Impact Labs Australia Logo
Free Rebranding Handbook

How to actually derail a rebrand

Danny Ruspandini - Impact Labs Australia
Danny R.

I’ve taken a few swings at creative agencies recently, saying I believe that going to them as the first step of your rebrand is the wrong move.

The main reason I say that, is that they may not have the ability to separate helping you make the right decision about whether to rebrand or not, from their own desire to do a great job with it.

Who am I to say such things?

I ran a creative agency that lacked that ability.

That time I messed up

Several years ago we worked with a family-owned trade company in Sydney. They had very disconnected messaging and visuals across their 3 offices, digital systems, vans and other assets, and were looking to align everything.

Their rebrand started out as a mostly visual update with some copywriting, but in the process of clarifying their values and me asking lots of questions, it got them thinking about how far they’d come from where they started, and it wasn’t long before they decided to also change their name.

This is the kind of project a creative agencies dream of - help rename a company, then do all of the new visual creative and see the vans driving around in your home city.

But that day I should have asked more questions.

I used to absolutely thrive on that “wow” reaction from clients - we’d show them their new visual brand that totally nailed their brief... I’d say on that day we got caught up in the excitement of helping this awesome company through a huge change, that I missed all the red flags and blindly guided them into their rebrand.

The outcome

It was a super fun project, both for us and for the owners. We had a lot of laughs playing with new names, trying different images as their mascot, tried various styles of fun, serious, corporate and cool logos, and ended up having a great “wow” moment at the end.

Ultimately, that rebrand never happened.

It tried to happen for a long time, but some things just proved too large an obstacle.

The fatal obstacle

What derailed it sadly, was just one single web app (a critical one).

They had several systems that needed to be updated with the new name and visual identity (logo etc).

One was their billing system which also had industry-specific features - it was an ageing system which made it tricky to work with; it was also very deeply integrated, so switching away from it wasn't an easy thing; and it was just a bit too “un-editable” for us to be able to get in and make the changes that were needed.

There were specialists who could help, and my client did hire one, but the running cost of one consultant learning about the problem as he went, was approaching the cost of the whole creative process up to that point, which eventually made it prohibitive. Most (not all) of the visual components could be changed, but to change the name was a mess. Our client decided to cut their losses and walk away at that point.

How could we have known?

These days, this is a part of the inventory process. Anyone who’s considering a rebrand does an in-depth inventory, and we don’t rush this.

On the digital side, we know the “editability” of many common systems, eg: like Xero, or the big few social channels. For the less-known systems like above, work is done to understand it’s editability at least to a degree, so that we know, for example, if it can be updated in-house, if consultants will be needed, or if it’s a potential derailer. And decisions can be made before it comes to the point of trying to update it.

With the system above, it wasn’t really the tech itself that derailed the project - it was the unknown running cost of figuring it out on the fly. Had our client known it would be so complex they could have come up with options before costs started mounting up.

These might seem obvious but all too often, as illustrated above, these considerations aren’t made until it’s too late.

An underlying issue

With hindsight, what this also illustrated was that the rebrand actually probably wasn’t as critical as it first seemed. If it was, they would have found a way to tolerate the cost, or put the time into finding a legitimate alternative system.

The fact that they could walk away says, to me at least, that not rebranding was a reasonable option.

That, or the emotional drain was too much. We could have gone back to the start and found a less-complex alternative to this rebrand (which I believe there would have been), but after watching them hit a wall for so many months, I was not surprised when they walked away.

In summary

This isn’t intended to discourage rebrands.

It’s intended to highlight how a fairly innocuous thing like an old invoicing system can bring the whole project crashing down, while emotionally draining the people involved along the way.

Do complicated tech systems always make rebrands impossible? Of course not.

But that system was barely mentioned in discovery because it was “just the invoicing system”.

We naively assumed that since it was set up initially for the business at some point, that we could just change any of those things when it rebranded.

If there’s one take away from this: take an inventory, identify the items that might cause serious issues, assess your tolerance for wrangling them (time, financial and emotional), and use that to help you decide if this rebrand is a go / no-go.

We send sustainability and rebranding insights like this every day.

Jargon free, designed specifically for Aussie organisations.

Feel free to sign up »

    We'll never sell your data, unsubscribe anytime.

    We acknowledge that we work on the lands of the Wangal peoples of the wider Eora nation in the place now known as Sydney. We are humbled to work on Wangal lands, used for generations as a place for Aboriginal learning and knowledge exchange.

    We respect the Elders of the past, our current Elders and the Elders we are building for our future. May we all continue to look after Wangal, Eora and surrounding lands.
    Impact Labs Australia Logo
    Resources and tools for efficient rebranding in line with your sustainability goals.
    Sign Up
    Get exclusive rebranding insights that we only share with email subscribers.
      © 2022 Impact Labs Australia.
      crossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram