Living the brand – working with HR to get your people onboard a rebrand

Launching a new visual identity is one thing. Launching it successfully is another. What are the critical elements you need to get right?

One of my colleagues at TANK, Neil Shewan, has spent many hours working with organisations to uncover the triggers that help a new identity hit the mark both internally and externally. I asked him to share his insights:

So, you have a shiny new visual identity, and you are ready to launch. The CEO is on board. Check. The style guide is in place. Check. The PR is ready to roll. Check. The hard work is done. Wrong.

A brand platform needs to focus on four perspectives:

  1. The visual signals we send through our visual language, our signage, our website and our marcomms,
  2. the communications signals we send in our tone of voice, the way to communicate and the channels we use,
  3. the physical signals we send through our built environs, products and brand artifacts, and
  4. the behaviours we signal through our people and our attitude.

This last perspective is especially critical for a service brand. Aligning the behaviour of your people with the attributes of your brand is one of the most difficult parts of a brand project.

As brand and marketing professionals we all understand communications. However, when it comes to change management of people, we often need help. And the reason we need help is that much of the work falls to your human resources team. Getting the HR team involved early in a brand project can assist with the smooth integration of the brand.

In working with your HR team, add the following to your checklist:

Brand reinforcement. After the initial launch of the brand it is important to ensure the attributes of the brand are translated into proof points and actions for your employees. This needs to be reinforced regularly. Consider focusing on a different attribute of your brand every quarter. Brand reinforcement can include coaching, mentoring and training.

Recruitment and on-boarding. The behaviours you need to exhibit through your people need to be built into the recruitment process. What skills, attitudes and experiences are you looking for? Once a new person starts, it is important that the on-boarding process is heavily influenced by the brand.

Performance, reward and recognition. When people are ‘on brand’ they should be rewarded and recognised.

Engagement. Provide opportunities for your team to live the brand, and see what others are doing. This involves events, communications and surveys that seek to engage the team and keep the brand fresh.

External assessment. Know what your customers and clients think of your brand, then feed it back to your team. Ensure there are ways to assess individual performance as well as overall perceptions at a corporate level.

Corporate social responsibility. The behaviour of your organisation towards work balance, sustainability, social justice, supporting charities and work conditions (just to name a few) greatly influences the perception of your brand.

With all these elements in place, a new identity that is strongly aligned with the values and core idea of your organisation is likely to be embraced by those most important to its success: your own people, the best brand ambassadors you can find.


Neil Shewan is managing director of TANK and an active member of various industry bodies including the Australian Marketing Institute, Australian Institute of Management, and the RMIT Design Education Advisory Committee.

Richard Foster
BY Richard Foster ON 5 November 2012
Richard Foster is the head of writing at Melbourne branding agency TANK. Richard’s focus is helping organisations find clarity and meaning in their written and spoken communications. For more information visit