5 tips for rallying employees behind a rebrand

4 min read
Sun Lee
  •  Apr 23, 2018
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SurveyMonkey’s VP of Brand Experience talks about their recent redesign—and why they made a conscious effort to bring all their employees along for the ride.

A designer friend told me that when her company rebranded, the design team shut itself in a room with the blinds down. They communicated about the project only with executives and key stakeholders.

After months of anticipation, they revealed the new brand to employees with fanfare and celebration—just a short time before it launched to customers. The result? Employees felt left out of the process. They didn’t feel invested in the new brand and weren’t enthusiastic about putting it into action.

Last year, we took SurveyMonkey’s brand from a fun, friendly “monkey business” to a bonafide People Powered Data platform. When we did it, we made a conscious effort to bring all our employees along for the ride.

We wanted to avoid seeming like an “elite” brand team working our magic behind velvet green (#00BF6F) curtains. Employees care about what the logo on their company t-shirt stands forTwitter Logo, and a little extra effort can go a long way in making them feel a part of the process.

Here are five things (which you’re welcome to steal) that helped us get our employees behind our rebrand.

1. Foster accountability

We set two launch dates: an employee launch on 1/17/17 and a customer launch six months later on 7/17/17. The first date was a lot of fun, but it was actually the second date that ended up mattering most to our employees.

The deadline created a much-needed sense of urgency. We stoked this feeling by putting up large calendars all over the office, counting down the days until brand launch. Each page we tore off the calendar helped us stay on track, but it also built momentum, excitement, and, yes, a fair amount of stress.

Believe it or not, it really helped make people invested in the brand. It gave them the resolve that comes from taking on a seemingly impossible challenge. It lent the prestige that comes from working on a secret project that nobody outside the walls of SurveyMonkey knew about.

By the end, it felt like we were planning a surprise party for a close friend. People around the office couldn’t wait to tell our customers all about the cool things that were coming.

2. Celebrate the journey

Six months can seem like a marathon, but it gave us a good period of time to not only work on the rebrand, but to celebrate milestones along the way. And celebrate we did.

On employee launch day we unveiled the concept and initial designs to the company, but we also took time to celebrate us.

Related: Behind the scenes of Atlassian’s bold new brand

The past couple years had been tough, but very successful. We knew the rebrand would help us reach the next stage of growth, but that it would also mean a lot of hard work. The brand launch for our employees was the perfect moment to pause, pat ourselves on the back, and get excited about the next step.

On the morning of the event, everyone arrived to find branded swag on their desks. They got cool t-shirts, a notebook and pen, a handy pocket brand book, and a Rubik’s cube-like code game designed to spark their curiosity.

SurveyMonkey’s mission is to Power the Curious, and even little things like puzzle games (for prizes, of course) can help drive that point home.

Next, we introduced the new positioning and mission in an all-hands meeting. We showed videos of the new look and feel of the brand that we had made just for employees. These videos weren’t half-baked—we worked hard on making them just right, knowing it would be the first true exposure that employees got to the new brand.

Luckily, we got the chance to give employees a lot of everyday exposure to the new brand. As we began our work, we were also moving our headquarters into a new building. That meant we were able to design an interior that reflected our new mission, used our new colors and logo, and much more.

We covered the walls in quotes from famous thinkers about the value of curiosity. We named all our meeting rooms after curious places and creatures. We placed hidden placards with curious data points around the office. We gave each employee an acrylic sticker of our new logo (we call him Goldie) that they could hide anywhere in the office. It allowed everyone to make their mark on this new chapter of SurveyMonkey.

We took every opportunity we could find to shape our environment so that it reminded employees of our mission—and its importance.

3. Trust the team

A rebrand is a relay race, and design is just the first team to hold the baton. When it came time to pass that baton, we knew it was important to let our design nerdiness show.

Developing a brand identity that works in both your product and your marketing channels is a tough balancing act. To show other teams how much work went into doing it right, we adopted a “more is more” approach to communication.

As we finalized logos, color palettes and icon libraries, we told everyone how excited we were about this particular element or that line of copy. We made sure to show the care we took with each decision.

We wanted people to know we were sweating the details. We wanted teams that came asking for a file or design that we weren’t slacking—we were making sure it was perfect.

We built a culture of care, and it really came in handy.

For example, when the engineering team asked for our new typeface font files, we were ready. We told them about the work going into refining the letter forms, enlarging the x-height (for better legibility on mobile), and including standard number sets (because old-style numbers were not good for usability in reading data).

“A rebrand is a relay race, and design is just the first team to hold the baton.”

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Maybe they didn’t need to understand exactly why all that was important, but they trusted us for caring about the final product. In return, we trusted them to execute it. That kind of inclusive culture gets everyone on board.

4. Listen to customers

It’s important to point out that not everyone was as excited about the new brand as we were—at least not right away. We all had a soft spot in our hearts for the lovable old brand and more than a few people took some convincing that the new direction we were going was, in fact, the right one.

That’s okay—we work at a survey company, and we expect people to ask questions when there’s doubt.

To convince them, we did what any curious team of survey nerds would do. We asked the people who matter most what they thought. We turned their opinions into data. And we used that data to support our conviction that we were making the right move.

We gave a select group of important customers a chance to experience the new brand before we launched it. The response was overwhelmingly positive—good enough to bring even some of the most stalwart old-branders over to our side.

5. Prioritize health

It’s hard to stress enough how much work the rebrand ended up being. People were working on projects on top of their normal work and working longer hours to meet tight deadlines.

At times like these, it’s more important than ever to stress being kind to one another, as well as letting people enjoy some nice little rewards. In the final stretch of the journey we had regular Starbucks runs, 15-minute chair massages, and a more flexible attitude toward working from home.

A little extra love can do a lot to stave off burnout and put some wind behind flagging morale.

Rebrands are fascinating exercises. You make big changes to your DNA as a company while being sensitive to the core elements that define you.

Ultimately, our rebrand was successful, internally and externally, because it was the right fit—the perfect mix of old and new ideas that we could all agree to live and work by.

“Rebrands are a ton of work. Prioritize your team’s health.”

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The process wasn’t always easy, but we got through it by living our core values as a company. SurveyMonkey’s five core values, which we developed as part of our rebrand, are (roughly) the paragraph headings of this blog.

Why not mention that earlier? Final tip: Even little reveals can have a satisfying payoff.

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