In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
Successful rebranding requires patience, good timing and an engaging strategy, according to AUB Group CMO, Vanessa Lyons.
Lyons was instrumental in the recent brand evolution of the risk and insurance solutions provider, formerly known as Austbrokers Holdings. The rebranding was 18 months in the making and got into full swing in the last six months, launching to coincide with the company’s 30-year anniversary.
AUB Group, a publicly listed company, announced its name change approval at its last AGM in November. The rebrand is part of its evolution in the specialist underwriting agency and risk services areas throughout Australia and internationally.
“Austbrokers implies insurance brokers or broking, and about three years ago our CEO started on a diversification journey to expand it beyond insurance broking,” Lyons told CMO.
“We now have a very big risk services areas as we now call it, and we’re also going quite strong in New Zealand, looking abroad and internationally. We wanted to evolve from the holdings brand to something that would take us more effectively into the future.”
Here are five key lessons learnt by Lyons as part of the rebranding exercise.
1. Prepare for the risk
Just like any major organisational change, Lyons said rebranding is not without its challenges, one of which is the risk of losing a recognised and valued brand. Going through the motions of moving the name to something more agnostic, she said, while still maintaining Austbrokers where relevant, proved the best way to go to market.
“Every organisation has a very strong asset in their brand, and Austbrokers as it is known has very strong equity - people really recognise and value it,” she explained. “Moving the organisation away from that completely in some respects, was a bit of a risk.”
2. Focus on change and restructure first
During her 18 months as CMO at the AUB Group, Lyons has faced the challenge of organisational change and diversification head-on by first focusing on the journey, before tackling the brand.
“This is a very difficult exercise, especially given the stakeholders we have,” she said. “We have a lot of investors and analysts and it is really important for them to understand the full repertoire. Ultimately, it required a lunchtime discussion to say we’ve reached tipping point, we’ve diversified enough now, and from a marketing perspective, it is time to revisit representing our brand correctly.”
Lyons presented the rebranding strategy to the board of directors and showed them that it presented minimal risk and was a positive step in the organisation’s growth. She also showcased what the rebranding would actually look like.
“Then internally, from a culture perspective, the organisation changes very rapidly and with that comes a lot of change,” she added. “This is one more change we had to put into the mix.
“But our staff sense that it is really the next era for our organisation. They’re a lot more excited about it now, because they can affiliate themselves with the organisation’s vision that we have been talking about for two years.”
3. Patience and timing are key
According to Lyons, there is a time for everything and while some things may seem quite logical from a marketing perspective, it might not be the most optimal time for the organisation to go through change.
“We waited to pick the most optimal time, and obviously I would have loved to have rolled out the rebranding even sooner, but now it makes sense for us,” she said.
Lyons advising waiting until the time is right to make the biggest impact.
“You’ll see larger organisations do this very well, especially if they have a large project team behind the hard changeover,” she said. “From an internal perspective, it’s also important to do the hard changeover and engage staff all the way.”
Lyons said the team spent three months getting everyone to understand what the new brand is, what it stands for, getting them excited and ready for the change.
“That way they, also feel involved and engaged,” she added. “It’s important never to forget people as part of the rebranding shift.”
4. Engage brand ambassadors
To ensure a smooth and seamless transition, Lyons said the AUB Group engaged fantastic ambassadors from various technical functions, who ensured a lot of the testing was done before it became effective
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been very smooth,” she said. “We’ve been receiving a very good response both internally and externally on what we’ve done.”
5. Having a global vision
With the AUB Group having equity and a 50:50 shareholding in about 75 businesses internationally, Lyons said the next phase for the organisation is to apply its strategic marketing thinking to these businesses.
“It’s about trying to help them grow by applying more group-wide marketing thinking,” she said. “We’re currently in pilot to expand this out on a bigger scale. It’s all about growth now, so it’s fair to say we have our house in order. We look, we feel and are represented as one organisation and one group, so now it’s a real focus on essentially the bottom line.”