Learn How to Optimally Manage a Rebranding Project
In November 2014, our firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP embarked on a website redesign, and several months later, at the request of our marketing and business development committee, we undertook a firm-wide rebranding. Approximately 20 months later, we had met our milestones and launched our new, singular name brand, “Bradley,” as well as our new website. There were successes and setbacks along the way, but in the end, we triumphed. Having come out the other end of this makeover, we would like to share what we learned along our journey in a three-part series, to help other legal marketers and law firm professionals apply the knowledge to their own large-scale marketing projects.
In the first installment of our Rebranding 101 series, In the first installment of our Rebranding 101 series, we wrote about whom to bring to the table at the outset of your law firm’s rebranding effort; and in the second, we discussed what parties to include in the rollout of your new brand. In the final article in our series, we discuss how to manage a project of this magnitude, including defining the scope, setting a budget and establishing a timeline in a way that allows for some degree of flexibility.
Start Early, but Not Too Early
As much as you might like to jump into a rebranding and start writing content and designing new materials, you need to gather a lot of input first. This phase of the process can be very time-consuming, so we recommend starting early.
However, don’t fall into the trap of putting the cart before the horse. Your law firm’s brand is the absolute foundation of the entire firm’s marketing strategy because it defines your firm’s identity. This means that the order in which you execute your marketing projects matters.
For example, before we started our rebranding project, we had already begun a website redesign. However, when the request for the rebranding arose, we immediately put the new website on hold. If we had built the new website based on the old brand, we would have invested a lot of time and money in an asset with a very short shelf life.
Do Not Underestimate the Scope
Do you know how many branded items must be reordered during a law firm rebranding? We didn’t, either, until we sat down and began listing everything we would have to redesign and reorder during the rebranding (for eight offices): stationery, pens, business cards, pocket folders, banners for tradeshows, table throws for events, promotional items, invoices, firm macros/templates, email signatures, PowerPoint templates, electronic brochures, email campaign templates and social media channels (including firm-wide blogs), among others. To help us in this effort, we relied on Excel spreadsheets and whiteboards to track what we needed to redesign and where each item was in the procurement process.
Failure to factor this into the scope can create some unpleasant delays in the completion of your project. That is why we recommend assessing every department of your law firm to develop a comprehensive list of all materials that will require updating.
Cushion Your Budget and Your Timeline
Scope isn’t the only moving target when it comes to a law firm rebranding. Trying to guess the actual cost of an image overhaul is like trying to hit a hole-in-one. It’s best to set the expectation for yourself and others at your firm that, with such large-scale projects, exceeding the original budget is almost inevitable. By giving yourself some leeway, you’ll ensure that you’ll be able to complete the project at the level of quality you set out to achieve, while avoiding going back to firm management and surprising them with a much higher bill than anticipated.
While we had a projected timeline from the start of the rebranding process, we discovered that part of the journey is navigating the bumps in the road as they arise — and there will inevitably be some bumps. Accept that things won’t always run smoothly and that certain aspects of the rebranding project may take longer than anticipated. Use your agility to create solutions to problems as they arise and adjust your timeline accordingly.
Launching Your New Brand
If you’ve read our entire series, you should now have a better idea of the people and processes required to complete a law firm rebranding. While our own rebranding wasn’t always the easiest task, we learned a lot along the way, and, in the end, we are thrilled with the results. That wouldn’t have been possible without the amount of time we invested into planning. To that point, here are some final, “big-picture” takeaways to consider as you get your arms around your rebranding project:
- Take time to prioritize: While your initial impulse might be to jump into the rebranding as soon as possible, slow and steady really is the way to go. Take time to plan how you will execute each part of the endeavor, and set priorities. For example, if your rebranding includes a website overhaul, know that you’ll need to have a new logo, a tagline and messaging before you can get too deep into the front-end design of the site.
- Record and track the scope of deliverables: Whether you use an Excel spreadsheet or project management software, find a way to list all deliverables and track the ongoing progress of procurement. The list likely will be long and diverse, including items as small as pens and as large as building signage.
- Do not underestimate your budget: Rebranding is expensive, and listing out all needed deliverables will help you get a sense of the overall cost. But even with such a list, it is prudent to add some extra cushion to anticipate the unexpected.
- Pad your timeline: As with your budget, underestimating the time required to execute a rebranding project can result in a reduction in quality as you speed toward the finish. Instead, leave some wiggle room to allow for inevitable delays and changes in scope.
We hope you have a similar rebranding experience to ours and that you are able to create an invigorating new identity for your firm — one that deeply resonates with your audiences and that you are enthusiastic about expressing through your marketing and PR channels.
Jacqueline Madarang is senior marketing technology manager at Bradley. She leads the firm’s marketing technology and digital marketing efforts, works with attorneys across the firm and focuses on developing digital, social and communications programs that further business development objectives. She oversees and manages the firm’s marketing technology, including the implementation of new tools firm-wide to assist in marketing and business development. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.linkedin.com/in/jacquelinemadarang or @jhmadarang.
Kelly Schrupp is the director of business development and marketing at Bradley. She has more than two decades of marketing experience – with nearly half of that time in law firms. Kelly focuses on developing strategic initiatives that further the business development, marketing and client relationship building objectives for Bradley's more than 500 attorneys. Kelly is a member of the Legal Marketing Association and the American Marketing Association, where she previously served as vice chair of social media. She can be reached at email@example.com, https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellyschrupp/ or @KellyTSchrupp.