Guiding a Corporate Rebrand From Start to Finish

The launch of the new brand needed to be exciting, inspiring, and empowering, yet also informative and even reassuring.

This past January, the Identity team took on the challenge of launching three (yes, three!) new brands in five days. With specialists in brand experience, creative, media relations and marketing, and social media, Identity leads companies through every step of the rebranding process — whether it involves refreshing a company’s brand image, launching an entirely new brand to the market, or uniting multiple business units under one cohesive brand, we’ve done it all.

One of the successful brand launches included the rebranding of Michigan Mutual Inc., formerly First Preferred Mortgage Co. First Preferred, one of Michigan’s largest mortgage lenders, engaged Identity in 2011 with a branding and marketing challenge: to unite their two companies — its retail division of First Preferred with its wholesale division of Michigan Mutual — as one cohesive, recognizable, and impactful brand. As the company expanded its national footprint and added hundreds of employees, it made strategic business and marketing sense to unite both divisions under one powerhouse mortgage company brand. Identity was tasked with executing this critical point in the company’s more than 20-year history.

During a year and a half, Identity led First Preferred and Michigan Mutual executives step-by-step through the entire process — from creating a brand voice to new brand images and all marketing content, managing the internal rollout, and leveraging our media expertise for a local and national launch.

“Who are we? What drives us? Why do we exist?” Identity brought together top executives for a series of in-depth, candid discussions centered on these crucial questions as part of our brand clarity process. This information combined with extensive competitor analysis led the company to choose Michigan Mutual as their new, combined name. Their goal was to leverage the wholesale division’s national brand equity, in addition to showcasing their pride in their home state and what Michigan represents nationally — a history of innovation, hard work, and Midwestern values.

Identity also captured their commitment to elevating the mortgage industry through exceptional, personalized customer service in a new logo, which represents a signature. The signature-esque logo serves as reminder to clients and team members that once all the numbers are crunched, something as old-fashioned and personal as a signature on a dotted line is what really counts when making a life decision as big as the purchase of a home. Identity also incorporated shades of blue into the logo as a nod to Michigan’s reputation as the Great Lakes State, and the founders’ beloved hometown of Port Huron.

Once the unique brand voice and image were established, Identity developed a tool kit with all of the necessary and desired collateral materials, including a new website, e-newsletter layout, advertising, office wall art and more. With the tool kit and brand standards guide in place, it was time for the internal rollout.

The launch of the new brand needed to be exciting, inspiring, and empowering, yet also informative and even reassuring. Change can be scary — people wonder what it means and fear that it might negatively impact their lives. Thus, it was critical to clearly communicate the reasons behind the brand change and to reassure employees that it was a positive step for the company and its bright future, as well as to share with them the vision and how this new brand would propel the company forward.

The brand was rolled out internally at the company’s annual employee gala at The Henry Ford Museum. The night is traditionally a celebration of the employees’ hard work and dedication, and a kick off to the coming year.

This year’s gala was a little different. It featured all of the evening’s traditional elements — team awards, dinner and dancing — but the main focus was on the brand change. The night kicked off with a high-impact, two-minute video that captured the company’s core focus and revealed the new brand. Following the video, the top executives took turns sharing their take on the change — why it would make the company stronger, what it means for the team members, and what the process included.  After the program, they spent the evening mingling with team members, answering any questions and continuing to share excitement. The next morning, employees returned to their offices to find brand new wall art reflecting the new look, as well as branded fleece pullovers at each desk — a process all managed and executed by Identity.

With six branch locations throughout southeast Michigan, as well as several offices around the country, the next step was to spread the word among clients and the broader community. The media strategy was comprised of two parts: a comprehensive brand change announcement, followed by continuous, strategic positioning of Michigan Mutual as mortgage industry thought leaders and innovators.

Identity leveraged strong relationships with local media to showcase Michigan Mutual’s extensive knowledge, leadership and growth, while also sharing news about the new brand. Identity’s efforts resulted in a variety of print and broadcast placements.

This post was co-authored by Stephanie Cosby