I've spent a good portion of my sales and marketing career on the front lines of a handful of successful rebrands – post-divestiture AT&T in 1984, spin-off Lucent Technologies in 1996 and start-up Avaya in 2000.
My job was to maintain our momentum in the market (i.e., achieving sales growth and profitability targets) while helping customers to understand the impact of the rebrands (e.g., new name, brand promise, values, message and image) on them. Customer feedback varied and opinions were strong, as you might expect when a brand whose heritage spans more than a century of innovation and reliability undergoes a change so significant it requires a corporate rebrand on three occasions during a 16-year period.
The key to my individual success – and the success of these rebrands – was an extraordinarily high level of employee engagement across the business. Employee videos and TV ads, like AT&T's futuristic "You Will" campaign in the early 90's, brought the new AT&T brand to life and gave us a glimpse into a future filled with the promise of innovation. They inspired us to believe in what was possible. The integration of the new Lucent brand into our onboarding and training processes helped transform us into passionate brand advocates and evangelists. And volunteering along with 250 other Avaya employees in community service projects like the cleanup and restoration of City Park in New Orleans, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, gave us a sense of purpose.
These rebrands succeeded because senior management had the foresight to engage us often and early. They shared ownership of the rebranding processes with us and made sure we were emotionally invested in their outcomes. In short, they "sold" us on the new brands so we could confidently and articulately "sell" them to our customers and the communities we served.