We recently had the opportunity to respond to a Request for Proposal to partner with a northeast utilities company and help them refresh their brand. As part of the response, we were asked to share our point of view on the pitfalls a public utility faces when looking to transform their brand. As the agency of record for DTE Energy, and being no strangers to brand development, we had plenty to say on the subject. And now, we’d like to share it with you. Although this response was created for a public utility rebrand, the lessons here can be applied to all industries.
To improve your chances of creating a successful rebrand, avoid these all-too-common mistakes:
- Not spending time up front. The more time spent up front, the better you can ensure that you’re making informed decisions. Not spending time understanding key attributes and benefits of the brand can lead to assumptions, and ultimately derail your intentions. So, take the time to look objectively at your business, and establish clear goals and objectives and a comprehensive strategic plan. This will help avoid rework and added time and money.
- Not listening to the voice of the customer. You know what they say about those who “ASSUME.” So don’t let assumptions or corporate desires be the only driver of your rebrand efforts. Your number-one research objective should be a clear understanding of what your current customer thinks. Your customer’s perception of the brand IS the brand. Hearing from them will provide you with valuable insights and can uncover issues you may want to address.
- Not benchmarking your peers. While public utilities do not usually directly compete, understanding how other similar utilities position their brand will inform how you can make your brand stand out. The goal of the rebrand is not only to appeal to and deliver promises to your customers, but to clearly spell out to them what makes you different and better. Benchmarking your peers allows you to ideate and identify gaps within your own brand.
- Only changing the visual, not the experience. A new logo is not a new brand. Changing how you look will not give you real results, because in today’s world, brand and experience are inseparable. The brand should reflect the organization, so it is important to address any business and customer experience challenges that could affect delivering on the brand promise.
- Focusing on what you do instead of benefits you provide: To truly connect with customers and drive brand loyalty, a brand needs to help customers understand the value you provide. Sure, a utility company can supply electricity, water, etc., but what they really provide is convenience, peace of mind, opportunity, flexibility, savings, etc. Failing to connect those dots will lead to a lackluster effort.
- Not understanding what it will take before you start: A rebrand for a large, complex organization is not cheap. There is the cost of the branding process—hiring a consultant, doing research, engaging stakeholders, then the cost of implementation—in communications and on uniforms, trucks, signage, facilities, etc. And it won’t be successful unless you effectively launch and communicate the new brand. Don’t undertake a rebrand unless you have the resources and commitment to support the change.
- Inconsistency: Too many variations of materials, logos, treatments, and communications leads to customer confusion and to brand dilution. To ensure your brand delivers on your objectives, it is important to have a consistent message and visual identity throughout your entire marketing and business materials. A consistent brand helps customers with recall.
- Launching and stopping: Think long-term. We believe that rebranding is a continuous effort. It is not enough to launch, change all your logos, and move on. Your brand-new brand should live on through your marketing and communications efforts. Don’t dilute your chances at long-term success by failing to develop a long-term plan.
- Not measuring. A rebrand is only successful as its results. If you don’t measure, how will you know if you’re succeeding? We recommend that you define and implement Key Performance Indicators to measure performance, as well as continuous tracking of customer feedback and satisfaction scores to understand the feelings toward your brand in real time. Doing so not only allows you to know if you are being successful, but also allows you to pivot in the event of unexpected situations.
Launching or refreshing a utility brand is a complex process that demands careful consideration and strategic thought. If you are interested in learning more about how you can take steps toward a successful rebrand, we would love to talk to you. Click here for a free one-hour consultation call with one of our strategy leads.
Andre Mello is the Director of Marketing at REGROUP.
REGROUP is a woman-owned, independent full-service marketing agency in Ann Arbor. We have been the agency of record for DTE Energy for over 10 years and we also support non-profit, financial services and franchise industry clients. Are you ready to REGROUP?