask them “What do you hate about my industry?”, you can find out, “Oh hey, we’re doing that thing that they said they don’t like. Cool, we should fix that!” Get to know that information, document it, and it’s really powerful tool to have. It allows you to lean on other people for support. It allows you to have brand guidelines to check yourself against for every document. I’ve got I’ve got a friend who does some marketing designs for Coca Cola and he said “Stephanie, everything we create for them we send over and it goes through three levels of quality control.” That’s how Coca Cola has built a billion dollar brand so you know, that would that would be my takeaway is document it so you can can have that same level of quality control and that same value in your brand.
Absolutely. I think we found that last time we bought new people on the team we offer them to start writing blogs for us that having to having to explain what the voice of the blog was was actually quite a challenge, so then we came to the rebrand having done that work was super valuable. So it is it works internally as well as externally even if it’s your own brand, or like you say it is sort of an agency situation where you’re trying to understand the client brand then having that knowledge documented. I think that’s that’s a that’s a really good takeaway. So people listen to this, document what your brand voice is, work it out, write it out, and make sure everybody knows it.
Perfect, spot on.
Excellent Stephanie, thank you so much again for being on the podcast.
Thank you so much for having me. I had a blast.