Rebranding is a tough thing to get right, especially for a well-established brand. You want to change how your brand is perceived – to reflect new features, updated company values, or even a merger – but you don’t want to lose the trust and authority you’ve built up already.
It’s a high-stakes game. Fortunately, you don’t have to find your way blindly. Dirk Biesmans, Head of Digital at TotalEnergies, knows what a minefield it can be. “Lampiris was known and loved for being a Liège-based, green energy supplier. The name Total did not have the same connotation with Belgian consumers,” Dirk explains. “So when Lampiris became TotalEnergies, we knew not to take it lightly.”
In our latest Beyond Digital session, Dirk shares the lessons learned from the company’s recent rebranding of its B2C division.
Lesson 1 – Plan ahead
The rebrand of Lampiris toward TotalEnergies wasn’t out of the blue; Lampiris was acquired by Total back in 2016, and the French oil giant has been investing heavily each year in green energy worldwide for years, because of its changing purpose to act as multi-energy company.
“The name change to TotalEnergies is only a small part of the rebranding effort. We’ve been putting in the effort and walking the talk way before we ever communicated the new name.”
Dirk Biesmans, Head of Digital @ TotalEnergies
Beyond having a long term vision and understanding the message you will convey, planning means deciding what your rebrand is going to look like and which resources you need to make it run smoothly. “We had a project team that was fully dedicated to making the entire rebranding go as frictionless as possible. That included making an inventory of all our branded assets that were in circulation, and deciding what to do with them. The most important ones are a no-brainer: the website needed to be redone and invoices needed to be updated. In total we had about 80% of our branded assets replaced. For the remaining documents, we decided to just stop using them altogether.”
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Lesson 2 – Make your moment
Once you’ve made a plan, the next challenge is to commit to it. “There will always be a reason why the time isn’t right, but you can’t wait around for the perfect moment,” explains Dirk.
That’s not to say that you should jump into it blindly, or be flexible if the situation requires it. But you’ve got to keep your eye on the bigger picture and not be distracted by the day-to-day difficulties. “We had already set our launch date long before the energy prices started reaching new heights. Those high prices lead to lots of questions and complaints to our helpdesks, causing them to flood, which creates more problems,” Dirk tells us. “So it wasn’t an ideal moment to change our name, as people might think that the rebrand was the reason behind all this. But had we waited out the storm, people would probably think that we only changed our name to shed a negative image after a bad period. Then we might have to postpone again. There really is no perfect moment.”
Some companies announce their rebranding months or even years in advance. TotalEnergies took a different route: “We chose not to have a long transition period but implemented it almost immediately: within a month after announcing the change, we had updated all our branded assets and communication everywhere to reflect the new brand.”
That’s fast compared to other famous rebrands, but TotalEnergies had a good reason for the rush: “For our Lampiris customers, nothing was going to change other than the logo on their invoice. Their energy stayed as green as before, their contracts remain valid, and their interaction with the company won’t change either. We didn’t want to make it a bigger deal for them than it had to be.”
Lesson 3 – Be transparent to stakeholders
For a successful rebrand, one really can’t underestimate the importance of open communication. “It’s essential to involve your most important stakeholders,” says Dirk. ”From employees to our customers. We chose to be as transparent as possible with everyone. We’ve always valued internal communication, but for the rebranding, we went the extra mile and organized several onboarding sessions, explaining what will change for them and when. These sessions included Q&A moments with the upper management and explanations on how the new intranet and brand platform work.”
Lesson 4 - Rebranding is more than a reskin
Even though the biggest change Lampiris customers noticed was the new logo, that doesn’t mean that the rebrand was only about an updated logo and a new color scheme. Dirk: “A rebrand is about updating the story you tell about yourself as a brand. That means adapting your messaging to the new brand, and explaining why you’re doing it. In our case, the challenge was to ensure people know that even though TotalEnergies has that familiar word in it, the new brand would resemble Lampiris much more closely than it would Total.”
To drive that point home, Dirk led a large, cross-media campaign designed to show off the brand values and engage existing and new customers.
Lesson 5 – Embrace digital marketing possibilities
According to Dirk, it’s hard to overdo it on the digital options. “We built a comprehensive 360 campaign where Above The line Communications and digital are one integrated story. Digital was leveraged to reinforce the message from ATL.”
The key to this is adopting a digitally native way of working within your company from the get-go. “If you don’t have the right expertise for this in-house, it’s best to work with an agency that does,” Dirk advises. “We even worked with several agencies for different aspects of the campaigns. That might sound like too many chefs in the kitchen, but if you align with everyone and keep communication open, it can work well. That’s also how you avoid working in silos,” he adds.
The TotalEnergies campaign consisted of the classics like Out Of Home billboards and TV commercials and well-known digital channels like targeted social and search engine ads. But also less common channels, like a Waze-integration, banners with an interactive chat function.
So what was most important? “Our customers are number one for us, and we followed through with that during the rebranding. Even though they would essentially be unaffected by the change, we still wanted to put our clients front and center and make sure they wouldn’t worry about everything,” Dirk clarifies. “We involved them closely and really listened to them, even held Q&A sessions for them where they could talk directly with the management.”
“We even did a test with influencer marketing. That was a first for us, and it worked surprisingly well. So well even, that if I could do it all again, I would invest even more in testing new digital possibilities.”
Dirk Biesmans, Head of Digital @ TotalEnergies
Lesson 6 – Don’t be afraid to experiment and adapt as you go
“The beauty of digital marketing, besides the options for tracking and targeting, of course, is that you can be agile with it and react to feedback much more swiftly than with ATL,” Dirk advises dedicating a small fraction of the campaign budget to piloting new digital technologies. If it doesn’t work, at least you’ve learned. “That’s how we learned that our audience didn’t engage much with our interactive banners. But if it does work well, you’ll not only learn from it but you may even be surprised by the ROI you can get – which was the case for our influencer campaign – and then you can decide to take it even further.”
“The bottom line is that rebranding is always a bit risky. But you have to have confidence in your brand, embrace the process and focus on building and maintaining trust with your stakeholders,” Dirk concludes. And if you don’t have the know-how in-house, don’t be afraid to ask for help externally. “There’s always someone you can learn from.”
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