Brand implementation: phased or with a big bang?

Just like there are many roads leading to Rome, there are many ways to modify a brand identity. Apart from a logo, a brand identity consists of a name, fonts, colours, iconography, and in some cases a tagline. Organisations can have multiple reasons to decide to rebrand, like mergers, repositioning or a name change.

When it comes to the implementation of a new brand identity, there are many strategies available. The two extremes are the phased implementation and the big bang implementation. Obviously, there are all sorts of gradations between these two.

Brand implementation spectrum, from phased to Big bang

Phased implementation vs. big bang
The main feature of a phased implementation is the application of the new brand identity on the basis of replacement. Stationery with the new brand identity, for example, will not be ordered until the organisation runs out of the old stationery. Phased implementation is usually linked to a specific period of time, during this time frame the old and the new brand identity will co-exist.

With a big bang implementation, the old identity will cease to exist from one moment to the other. It will completely be replaced by the new brand identity.

Strategy determination
In addition to the lead time of a rebranding or implementation project, there are a number of factors that can help you decide which implementation strategy to follow.

Costs. A new brand identity always entails costs. For example, you have to design the new brand identity carriers and to create guidelines. The replacement of the brand carriers themselves is usually charged to the organisations’ operating budget. After all, even without a new brand identity, you will need new stationery eventually.
The expenses of a big bang implementation, however, are many times higher compared to the costs of a phased implementation. This is partly due to the early amortisation of stock. Furthermore, the time frame in which the costs are incurred is relatively short, while with a phased implementation the expenses are allocated over a longer period of time.

Brand impact and target audience. During a phased implementation the old and the new brand identity co-exist. This can be confusing for your target audience. On the other hand, it can be equally confusing when a brand suddenly stops to exists, as is the case with a big bang implementation. Therefore communication with your target audience is essential, regardless of the strategy you choose. In one of our projects, CEVA Logistics (former TNT Logistics), we have rebranded the organisation with a big bang strategy. At the moment of the revealing of the new brand identity, the speech of the CEO was watched at all CEVA offices worldwide via a live stream. During the project, even the project members did not know what the new name of the organisation would be until the moment of revealing. Therefore the impact was huge.

Logistics. Logistics are always important to take into account. In some cases, brand identity carriers require a longer production or preparation time. This is the case with, for example, carriers that consist of more than one branded element or of elements in which legal requirements must be complied with. Think about a medicine box, with a strip of pills and a medical leaflet. A solid coordination is fundamental in these cases, especially when a big bang implementation strategy has been chosen.

Internal brand experience. How does your personnel cope with the rebranding? The success of a rebranding is largely dependent on how much your organisation is able to let go of the old brand identity and to embrace the new one. It is sensible to adjust the strategy by implementing the new brand identity gradually, or just in one go. Within the organisation, there is often resistance against changes. Therefore it is important to explain why the organisation, in turbulent economic times, invests in a new brand identity. A solid internal communication strategy can determine your rebranding success.

Association with initiated projects. In some rebranding cases, there are existing projects that have such a large effect on the organisation that a rebranding can be incorporated. In one of our recent projects, for example, it turned out that the launch of the Electronic Health Record (EHR) was the ultimate moment to launch the new brand identity. This IT-project had a huge effect on the number of applications that ceased to exist due to the EHR. Because these applications did no longer exist, there was no need to rebrand them, thus realising a major saving in the rebranding project.

Unfortunately determining the appropriate strategy for your organisation is not as easy as checking some boxes. Every organisation is different, as are the reasons for rebranding. A careful consideration of all the factors is important, one factor often outweighs another dependent on the specific characteristics of your organisation. In order to help you determine your implementation strategy, we have summarised the pros and cons of both the phased implementation and the big bang.

Pros and cons of brand implementation strategies

As stated before, there are two extremes on the implementation spectrum. We have experienced that in most cases a strategy will be chosen that lies somewhere in between. It is possible to use the big bang strategy on some of the brand carriers while using a phased implementation with other carriers. No two organisations are identical and the same goes for implementation projects.