Lulu Raghavan
Jun 04, 2013

Lulu Raghavan’s blog: A gorilla with lipstick is still a gorilla

How many companies that have gone through a rebranding programme actually changed from the inside?

Lulu Raghavan’s blog: A gorilla with lipstick is still a gorilla

Undertaking a ‘branding exercise’ has become quite fashionable in corporate India. Many Indian companies have visibly changed over the years. They now ‘look’ more contemporary, progressive and dynamic - Tata, Mahindra, Godrej, Aditya Birla, Shopper’s Stop, Axis Bank, Hero to name just a few. But how many companies that have gone through a rebranding programme actually changed from the inside? Have they been able to deliver the promise of their shiny facelifts, or does it just smack of a cosmetic makeover?

Sceptics point out that while the theory of corporate branding is sound, the practical reality, especially in India, is something else. Most companies don’t bother to invest in programmes like employee engagement, cultural change management and organizational alignment around brand values that are critical to the success of rebrands. All of these are much more important than the external launch event or the full page Economic Times advertisement. Without investing in the real levers of change, companies are falling short of realising the full potential of brand-led business transformation.

The truth is that you need to do much more than just make a great promise. You must make sure your company can keep it. How do you take what your company stands for and make it real for customers? How do you guarantee that your people, your products and your processes will deliver on the promises you make?

The best way to ensure success of your rebranding programme is to make sure that inspiring your employees to deliver on your brand’s promise is given much more importance than crating a new logo and brand guidelines. Get a cross-functional team involved in the programme to include senior management beyond the CEO and the CMO. HR and internal communications are critical functions and their heads should be a part of the core brand team driving this change. Spend a lot of time thinking through with employees what it will take for different functions of the organisation to deliver its promise to customers. This could be achieved through cross-functional workshops at every management level followed up by tools like brand spirit books, customer experience maps, a list of strategic initiatives and innovation diaries that help employees stay focused.

For example, when Pfizer wanted to change consumer perceptions about pharma companies, it launched a new global division focused on drug safety.

Importantly, it undertook a synchronised employee engagement programme to ensure that all employees understood that safety was every individual’s concern not just that of the safety division.  It was only after that was done that they undertook an external communications campaign to enhance the corporate brand’s visibility and reputation amongst stakeholders in key markets[1].

Another highly successful employee engagement initiative was Dell’s ‘Be the Reason’ campaign. Better employee engagement resulted in a 20 per cent worldwide increase in customer satisfaction. The programme (which covered both customer facing and non-customer facing employees) revolved around key employee messages anchored in the main theme and included a number of internal communication touch points such as emails from top management, webcasts with FAQs, localised posters featuring employees, screen savers and an innovative travelling banner on which employees pledged their commitment[2].

In sum, far more than just a chance to repaint an airplane or put up new signage at headquarters or build a new homepage, a branding exercise is an opportunity to create real change within an organisation and reap the rewards of a stronger bond with customers. Here’s to more Indian companies doing it the right way!

(Lulu Raghavan is the managing director at Landor Associates, Mumbai. When she's not obsessing about branding she is either cooking up a storm, checking out a new restaurant or traveling somewhere exotic. Follow her other adventures at






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