Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Free advice to my former employer

When a brand icon that you had a hand in creating changes, it's like sending your first-born child off to college for the first time. Emotions range from deep grieving to deep pride. Such is the case as my former employer, MMA, changes its name, its logo, and quite possibly its basic brand orientation.

Once a small church-based financial services agency, Mennonite Mutual Aid became "MMA" during my 18 years with the organization. During that time the marketing unit I led worked to build a solid brand around the notion of personal Christian stewardship. It seemed to work well.

In the years since my departure, MMA has merged with a credit union and is fast expanding its market. For a variety of reasons, the company decided change was needed. It hired FutureBrand to create a new name -- Everence -- and logo. Reactions are mixed among various people I talk to about it. But that's not unusual given such sweeping change.

As MMA embarks on its journey to become Everence, I have a few bits of advice to offer my former colleagues:
  • Remember that it gets messy before it gets good. Much of what you'll be doing is change management, and let's face it, people don't like to change. Lead them gently and know that you may lose a few good souls along the way.
  • Don't lose sight of the fact that your brand is not your new name and logo. You've still got to feed and nuture the true brand of the organization, especially now with a new name that at this point means nothing. You will imbue it with meaning, not just in what you say, but also in what you do as an organization.
  • That said, you need to give careful attention to defining who you are and making sure you know what others think you are. Without either of these points of knowledge, you'll be lost trying to run a branding effort.
  • Keep in mind that this stuff takes time. You'll be measuring success in decades, not in years.
  • Finally, the three most important words to remember: consistency, consistency, consistency. That's the only thing you really control in establishing your new name as a solid brand in the world.
Good luck!