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Podcast Episode 7: Reinvention or Refinement? B2B Rebrand Do’s and Don’ts

When considering a rebrand how do you know if you need a brand change, name change, or just a refresh? In Episode Seven, Will Davis talks to Barcoding, Inc., Manager, Brand Marketing & Design Jennifer Marin Jericho about the goals, focus, dedication, and processes required for a successful rebrand that garners buy-in and inclusion across an organization.

Listen to Episode Seven: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher

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Episode Transcript

Will Davis: With me today is Jennifer Jericho, manager of brand marketing and design for barcoding. Jennifer, you and I were talking off air and I always like to start with some interesting background. I heard two really interesting things from you. One is that you, were born and raised in Venezuela and the second is that you went to culinary school. So how does one get from culinary school into your current role now?

Jennifer Jericho: Well, first of all, hi and thanks for having me here. I suppose with culinary school, what I say is that it was a great way to exercise my creativity. And I think what brought me into more traditional role of design and branding and communications was realizing that cooking was a personal passion and something that I wanted to do without the strict hours of waking up at 5:00 AM to cut carrots at culinary school. Which, at that point in time really felt a little shallow for what I was interested in doing.

Will Davis: And so, you came from there through — and we’ll talk more about your background and just a bit — but as manager of brand marketing design for Barcoding, for our audience that isn’t familiar with Barcoding, who is Barcoding?

Jennifer Jericho: So, Barcoding is a supply chain automation and innovation company. We focus on data capture solutions using barcode and RFID labeling and printing and mobile computing. We’re based in Baltimore, Maryland, and we have offices across North America. We actually just expanded into Canada, which is really exciting for this brand exercise. What I really love about Barcoding is that we work under any industry that moves inventory all across the world. So, we work with brands as large as UnderAmour and Dick’s Sporting Goods and enterprise to small boutiques that just want to improve their processes.

Will Davis: That’s really interesting. And one of the reasons we have you here today is to talk about the rebrand that Barcoding just went through. But before we get to that, you have a really interesting background. You’ve been a professor, you’ve been a leader in the AIGA, you’ve been a brand marketing manager. What have you learned from each of those roles and how do you kind of put them to use in your day-to-day now?

Jennifer Jericho: So, I think the common theme between all of those roles is really design and communications. So as professor, I taught the Masters of Science and Human Computer Interaction about design and applying it to user interfaces. And I also worked with MFA creative writers on how to design their own books based on the work that they had done during their master’s program. So, teaching designed to non-designers really helped me refine my messaging about how you really use these tools and techniques to better communicate your message. Working with AIG a was this different facet, even though it’s the professional association for designers. Our job as a nonprofit is to build community as well as professional development for designers at all different areas of the industries. And as Co-President of the Baltimore chapter, we were really tasked on turning the chapter around and building it, growing its finances, providing value for its membership, as well as creating community and, board operations. So, through that experience, the logistics, operations, recruiting — because recruiting volunteers is very different when you don’t have to pay them and you have different ways in motivating people. So, all of those jobs really informed my role today at being an advocate and an in-house organization of the size of something like Barcoding.

Will Davis: That’s great. Yeah. Really interesting. And you know, as we talked about, that led you through to a recent rebrand, barcoding, uh, we’re going to dive pretty deep into that, but can you start by telling us about the process? What’s your role in the rebrand was and to begin with, why did it all start, right? Because many companies say, “hey, we’ve been successful (in Barcoding’s case 20 plus years) things are going well, why do we need to change now?” So, I guess let’s start there with sort of the impetus and the why.

Jennifer Jericho: It’s a great place to start. My role was to lead the brand refresh at Barcoding. And while I’d like to think that that started on my first day at Barcoding the catalyst really was our 20-year anniversary as well as the purchase of the new building. So, in moving our physical space, there was this opportunity to look at where we’d been for the last 20 years and think about where we were going and how we wanted to present our brand and our identity and a new way.

Will Davis: So, in your case, something like acquiring a building creates a nice trigger point for people to look at, “why are rebranding,” but as I can imagine where some people resistant?

Jennifer Jericho: Absolutely. I think that any form of changes and rebrand causes some resistance. So, I think the goal is to bring people along in the process. We often think that something like a rebrand needs to be some sort of surprise, but there’s something to be said for the anticipation of that, right?

Will Davis: How’d you get them on board? You know, just talking about there’s some resistance. Sure, you can build some anticipation, but still humans are not always great with change and since we all work with a lot of humans, I can imagine, a big part of the process was enrolling some, some key folks.

Jennifer Jericho: Yes. So first of all, to your point, you’re working with humans and if you don’t keep that in mind, your likely going to fail. My first message to my internal team was to keep in mind that we were going to be working with people of all different areas of the department, some that had been with the company since its inception. And so, a brand is a very personal process, which means that you have to not have the end goal in sight but build it together. So we start with leadership. We start with the research. We interview customers. We talk to our employees, not just the established ones, not just the directors and the vice presidents, but the people that maybe are brand new to the company that are seeing things differently. What I always kept seeing through the processes, we are going to make decisions based on fact as opposed to opinion. And that is really helpful to reframe the conversation when brands can be very opinion-based because there’s a lot of feelings involved in it.

Will Davis: That’s a great point. It’s really kind of leaning hard on the research and being able to say, “we went out to the market, we understood this. We looked internally, we learned that.” Rather than just saying I’m going with my gut on something. Being able to have that research and really not just the top but through all ranks internally and also externally in the market. 

Jennifer Jericho: Absolutely. So, one of the things that we questioned was name “Barcoding.” So at the very beginning when we started talking about the process, there was questions about whether we should change the name and we learned through the research, I think our favorite quote was everybody knows even your grandmother knows what a barcode is. And it was there in the research that we realized the equity in the brand. And one of the big concerns, going back to your question of resistance was this could be a distraction. We’re growing, we have moving to a new building, we’re gaining momentum in various areas. If we rebrand, is this going to distract the efforts of the company internally as well as confused external members? And so changing the name felt like a mistake. Like we were going to go down a road where we would spend more time people, “no, this is our name.” And “no, use these documents,” and “no this is really why we changed it,” and instead why not use that momentum and that equity of 20 years and just refresh, which is, I think it’s a big conversation when you’re looking at a brand change, is it still a rebrand, but choosing whether or not you’re going to refresh it or completely change it is really important point that you need to take the time to analyze before you move forward.

Will Davis: Yeah, I think that’s great. And you see so many companies that you know the gut reaction, as well, if we’re going to rebrand that, let’s change our name or let’s go really big without kind of doing that due diligence to understand, okay, is the name still relevant and we’ve invested so much in this that you talked about the brand equity that is this change just change for change’s sake and probably not valuable or is there a reason to change it?

Jennifer Jericho: So building that reason was so important, right? So what are our goals behind it and how do we stay focused and intentional through the process? Because this wasn’t a process that was overnight. We’re looking at at least a year of dedicated effort from various teams to make this happen. So, we needed to have our goals set up front and then find ways to remind everyone. So, no new goals or plans were being thrown in, in the middle of the process.

Will Davis: That’s a really good a control on the process too. As we talk about the process. What does that look like? I mean you talked about some of the research pieces and then really understanding, okay, step one is naming, but we could go everywhere from brand essence to positioning to visual identity, you know, all components of branding. How did that all come together for you and you know, what does that process kind of look like? 

Jennifer Jericho: Great question. It’s one that I spent a good amount of time researching before coming in today. Because when you have this many people involved, we were an organization, 150 strong, and really need to get buy-in throughout the company. So, it’s a lot of little moving pieces together. The first and most important thing was getting buy-in to start the process with our leadership. So before we’re even discussing a name, positioning, messaging is can we even start this process? For about four months, we started the process unsure on whether or not the actual brand refresh we were going to pitch was going to get approved to move forward. In that process as well, positioning and messaging had been built for the eight years that Jody Consta, the vice president of marketing and my fearless leader, she set the groundwork, which made it really easy because I do agree with you, some companies, they have to reinvent everything when they’re doing a rebrand down to their processes and how they hire people and the culture. And we didn’t have to do that here. Our messaging needed to be tweaked and refined. Our positioning with strong, our culture was strong. So what we needed was a visual identity to match those things.

Will Davis: That’s great. I think it’s interesting to hear that because many companies don’t do kind of that internal audit first and understand, you know, what do we need to change? If anything, what do we need to evolve? And either ends up being let’s take it all on when maybe you don’t need to, or let’s just redo the logo and then we’re good to go. And, and often there’s clearly different pieces of that that are important to different organizations.

Jennifer Jericho: So, what you said about logos is super important because from the very start, we were strong in our stance that we were not designing the logo, even though the logo was very much a central point of that process of getting people to think outside of that really helped. That we were creating an identity system. So because Barcoding had grown over 20 years, it had added a variety of technology to adapt to the needs of its customers. So what it had started as wasn’t what it was anymore 20 years later. And the product of that was a disjointed brand with 15 logos for every area of business. So visually they had siloed all of the different areas of the company, even though they were collaborating to offer solutions to their customers. And so that was the part for us that we realized we needed to create a more defined and focused brand that would help everyone talk about what we do well.

Will Davis: Yeah. I can imagine that disconnect where you have different pieces of the organization that maybe come into meet with a potential customer and they hand out the business cards and they don’t even look like they’re from the same family. Yeah. That’s a very tactical example. Right? But we see that all the time too. So, you guys work together, but nothing looks like anything else. So, creating some of that at a visual identity system too.

Jennifer Jericho: Yeah. We found that our customers knew that we did one thing but had no idea we did another. And so what opportunities were we missing as an organization if maybe they were sourcing business from other places that we were already doing. And as you might know, is bringing on vendors can be really complex. They need to be partners in the organization. They need to help support your business. And the more vendors you have, the harder it becomes.

Will Davis: I think that’s a big challenge sometimes in B2B is that sort of awareness of, oh, I didn’t know that you did that too. Right? Which is one opportunity as a B2B sales or marketing person too. It’s sort of soul-crushing for a moment where you’re like, Oh, you’ve been working with someone else who does that thing that we do and we know that we could do it more efficiently, more effectively. We love working with you anyway. And so really as you look at part of the branding exercise, how do you open up some of those opportunities, at least from a brand perspective?

Jennifer Jericho: Yes. And what I see is that the visual brand is supporting something that was very anecdotal. So all these conversations were already happening between the salespeople and the business development and all the different departments with customers, with partners, but it wasn’t being supported in that visual way.

Will Davis: So as you started to go through this process — any kind of sacred cows, anything where someone said, you know, in that period you were talking about where you were working, but you weren’t sure if you’d be allowed to move forward? And I want to say, okay, you can go through this, but you can’t change thing x or you know, someone high up in the organization is really wedded to something.

Jennifer Jericho: Yes. So we thought the flying barcode was the sacred cow, which was the brand mark for the logo. And again, a company named Barcoding. It’s brand mark is a flying barcode. We were concerned that was going to be the sacred cow. But was surprised that through the process people were much more willing to see the change and, and accept it. People were excited to see a new look. The one thing that surprised me kind of was the colors. The tech industry is very blue and it was very difficult for anyone to consider a color scheme that was different. What we did instead was build on the current palate as opposed to change it completely.

Will Davis: I think that that’s a good idea too is you talked about kind of enrolling people and getting some of that buy-in is maybe you can’t make a massive shift away from, you know, core colors. People have been used to over the years, but just kind of more subtle tweaks and adjustments.

Jennifer Jericho: That’s exactly the point of where you can be successful or you can fail in a project. Are you flexible or are you rigid? Are you willing to let something incrementally grow? Or do you need 100% of everything to change, to be happy with whatever project or initiative you’re running?

Will Davis: And I, and I presume you’re happy with where it landed.

Jennifer Jericho: So, it’s a really hard process when you’re in the middle of it. Now that we’re starting. So, we’re in the year of execution and implementation and now we have seven trade shows. The spring season, I’m starting to see all the additional collateral. When we expanded to Canada, we were able to roll out that blunt brand so quickly. And that to me felt successful. But there’s always this nervous part of, “did this work? was it the right thing?” I don’t know. I guess we’ll see, um, while still being very confident with everyone saying, yeah, we got this.

Will Davis: Before we get to some of the results what is the internal reaction been? What’s the market reaction and what have you heard?

Jennifer Jericho: One of the goals that I had was to launch the brand in January so we could ride the wave of the new year. So often in businesses especially cause we’re working with other businesses, there’s a ton of meetings where we’re planning the next year we’re figuring out where we’re going to collaborate. And it felt really important to launch in January when everyone is thinking about the calendar year and what we’re going to do next.

Will Davis: As part of the rollout, I read the training your ambassadors and building up energy prior to launch. We’re really important components to the rollout and important to a successful rollout. Can you talk about why those steps were so important and how you tackle them? 

Jennifer Jericho: As I mentioned earlier, I think that surprises can be really difficult to pull off and there’s something to be said for building anticipation. And so, bringing brand ambassadors in was going to determine the success of the launch. There are so many areas of business we needed to understand and take inventory of where we were going to apply that brand. What were the places that we did not know that there needed to be a brand presence? What places don’t have a brand presence that should have it? So, of course, it was a phased approach, but we wanted to at least for launch be aligned and there’s no way that we were going to do it alone and there’s no way we were going to get buy-in if it was just coming top down. So when we brought brand ambassadors in, there was just this level of excitement. We gave them brand hero tee shirts, which were like, I looked like a superhero on their shirt, the second logo. And um, you know, so people started to get excited because they felt like they were insiders to the process. We had about 12 people. And so they, they’d wear their shirts at work and people were like, wait a second, where did you get that shirt? And then they had buttons and we made sure to, when you’re adding a new initiative and you want to bring people on board, you also have to be conscious that they have a business to run and they have their own day to day operations to manage. So we also had to set clear expectations and the road: every other week meetings you can come if you if you can, if you can’t make it, we’ll make sure there are notes. Just making sure that they understood it isn’t that we’re giving you a whole new job here. We’re really, what we’re looking for you is to be cheerleaders of the brand and get other people excited. So part of it was also when we’re announcing the brand launch, we did it through word of mouth. Very different than if you get another email coming from an organization saying we’re doing something. And so instilling that rumor throughout the building in those six months really helped. And getting people excited and feeling like they were owning part of that process.

Will Davis: That’s a great point, too, because many organizations I think have the eye rolls. I go, no, here’s another email from marketing. Right. But really taking a different approach. How did you select those people? Did you look at kind of cutting across departments? Did you look at behaviors, types, influencers? Did you just see who raised their hand when another email from marketing went out? How did you, how’d you identify the right brand ambassadors?

Jennifer Jericho: The great question. It was a combination of all the things. You have to strategically pick the people that must be in the process. Our sales manager had to be on there. We needed to have someone from operations. When we launched and said our first call to recruit brand ambassadors is when we said, “hey, we have a, a new brand, a new logo, a new look who wants to be part of the launch?” We actually didn’t show anything and then had a, a type form survey where you had to tell us why you wanted to be brand ambassadors. So, you had to join the club, which again, it caused a lot of interests.

Will Davis: You had to apply to join the club, right?

Jennifer Jericho: Yes. So, we had some people that were “voluntold” as we like to call it, and then we’d had the people that really wanted to be part of it. And that was important because we found ambassadors in places that we didn’t know that people that were just really gung home wanted to be part of a process and want to be inside.

Will Davis: That’s great. So, in a rebrand like this, and you know, as you and I were talking off-air kind of five, 10, 15 years ago, it may have looked very different in terms of that executing where all the places where the brand lives. I mean you think about digital, social, sort of some of the communities you didn’t have to, I don’t want to say worry about as much, but think about as much years ago. How’d you identify all those areas? Are there places that sort of cropped up and you said, “oh we never thought about that.” Because a brand launch is really very, it needs to be coordinated. And if the website is updated but the email templates aren’t matching or the experience is disconnected, then it just doesn’t feel holistic.

Jennifer Jericho: Completely agree with you. First of all, it was making sure we’re recruiting the right people. I’ve told you about our internal team that was essentially my vice president, myself and my visual designer. We had the brand ambassadors and then we also recruited and external branding agency to help us through the process. And that’s really important to make sure that you have people that have zero idea about your business because they ask all the questions that maybe other people forget to ask in terms of identifying and taking inventory — that was part of the survey process. And of the facilitation process of listening, talking to different groups, paying attention. It feels still to this day really overwhelming if you, if someone sits down and says, where is your brand right now? And especially in a digital space, you don’t know what kind of documentation, finances — in marketing while you have probably more insight to the rest of the organization, you’re not involved in the daily customer touchpoints as much because you’re busy running the trade shows and online promotions and building new case studies. So really asking those questions and not being embarrassed that you may not know something that seems really straight forward. Uh, my visual designer was fantastic too, cause she’d walk around the building and she’d see the logo on, on the screen of the elevator. She’s like, write that down. So, finding the place where you were going to document where you were seeing the brand was really important. I have to say that while I think that the digital space added complexity for me, the hardest part was physical space. Our brand in developing and building a physical experience for a brand is so complex because you’re dealing with materials, lighting, location, obviously there’s all the different pricing, you know, depending on what choices you make, there’s, the interactive experiences of the brand. There’s not just putting the logo on everything and calling it a new brand. I also feel with digital space, there’s this morphing and evolution that can happen because you, you slowly change where physical space feels very final when you have to buy at 1000 things of the one thing. But to, to be honest, we had to phase it out. So that was another question — how do you phase it out and make sure that you have this unified front? We had the launch on January 9th and what exactly are the bare minimum things that we had to have done? There was obviously the accounting materials. We need to have word doc templates, PowerPoint templates, our email, our website branding needed to be ready to go. We wanted business cards in people’s hands. Signage. But there were some gaps knowing that we had a few months before our trade show season would start that maybe some of our physical, maybe the swag, we were developing the other signage, our corporate brochure kind of came into phase 1.2 and that helped also manage it. Realizing that we were a small team and if we took too much at front upfront, we might fail and then we would lose that buy-in and that confidence in the process.

Will Davis: So, we’re now, give or take 90 days in. First part about that is how did your leadership measure success of the rebrand and how did you measure success?

Jennifer Jericho: Success to me in a brand is in its execution. So, the design beautiful. The process and the research really telling. But, really, it’s about how it grows and evolves when it lands in the hands of the people that are using it. Something to keep in mind in terms of branding is it’s a very personal process because it’s your company and your organization, no matter what layer you work in. But to your customers, that brand instills confidence. If we’re saying that in B2B, it takes anywhere between seven and 15 people to make a decision. It means that you have an advocate sitting in a board room that has to prove that your company is the best choice to get the job done. And if I feel that my brand is successful, and I just don’t mean Barcoding being my brand personally, but the brand project is successful when you start to see it evolve. So I brought these Lego geeks in today.

Will Davis: Yeah, they’re really cool. It’s too bad people can’t see them.

Jennifer Jericho: And so we develop these Lego mini figures, they have the Barcoding brand on it. And we see salespeople, cause we have a lot of remote workers around the country, and they’ll put him out at ballparks and take pictures of him. And so we start using, you know, we see the social movement in this cultural movement with the brand and it means that people are owning it and it makes it feel like it’s their own. And we see the same thing when we see customers or partners that are wearing our tee shirts and not their own. That to me is success.

Will Davis: That’s great. Um, one topic I wanted to briefly explore, and we could probably do a whole other episode on this at some point in the future is a, you have a background in design thinking. Where did design thinking play a role in all of this?

Jennifer Jericho: Probably at every step of the way. So, design thinking is about facilitation. I never consider myself an expert in the room, but instead, how do I pull back and help bring the expertise and all of the different job roles and titles into the room to bring ideas out and then create focus. So, in facilitating a brand refresh project or any large project, you need to be able to understand personalities in the room. You need to be able to figure out how do you give voice to each person in the room in a way that helps feel collaborative and like you’re not shutting anyone out, but together you’re coming to the right decision or the next decision, which is probably more important sometimes.

Will Davis: That could be and maybe in the future its own episode. So, stay tuned for that. Before we go, I was at like to ask guests this final question. What would the Jennifer of today give as advice to an early career?             

Jennifer Jericho: For me, I think it’s about flexibility and adaptability. I think sometimes you are taught that you have to lay down your roadmap, figure out where you’re going, what the next steps are. And I think sometimes that hyperfocus can lead you to miss opportunities. And, so, in my coaching of junior designers, I often say, you have to keep your opportunities open and don’t, don’t put yourself in a box. Say yes to opportunities and see where it goes.