How small, strategic changes can bring in bigger business
by Ryan Durant and Kyle Hildebrant
July 12, 2019

The thought of a rebrand can spark terror in even the most seasoned business owner. For the uninitiated, the process seems shrouded in mystery, the end result uncertain. Cautionary tales abound from across the corporate world—Uber’s much-maligned 2016 rebrand, the Sci-Fi Channel’s 2009 rebrand to Syfy, and IHOP’s rebrand to IHOb, which leaders later said was a publicity stunt. 

Decidedly one of the most important decisions a business owner will ever make, the rebrand is an attempt to move brand equity from one vessel, in essence, to another. It requires the precision of a drill, not a dozer, to identify the core components worth retaining. It demands internal reflection and a certain level of self-awareness, as a successful rebrand takes into account not only what clients value about the existing brand, but also the organizational culture.

Dan Koffel, current chief executive officer (CEO) of Snyder Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc., realized that the company he was operating, previously known as Snyder Roofing of Oregon, needed to rebrand after he learned at a trade show that customers thought they offered only commercial roofing. That perception was hindering its waterproofing and coating services business. Following a deep dive into the awareness and perceptions of the brand, the company determined a rebranding was necessary. 

“We took a deliberate approach to our rebrand, closely examining our challenge before we brought in professionals to help create a new identity,” he said. “It allowed us to get highly specific about what needed to be changed and what didn’t—and to create an efficient roadmap to put our new brand into action.”

An effective rebrand proceeds as more of an evolution than a big bang. In doing so, it enables construction companies to retain the brand equity they’ve amassed, while shifting to respond to changing markets, better integrate new services or leverage new value following a merger or acquisition. But there’s a lot at stake. 

With strong B2B brands outperforming the weak by up to 20 percent, according to McKinsey Company, the fear of getting a rebrand wrong can be paralyzing. This is particularly true for commercial and residential construction business owners, for which word-of-mouth referrals are critical to gaining new clients. Whether an organization turns to an internal team or external branding agency for help with rebranding, there are some common fears that may halt progress. 

Fear 1: We have to blow up the brand & start from scratch.  

It’s fairly easy to blow up something and recreate it from the ground up. It’s much more difficult—and often much more important—to take a restrained approach that doesn’t discard the years of brand equity your business has built. It’s important to give respect to the brand’s foundation, but also find a way to build on it.

To help your brand evolve, ground the rebranding process in practical research and data. The first step to achieving this is to examine your brand’s equity, including: 

  • Brand awareness
  • Brand perception
  • Brand associations
  • Proprietary elements

If you choose to rebrand through an agency, ideally, the one you select should guide your rebrand and play the role of translator, serving as an intermediary between the company and the clients with whom you want to communicate. It  might even feel like an intervention at times. Be prepared to address tough questions, respond to research and establish channels to better understand feedback from customers and their habits. 

There will be uncomfortable moments and times when it may seem easier to maintain the status quo. But that’s likely also why now is the time to roll up your sleeves, trust your chosen partners and avoid killing the messenger.  

Fear 2: The rebrand won’t feel like us.

There’s a distinct difference between a good branding agency and a designer able to recreate a specific aesthetic at scale. The team you partner with for your rebrand should be design-agnostic (i.e., personal preferences for look and feel should have no influence on the end result.) Instead, a rebrand is about respecting the history of the brand and understanding its unique visual identity. It needs to reflect what the organization really is now. 

Keep in mind that your clients aren’t the only stakeholders your new brand must connect with. Your employees and subcontractors need to feel just as confident that the rebrand captures the essence of your construction company and the value it provides—especially those employees and subcontractors who mostly work in the field and have little interaction with the main office. 

Ask your office employees, foremen, general managers and subcontractors for their opinions throughout the rebranding process, whether through surveys or face-to-face interviews. Even if the final result doesn’t mirror their thoughts, they will feel heard and valued, which goes a long way toward creating alignment with your company’s new branding. 

Otherwise, a rebrand can feel out of touch to field employees or subcontractors. That sentiment leads to resentment and prevents your new brand from being realized in client interactions. The more excited employees are about your brand, the more engaged they will be in the company. 

Gallup Inc. research has shown that companies with highly engaged employees have more than four times the earnings per share compared to those in the same industry whose employees are less engaged with their company’s brand. 

Fear 3: Our customers won’t like the rebrand.  

It’s normal to second-guess yourself during a rebrand: Will our clients know it’s us? Will they like it? Will the reputation we’ve built translate under the new brand? These doubts can paralyze your efforts.

Overcoming this barrier requires having a strong internal champion able to sell the rebranding internally. Support has to come from the top; it’s almost always up to the CEO, president or chief marketing officer (CMO). This champion needs to be able to explain where the brand is going and why, without letting divergent opinions diminish their enthusiasm for the chosen course. 

Fear 4: The total cost is uncertain. 

How much will a rebrand cost? That all depends. Arthur Andersen spent $100 million to rebrand itself as the consulting firm Accenture; while Nike reportedly spent $35 to design its iconic swoosh. As you evaluate potential partners, consider all of the touchpoints you use
to interact with customers and keep your end goal in mind.

Establish a budget and work with the agency to tailor a scope of work that meets it. The service fees for the branding agency you partner with directly reflect the value you receive: Is your partner merely redesigning a logo or website, or is the partnership a more extensive one, with the agency conducting research to uncover the drivers behind your brand’s equity? 

Ultimately, the service fee is one small portion of the total rebrand cost. There are also costs associated with employee training, marketing materials, signage, legal filings and more. Most construction businesses also have a lot of branded physical capital—heavy equipment, vehicles, employee uniforms, etc.

Take into account the cost to reorder or paint all of these items to align with your company’s new identity, as these factors will affect the cost of a potential rebrand. But, also consider that a rebrand is ultimately an investment in the longevity of your business. 

Laying the Foundation for Long-Term Success 

A brand is a promise made and a promise kept, and it goes far beyond a logo and choice of colors. It’s about engagement. It’s about the customer seeking you out (rather than you enticing them to start a project). It’s a shared relationship, and it must be built on what is really true of them and what is really true of you.

As a discipline, branding is an extended effort that requires the long view. Rather than swinging for the fences, effective rebranding is about rounding the bases on consistent singles and doubles. It’s about building on the foundation that your business has already created. The most successful construction rebranding is the result of countless smaller, strategic efforts intended to position a business to go big, but only if and when the proper groundwork has been laid.