Learnings from undergoing a brand identity change during the pandemic

Karthik Raman, Chief Marketing Officer and Head, Products, Ageas Federal Life Insurance, writes how rebranding could go tremendously wrong if not handled properly

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Learnings from undergoing a brand identity change during the pandemic

Karthik Raman

Companies could opt for a change in their brand identity for a number of reasons — a merger or acquisition, repositioning of their organisation, revamp of the brand, or legal conflicts with another brand, among others.

A rebrand is an exciting step in the journey of an organisation but it could go tremendously wrong, harming years of carefully accumulated brand equity, if not handled properly.

Earlier this year, we underwent a company name change from IDBI Federal Life Insurance to Ageas Federal Life Insurance, pursuant to international insurance giant Ageas acquiring majority stake in the company.

Rebranding the organisation, especially during the ongoing pandemic, was a challenging but exciting experience. Here are a few learnings from our brand identity change:

  • Build the right rebranding team

The rebranding exercise isn’t just the responsibility of the Brand team; they lead the exercise, but every other function of the company plays a critical role in the change. The Legal & Compliance handle the legal and regulatory aspects, Operations handles the customer experience, HR handles the existing and prospective employees, Learning & Development (L&D) manages the crucial information download, Finance handles all the vendors and service providers’ payout, IT handles changes to the website and domain name, and each one of these functions has an important and critical influence on the brand-building exercise. It is important to ensure involvement of all these critical functions in the brand-change effort.

  • Have a plan in place

Rebranding is usually a lengthy process, spread out over a few months at least. Having a plan in place, with timelines, roles and responsibilities, interdependencies and possible risks clearly mapped out prevents last-minute disasters as D-Day looms closer. Keep all members of the rebranding team in the loop so that each member knows the status of the project and when they need to step in to implement their part of the plan.

  • Make a list of all your rebranding touchpoints

Considering the magnitude of the rebranding exercise, it doesn’t hurt to make a master spreadsheet well in advance of all the touchpoints that need to be rebranded, including the official website, sales materials such as brochures and flyers, signages in the main office premises and branches, email addresses of employees, templates of the official letterhead, PPT, email signature, etc.

Circulate the new brand guidelines to the people concerned along with a walkthrough of the key points so that all the brand elements, messaging, tone etc. are clearly understood.

  • Budget for the rebrand

A rebranding exercise is a costly one with costs at every step from hiring an agency to work on the new brand identity to changing the branding, signages and collaterals to communicating the new brand to the world at large. Having a budget in place at the beginning of the project ensures that all costs are accounted for and no corners need to be cut later on.

  • Keep your employees in the loop

Your employees are your most important assets. Constantly communicating with them about the brand name change will not only keep them in the loop but also reassure them during this transition period, especially if the organisation has been through turbulent times prior to the rebrand. Ensure that the communication percolates throughout the organisation, down from the CEO to the department heads to the sales guys on the field, so that everyone is on the same page and delivers the same message especially when addressing existing and potential customers.

In this pandemic situation, it is often difficult to meet employees face-to-face to communicate with them. Use different tools and platforms to deliver and reinforce the new brand message, from a personal address by the CEO and top management in a virtual townhall, to the intranet, CEO blogs, FAQ document, emailers and the internal employee newsletter. Put a system in place where any employee doubts or queries pertaining to the rebrand can be addressed.

Most importantly, ensure that your employees are aware of all major changes and decisions before they are communicated to the world outside.

  • Make the big announcement

Once regulatory and other approvals are in, it is time to communicate your new brand identity to the world. Pick a date and go big! Budget permitting, use every possible medium to communicate your message. Keep the message simple and clear so that there is no confusion in the minds of the public. During our rebranding effort, we launched a media campaign featuring our existing brand ambassador, Sachin Tendulkar, with the simple, direct message that ‘IDBI Federal Life Insurance is now Ageas Federal Life Insurance’ to drive home the connect between our past identity and our new one.

Customise the message wherever possible, especially when communicating it to key groups like customers or clients, so that there is no confusion or misunderstanding about the new brand name and identity.

  • Consider the hit to your brand equity

It’s possible that as you transition from your old brand name to the new one, there could be a hit to your existing brand equity, as customers, partners, vendors and the general public adjust to the new brand identity. Communication is key in this scenario; use every and all opportunities over the next few months to a year, to drive home and reinforce your new brand identity and message.

Rebranding is a difficult, time-consuming exercise. But with careful planning, attention to detail and the right amount of creativity, you can implement this exercise seamlessly and smoothly.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

Karthik Raman Ageas Federal Life Insurance