You can't just flip a switch. The Natural Baby Company discovered firsthand that rebranding is an intensive process.
When we launched Gro Baby, our modern cloth diaper line in April 2009, we had no idea how much it would transform our business model. We started The Natural Baby Company in 2005 with three product lines--WonderWraps, Pocket Change and DreamEze. Now our successful little company, with a mere 50-plus retailers, was about to experience a boom in business.
Within months of the Gro Baby launch, we had wholesale distributors on three continents and were supplying 500-plus retailers worldwide. It was abundantly clear that the Gro Baby brand name would outsell our other products, and it was starting to define our company. Customers and retailers no longer knew us by our company name, The Natural Baby Company. They knew us as Gro Baby.
In early January 2010, our team sat down and started strategizing. We asked ourselves some very simple questions: Who are we? Who are our customers? Where is our company going? Over the course of a few weeks, we took the time to brainstorm ideas, names and mission statements. We eventually decided to pick a single brand name that all of our products would be sold under. The name chosen was GroVia. Our brand mission: Simplifying the way parents nurture baby, naturally.The amount of work that goes into a rebrand is substantial, to say the least. Timing is so important, and scheduling and meeting deadlines are mind-boggling.
Don't underestimate the need for a good public relations firm, a strong graphic design team, a savvy marketing plan and the finances to accomplish your goal. From the day we chose our new brand name, we worked daily on the rebrand project, sometimes having multiple meetings a day to make our deadlines.
Why "GroVia" (Gro-Vee-Uh)? Via means "by way of." Gro was to pay homage to Gro Baby, our all-cloth and hybrid diaper systems. With a big rebrand and new products launching, our company offers three distinct ways to diaper your baby: GroVia's All-in-One (all-cloth diaper), our unique one-size hybrid diapers (a cloth shell paired with either a cloth or eco-friendly disposable soaker pad), and our new BioDiaper (an eco-friendly disposable diaper). GroVia better defines our company and our mission. Every family can "Gro" in a healthy, sustainable way with our diapers.
A rebrand touches every component of your company, from product development and packaging to web design and marketing. Being absolutely certain that all the pieces come together requires careful, strategic planning. For our company, this meant extra working hours for the entire staff over a five-month period.
A critical part of rebranding is the challenge of getting your loyal customers and retailers on board. We had many internal meetings about when to tell our retailers about the rebrand, how to tell them and how we would handle any negative feedback.
We wouldn't be where we are today without the loyalty of these individuals, so we knew that they deserved to hear the news of our rebrand first, and straight from us. We created a personal letter with the rebrand details and delivered it to them two weeks before the formal press announcement.
Even though GroVia products weren't available yet for retailers to purchase, we wanted them to be the first to know and committed to helping us with a successful launch.
And they were. We received great feedback. If you take pride in your customer service and personal relationships with retailers like we do, it's likely you'll have a similar outcome. We have more than 500 retailers worldwide, but we wanted all of them to feel as though they were part of the decision--giving them the opportunity to take ownership and pride in an exciting change they could soon offer to their customers.
Streamlining the scheduling of the rebrand is key. You don't want your business to be "dead in the water" while you rebrand; you must maintain your forward momentum while planning your announcement. This can be a struggle. For example, Redbook magazine had plans to publish an article about Gro Baby and me in an issue that would be distributed a few weeks before the official rebrand announcement. We had to decide whether to leverage the reach of this major publication to garner awareness about our new brand or keep GroVia a secret and not stir up premature buzz.
If we did mention GroVia, would this create too much confusion for our existing customers? And if we did mention it--were we even prepared? If we didn't have our GroVia website up and running, we would be driving people to a brand that didn't exist yet. Would we be hurting ourselves in the long run? So many questions, and so much scheduling to be done. We decided we would ask Redbook to use Gro Baby in the article, but include a mention of the new name ("now known as GroVia") so we wouldn't lose out on the extensive reach of a magazine catering to one of our target demographics.
As we expected, the outcome was good, but not perfect. It was a great plug for the new GroVia name, but we were immediately inundated with phone calls and e-mails from customers wondering when they could get the new product--and furthermore, what is it? The article sparked lots of conversation on blogs, parenting forums and on our social media pages. The parents who use our products are our advocates and brand ambassadors, and we were worried that if we didn't give them the scoop, they would become uninterested and frustrated. Fortunately we began receiving feedback like, "I am so excited for GroVia, whatever it may be . . ." We had people excited and eager to hear what GroVia was. We had made the right decision; our tactic worked in support of our upcoming launch.
We accomplished our goal: GroVia has hit the market hard and fast, bringing nearly all of our loyal Gro Baby customers with it, which is a huge success. At the same time, The Natural Baby Company remains GroVia's parent company and, as such, retains its own website.
The press coverage garnered about GroVia before the official rebrand has brought much positive attention to our company and our retailers. Instead of deterring parents from buying a soon-to-be discontinued line, customers knew that now was the time to buy Gro Baby products. We gave retailers an opportunity to take part in massive promotional discounts. With everyone in the world watching their wallets, parents jumped at the chance to get a product they love at a discounted price. Retailers were able to generate huge sales--another boost for morale.
After we discounted the existing Gro Baby stock, we had to decide what to do with leftover product. There are many options, but because our company is so enthusiastic about giving back, we decided to donate the items to some fantastic charities that needed product like ours.
I'm thrilled to be finished with our rebrand, and I can honestly say our company is better for it. My best pieces of advice for others considering rebranding are:
- In the earliest stages, brainstorm. Ask yourself these simple questions: Who are we? Who are our customers? Where is our company going?
- Be absolutely certain you are working closely with an intellectual property attorney while choosing names. You are going to want to choose a name that can be registered.
- Enlist the help of a PR firm starting in those early stages, and start planning how you are going to launch your rebrand to the public (we chose Saeger Media Group).
- Know your competition. Does your rebrand set your product apart from others on the market? This is your chance to update your image; don't try to fit in with your competition--take a risk!
- Budget accordingly. Rebrands are expensive, no matter the size of your company. Be certain you have allotted enough for a strategic public relations campaign (from press releases to interviews and events) and aggressive marketing following the launch of your brand.