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How to Successfully Rebrand: Get Your Affiliates Onboard

Affiliates and chapters can reinforce your organization's brand identity. But they can also pose rebranding challenges. Each affiliate may want to maintain its own identity and could feel threatened by top-down changes. Make sure affiliates or chapters are included in the organization's identity and buy into the changes.

Organizations with chapters or affiliates face extra challenges when rebranding. Some of the issues that may need to be addressed are:

  • Will the chapters adopt the new messaging?

  • To what extent will they align with the parent’s brand elements?

  • In what ways (financial, technical and other) will the parent agency help in the adoption process?

  • Do some of the chapters/affiliates want to retain their own identities and culture?

How then does the parent organization persuade its chapters and affiliates that a unified brand will benefit them? These suggestions may help.

  1. Chart a clear course. A change in branding requires a clear plan and purpose, with a timeline and end goal.

  2. Make sure people know what is going on and why. Explain the importance of the change using all types of organizational communications — newsletters, emails, in-house blogs or social media posts — to make sure stakeholders have the opportunity to learn about the benefits of the change through whatever channel of communication they use most often.

  3. Provide examples of the benefits. Chapters or affiliates should benefit from the change. Let them know how. For example, the new brand may reach new demographic groups or regions, which will create opportunities to increase membership. Include chapters and affiliates in the brand architecture so they don’t feel as if their identity is lost.

  4. Solicit opinions: This is essential to generate buy-in. To start the discussion, the parent organization may ask its affiliates about current perceptions of the overall organization. For example, is the company perceived as traditional or forward thinking? Is it authoritative or lacking in authority? By determining how different stakeholders rate the organization based on contrasting features, you may more easily gauge the level of acceptance you are likely to get for either a big or small change in branding.

  5. Create opportunities for participation. Resistance can be mitigated if people are part of the process. For example, beyond the traditional focus groups, the parent organization could consider a “National Community Planning Week” during which chapter members can voice their opinions about rebranding.

  6. Reach out to WOMs – “Word of Mouth” stakeholders. These are key influencers whose opinion is valued and deferred to. Knowing the correct channels for communicating with these key influencers — and convincing them to support rebranding — is an important bridge between old and new.

  7. Help them overcome obstacles. Your chapters and affiliates may not know how to implement new color schemes and logos. Provide brand guidelines and templates to make it easy. Training webinars can be a venue for answering questions and showcasing ways in which the rebranding will make the chapters more successful.

Recognizing the concerns of chapters and affiliates is important. So is listening to and incorporating good ideas. But nothing makes everybody happy. Don’t let a few reluctant people derail your rebranding project. It is better to pursue a clear, well-thought-out strategy than to look for a muddy middle ground that smooths things over with stakeholders. Decisions can be made with less than 100% support. In time, it is likely that even recalcitrant stakeholders will become comfortable with — and even advocates for — the new brand.