“Coach’s Forum” is a place in which you can ask your questions, tell your stories or give your opinions on any aspect of practice management. For each column, George selects the most interesting and relevant comments from readers and offers his advice. Our objective is to build a community of people with a common interest in making their financial advisory practices as effective as possible.
Advisor says: My dealer firm recently announced a complete rebranding of the company and I am not sure I like the idea. I have spent 20 years using our current corporate identity in everything I do — all our marketing material, reporting, promotion and advertising. I have made a substantial investment in the brand and now, it seems, I have to start over. Any suggestions on how to do that?
Coach says: Rebranding an established enterprise is becoming increasingly common. First, let’s agree on what we are talking about. Your brand — both yours, personally, and your dealer firm’s, corporately — is much more than the logo people see on your marketing material. It is represented in every interaction people have with you and your firm. Your brand should build trust and an emotional attachment that not only attracts new clients, but also instils confidence among existing clients.
At a functional level, a great brand creates a framework through which a clear and consistent message about your business is delivered. That said, rebranding can be an extensive — and expensive — undertaking. So, why would an organization with a well-established brand want to make a change? There are numerous examples of organizations changing their name to allow them to extend their brand when introducing new products or services. For example, American Growth Fund, the first U.S. equities mutual fund offered for sale in Canada, came to market under the AGF brand, which is now, of course, an iconic fund-management complex with a strong brand profile and enduring legacy.
Investors Group Inc. has become IG Wealth to move its brand beyond its traditional positioning as a proprietary-product shop. The move has enhanced IG’s ability to attract advisors from other dealer firms who might never have previously considered Investors Group as a candidate if they were to make a dealer change.
Not all rebranding efforts have been successful. Xerox Holdings Corp. built one of the most powerful brands in the world by standing for one idea — making photocopies — to the point that their name became both a verb and a noun.
Xerox tried several times to reposition itself as more than just a copier maker by starting new businesses in related industries — all of which were eventually abandoned. Despite the company’s exceptional technical expertise, Xerox means “copiers” in our minds, so any Xerox machine that doesn’t copy doesn’t compute.
Rebranding is clearly a big deal, and in your case, it’s a done deal. So, let’s look for ways to leverage the change to your advantage, keeping in mind that:
- Rebranding is about clients and the perception they have of you, your dealer firm and the value of doing business with you.
- The rebranding process doesn’t mean you’re giving up on everything your brand used to stand for. You will still target the same clients, and you want them to remember the best things about your brand.
Hopefully, your firm has explained both the “why” and the “how” behind their rebranding decision. On the first point, how are the firm’s executives describing the purpose of the initiative? For example, are they looking to:
- Reposition the company to attract the interests of new audiences or become more appealing to its target market, similar to IG Wealth’s strategy?
- Coincide the change with a change in ownership, management or strategy? When Steve Jobs returned to Apple Inc. in 1997, he changed the rainbow-coloured logo to a modern, metallic version to emphasize that the company was reinventing itself.
- Modernize the image of the firm? If the perception of your dealer firm is that it is old and out of touch with the marketplace today, an updated logo and name can say, “Hey, we’re in tune with the times!”
- Consolidate brands obtained through acquisitions and mergers? Consolidation among fund managers, dealer firms and even advisory practices is increasingly common. Too many brands under one roof can dilute the primary brand.
- Appeal to a changing market, such as the next generation of clients? Successful brands will capture the attention of these new buyers by communicating an understanding of what is important to them.
- Differentiate from the competition? Imagine if every dealer firm labelled itself by initials or common descriptors, such as “ABC Wealth Management” and “XYZ Wealth Management.” How would that help any single firm’s brand-building efforts?
On the second point, knowing “how” the rebranding will be done will help you learn:
- The brand elements that will be affected, such as name, logo, colours, website, social media, marketing material and advertising.
- The timing and pace of the rollout — whether gradually or all at once, and in what sequence.
- What resources will be available to support you in the transition — e.g., templates, signage, client communications and advertising.
You should understand the “why” as well as the “how” of your firm’s rebranding. Despite all the resources the company is going to devote to the effort, clients deal with you, not your dealer firm. That means you are the one who will probably be introducing the new brand to clients. Here’s how I would approach it:
- Celebrate, don’t criticize, the new brand. Your attitude will determine the success of the effort within your practice and influence the outcome across the firm.
- Have a team meeting. The objective is to get every member involved and excited about the rebranding and the value it will bring to your business. Keeping everyone in the loop ensures they are aware of the new direction and vision for your dealer firm, thus boosting morale and encouraging everyone to promote the changes.
- Ensure everyone in your practice knows the “brand story.” Make sure anyone who interacts with clients understands the “why” behind the change. Role-playing is a good way to equip everyone to tell a consistent story.
- Review your current inventory of things that reflect the old brand to determine what needs to be changed to align with the new brand.
- Obtain a schedule of the rollout from your dealer firm. Then, create your own schedule to stay ahead of changes, affirm your personal brand message well in advance of any corporate implementation and give your team a map showing how to go about the brand launch.
- Review your “personal” brand in light of the coming corporate changes. This could be an opportunity to refresh your own positioning and effectively align the two identities. You might, for example, create a logo that uses the same brand colours and font as the revised corporate design. Consider revamping your personalized marketing material as well to convey the same look and feel of the company’s.
George Hartman is CEO of Market Logics Inc. in Toronto. Send questions and comments regarding this column to email@example.com.