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The goal of your rebrand

Danny Ruspandini - Impact Labs Australia
Danny R.

Long one today, here’s the crux of it:


Understanding the goal of a rebrand can help you bypass expensive mistakes, and potentially find a more direct path to that goal.

The (not so short) full story if you're interested

Story shared with permission, but our client has requested anonymity as I mention sensitive info like budgets, so their name has been changed to “Vandelay”.

Some years back we worked with Vandelay, a small service-based business over in the U.S. (back when we still worked with international clients, which we don’t do so much these days).

Most of their customers were small local businesses, but they wanted to go after larger clients - they specifically told us “like Google and Johnson & Johnson”.

Vandelay was feeling a strong urge to rebrand because, in their words, “it looks like we’re 2 guys in a garage”. They were actually a team of 13.

At the time, all of Vandelay’s profit was going back into the business. They were fully self-funded, no investors or loans.

They got to a point where they had almost no spare money - they could barely afford their fairly low-cost web developer to help make some changes to their website.

This is not an uncommon scenario we come across.

A business that requires a certain type of growth - in this case larger clients with larger budgets - but in order to grow, they believe they need to do something dramatic (like rebrand) which requires a large budget... it’s a catch-22. If only they had bigger clients, they could afford to do the stuff they they need to land bigger clients.

Quite a conundrum - so we broke it down.

Goals & resources

We had a long discussion about their goals, and the resources available, which boiled down to:

  • Main goal: Land bigger clients
  • Resources: In-house staff only
  • Budget: $0.

What’s needed?

To go after bigger clients using just what we have, at a minimum we need:

  • A sales tool to explain and demonstrate the service
  • A sales person to present the options to potential clients

What’s possible?

We then discussed what was possible with what we had, and settled on the following:

  • Sales Tool: One of their team had been techy enough to figure out how to edit the (very archaic) website. We - myself and my team - would help write new marketing copy. So there’s our sales tool - we’ll update just the website to speak specifically to these bigger clients. No rebrand, no time or money spent on other marketing material.
    • Sales Person - Option 1: One of their staff could do it.
      Pros: No extra spend.
      Cons: No one has sales experience (and no one volunteered).
    • Sales Person - Option 2: They could pause their ad-spend for 1 month to free up some budget, and they could coast on income from their existing contracts to get them through - we chose this option ✅
  • Use the new budget to employ a sales person for as long as possible to pitch the services to bigger clients
  • If the sales person lands a bigger client, a portion of the sale can be used to extend their own contract, and continue selling.
  • If no sales are made, we revisit monthly and make a call on whether to pause ads for another month, or try something different
  • Only once X number of sales have been made can we discuss a rebrand and/or marketing overhaul

How it played out

Sales were made.

The sales person funded their role for several months, after which the team were able to automate and digitise much of what the sales person had been doing.

Some of the clients they landed were in fact Google and Johnson & Johnson, as well as Honda, Salesforce, and a few other large names many of us would recognise.

Eventually, a rebrand was affordable and they went ahead with it... not because they needed it, but they had hit their goal. The goal was not to rebrand the company, it was to net bigger clients.

Perhaps one of the reasons they could afford that rebrand though was that they landed Google... so Google actually signed on before the rebrand happened.

Why I like this story

To land bigger clients, the first thing they thought they needed was an expensive rebrand.

If they’d had the budget, they probably would have done it. Had they spoken to us anyway (unlikely) I’m not sure we could have talked them into trying this scrappier approach first.

But the fact they were cash-strapped contributed to the scrappy approach that actually landed them a huge dream client... and also lead to the more refined sales process they have now.

Just for fun, my cynical side likes to play out the alternate universe scenario:

Alternate universe scenario

Vandelay have plenty of budget and want to rebrand.

Vandelay goes straight to a creative agency and says “we need to rebrand!”.

Creative agency says “No s**t you do, this is awful!” and agrees - they’d be happy to help Vandelay create a new beautiful brand.

Vandelay gets a killer new logo, an awesome website, some gorgeous colours, and a big fat invoice they can afford.

It’s plausible that no discussion is had about goals, or mediocre sales, or landing bigger clients.

Vandelay launches their super cool new brand... and possibly never speaks with Google.

(Not saying this is what definitely would have happened, but it’s a scenario I’ve definitely seen play out with rebrands).

Do you really need to rebrand?

By understanding the goal of the intended rebrand, we were able to bypass it entirely and find a more direct path to that goal.

There are often alternatives.

Sometimes, a rebrand is needed. Sometimes it's a nice-to-have.

Other times, it’s the only thing we can think of to try and make things better.

If a rebrand crosses your mind but you’re not clear on why, or what the end goal is, have a chat with someone who has nothing to gain from your rebrand - they might help you see an alternate path.

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