Reproduced with permission from © Copyright 2024 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.

An inflection point can dramatically change the trajectory of a government contractor’s business.

Changes to the business strategy, graduation from small business set-aside status, a new executive leader, or an acquisition can accelerate the company brand and growth if the transition is executed well.

Such decisive moments often prompt a brand review and refresh. Why is rebranding important? If there is a rebrand, what is the right timing? (Is it ever too late?)

Here’s how to know whether to initiate a company rebrand and what benefits you can expect from refreshing your brand at an inflection point.

Why Rebrand?

A company’s brand is its identity. It’s the story, behavior, and impressions of who you are and how you present and act in the market. Good branding consistently presents your unique value to internal and external stakeholders.

When a government contractor moves through an inflection point, the company that emerges on the other side is forever altered. Neglecting a brand change is not simply a missed opportunity. A legacy brand, left unchanged, can quickly mire your company in stale and disjointed stories, behaviors, and impressions that confuse everyone in your community.

By contrast, a strategic rebrand aligns your company and stakeholders around the new mission, vision, culture, and capabilities. A successful rebranding will create excitement and position your company for the future.

Refresh or Rebrand?

A brand refresh is a smart move if there are no significant strategic changes and you simply want a fresh look or adjusted messaging. For example, changing up the colors or refining existing messaging may be enough to support an expanded product or service line that serves an existing customer market.

For true inflection points, though, a rebranding is usually more successful.

How to Rebrand

It’s critical that your executives “own” the rebranding. Your most senior leaders need to want the change and be available to engage in the entire process. The outcome will be more than new messaging and colors. It will be about how the company talks about itself, how it behaves, and how others perceive its leadership, culture, and capabilities.

A good rebranding starts with research. Internal and external audits and interviews with executives, customers, and partners will reveal what the industry is saying about how your company is perceived and where you’re going. Research and analysis of key competitors will also inform perceptions and recommendations.

“None of these decisions should be done by instinct,” said Toby Eckhardt, CEO and Chief Creative Officer of the branding and digital marketing firm Focused Image. “You need to do the work of talking to people to get your finger on the pulse of the organization,” he said in an interview.

An expert branding agency will use the findings to shape your new brand to be implemented across some or all of the following elements:

  • Company story
  • Mission, vision, and values
  • Logo and tagline
  • Website design and content
  • Collateral pieces
  • PowerPoint presentation

Together, you’ll strategically change those brand elements that need to evolve. The process can take as little as four months or as long as eight, depending on the complexity of the changes and how many brand elements you change.

Should We Update Our Logo?

Logos are particularly tricky. Some branding experts are known for pushing new logos.

“While they are important, I’ve never seen a logo that’s been responsible for a company’s success or failure,” said Eckhardt.

When changing the name of your company due to a merger, acquisition, or meaningful change in direction, of course you’ll need a new logo to accompany the name.

Alternatively, an outdated tagline can usually be updated without reworking the logo mark.

If you’re not changing the company name and your logo isn’t getting in the way of your brand, you may not need a new logo.

Right Time?

If you need a rebrand, start now. The earlier the better.

Ideally, the new brand will be rolled out around the time of your inflection point event. As you introduce a new leadership team or new strategic direction or complete a merger or acquisition, your new brand announcement will become a natural and exciting part of the story.

For government contractors graduating from an 8(a) small business set-aside program will need a longer lead time. Start getting the word out two or three years in advance, so your company and capabilities are known in the crowded open government market before you lose the benefits of the 8(a) set-aside awards.

If you wait until you graduate, that brand recognition will take much longer. Graduation is not a gentle slope—it’s more like a cliff.

Benefits of Rebranding?

Rebranding a government contracting company can offer a range of benefits, depending on your goals. Here are a few advantages:

  • Market awareness and appeal based on your new story and capabilities helps to capture the attention of current and new customers and partners.
  • Differentiation helps communicate what’s different about you and how you stand out from competitors.
  • Strategic alignment across employees, customers, and partners fosters a sense of connection and pride.

Do a New Brand Rollout

Once you’ve nailed down the new brand, it might feel like the work is done, but your brand value will come from informing and engaging those around you.

Instead of quietly updating your website, signature lines, social media platforms, and invoices, take the time to make a splash to introduce the brand. Tell the story. Share your excitement. You’re not simply unveiling your brand. You’re reintroducing the company to those who care about you most!

Use multiple touchpoints—meetings, emails, calls, and online information. Follow an “inside out” approach, letting your leaders know first, then your full employee base—ideally in an all-hands meeting that talks about the process, new brand, and next steps.

Next, call your strategic customers and partners and follow up with emails to reinforce the connection and story. Finally, distribute a press release to announce the change and use social media posts to amplify the news. When possible, visit every major office and customer.

A rebranding is an excellent reason to reengage and reenergize everyone connected with the company. As you move into the change you’ve outlined, you’ll have informed stakeholders supporting you every step of the way, ensuring its success.