Opinion: "Baker Tilly's rebrand to RSM"
How can you keep the spirit of a brand after an acquisition? Richard Silbermann explains
Things that are important to us, such as cars, jewellery or other prized possessions must be regularly maintained, looked after and invested in, otherwise we run the risk of waiting years and then needing to spend thousands on fixing long-neglected issues.
It is just the same for a business’ branding, except the bill can run into six figures if you leave it too long before your next check-up. Looking at successful brands such as Coca Cola or Nike you will notice that their branding is constantly being tweaked to make sure it portrays the right image and communicates the company’s messages effectively. Moreover, any changes they do make are prompted by the need to stay relevant: changes are not made purely for corporate reasons or for the sake of change, but instead are built around the values and direction of the brand itself.
Some rebrands are of course executed as a necessity, rather than a specific choice to shake things up. Such was the case with the recent announcement that leading accounting firm, Baker Tilly, would rebrand to RSM after joining the RSM International Network in 2014. The move indicated an effort by the network to streamline the look and feel of all of its international brands, with uniform names, logos and images rolled out across all sub-brands from October onwards.
In cases such as these, the challenge for the brand and the wider network is to project that unified front in terms of brand image and recognition, but also to retain the spirit, heritage and worth that the sub-brand brings to the group. Speaking at the time of the announcement, Baker Tilly’s managing partner, Laurence Longe, says, “Although our name is changing, we will stay true to our roots, and continue to maintain the core essence and legacy of the Baker Tilly brand. Adopting RSM as our name will simply accelerate our path to a recognised unified global brand and strategy.”
This is a great attitude and shows that the management appreciates the challenge ahead of them in terms of balancing the past with the future. However, it’s vital that everyone is on board with the change, and that all employees understand what the rebrand means in terms of living and representing their brand moving forward. We always advise clients to publicise the rebrand internally. Internal brand engagement is key to the success of a rebrand project. The first step must be to ensure everyone in the organisation knows a rebrand is happening, the reasons behind it and what impact it will have on them, their peers, the organisation and their clients.
To that end, we would supplement one-way presentations with two-way brand workshops that allow everyone to ask questions of the brand champions. Very often an external agency can provide a valuable perspective and independent expertise in these sessions.
The Baker Tilly rebrand is just one part of a much wider strategy for the RSM Group and there seem to be solid plans in place to roll out the changes later this year. If we were to give them some advice, it would be this: they need to ensure that their brand is looked after and reassessed regularly. In RSM’s case, continuous investment will be required to ensure a smooth transition for the business, to continually reinforce the sentiments expressed by Mr Longe in terms of moving RSM towards a unified global positioning.
Many firms wince at the idea of this ongoing cost and can be reluctant to invest in a long-term resource. But just like refusing to look after your favourite gold watch is a false economy, so is allowing your brand to drift without steering it in the right direction. It is far more effective to view brand investment as an ongoing low-level expense rather than a periodic one-off major cost.
By Richard Silbermann, MD at Brand Remedy