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3 Lessons I Learned by Rebranding a 45-Year-Old Company

Jeff VanDeVelde
Aug 9, 2023

It is not often in someone’s career they get a chance to learn how to rebrand a business, let alone a 45-year-old well-respected company. If you get that chance … don’t blow it!

To help others develop their own rebranding strategy, I thought I’d share three lessons learned from my own personal rebranding journey.

1. Make executives a part of the collaboration process.

Picture this: you spend a year convincing the Corporate Leadership Team that you need a rebranding strategy. They agree to proceed (with caution). You rally your Marketing Leadership Team. You spend eight weeks huddled together to come up with a completely new brand platform based on a new mission and purpose for the company. You schedule the big reveal with the Corporate Executive Team.

And the reveal completely bombs!

I mean XX-level bombs. Not because the ideas weren’t good, but because none of the key stakeholders were involved in the process – which means there were no allies, no early adopters, no influencers on the inside.

Take two: our CEO thoughtfully suggests a different approach. We end up engaging a small subset of the Corporate Leadership Team to help identify the new brand platform. We collaborate throughout a series of six workshops; and four months later, the next pitch meeting comes. We decide to have the corporate executive participants make the pitch because they’re now the allies. As influencers, they were able to help bring the rest of their peers along.

2. Spread your wings while honoring your roots.

Forty-five years is a lot of years to be a company – especially if you’re in financial technology.

Over the course of that 45 years at Jack Henry™, there have been many people who knew our founders, Jack Henry and Jerry Hall – people who had great stories to tell about who they were, why they founded the company, and what this company means to them. So, when you suggest making a change, you better make sure the people who are invested in everything Jack Henry stands for know that you understand what makes up the DNA of the company.

For the rebranding efforts, that meant making sure to honor the roots of the company and keep those most cherished sentiments in the refreshed brand – like the founding philosophy, parts of the name, and certain logo design elements.

That’s why we made sure to call it an evolution, not a complete transformation.

Our corporate executives even went so far as to give a preview to our founders’ widows and get their approval.

The roots were a key part of the position. We’ve always been known for our people and culture – so we built our new positioning of people-inspired innovation on top of that. We honored our roots and spread our wings.

3. Make it an organizational effort, not just a marketing thing.

Brands are more about who you are and what you do than what you say.

I learned this a decade ago when I was part of the rebranding of a bank. I was introduced to a framework for rebranding called “Be, Do, Say.” It suggests that you “be it” (cultural), “do it” (experience), then “say it” (marketing and communications efforts).

Often, we rush to rebrand through a new positioning or a new brand promise; and we have no way to deliver on that promise because we didn’t take the time to build a plan for how the culture and experience need to change to support what we are claiming we are and what we do.

Therefore (since I had already learned this lesson once), the approach at Jack Henry was to make the marketing part of rebranding just one part of a larger program. We knew we needed to include a culture track of work and an experience track of work. This way, we ensured we were looking at the rebranding more holistically – and not just as a marketing exercise. It also ensured that it involved people outside of the Marketing Department, enabling us to bring in influencers from across the company and outside of Marketing and advocate for the changes needed beyond marketing.

In fact, the three executive sponsors of the program were Jack Henry’s head of Human Resources (Be/Culture), our Chief Operating Officer (Do/ Experience), and our Chief Sales and Marketing Officer (Say).

Last thing on this one: make sure you overcommunicate to your associates why you are doing the rebrand, how the changes might affect them, and what their role in this change can be. That is critical because then they will become part of the change. They will identify ways they can do things a bit differently in order to keep the brand promise. They will become your change agents so that when the brand promise is communicated externally, all your associates are ready to deliver on that promise in their own way.

Rebranding can be so exciting, stressful, and exhausting all at the same time. With clear objectives, careful planning, a ton of creativity, and a great team alongside you, it can be a highlight of any marketing professional’s career.

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