Pulling Back the Curtain on a Rebrand
Episode #046: Mary Catharine Grau, Vice President of Brand and Communications at Resultant
Episode #046: Mary Catharine Grau, Vice President of Brand and Communications at Resultant
It can be tough to decide when your organization should go through a rebrand; it's definitely not for the faint of heart. That's why we're pulling back the curtain on a huge rebrand during this week's episode.
In this episode, we chat with Mary Catharine Grau, Vice President of Brand and Communications at Resultant. In her current role, Mary Catharine leads a team of marketers, writers, designers, and brand strategists to craft and share stories with the world about Resultant's people, work, and mission. Mary Catharine started at Resultant in 2014 and was previously at organizations including Well Done Marketing and Harrison College.
We're talking about what questions to ask stakeholders before a rebrand, the story behind an organization's name change, what happened on launch day, and so much more.
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Stephanie Cox: Welcome to Real Marketers, where we hear from marketers who move fast, ask forgiveness, not permission, obsess about driving results, and are filled to the brim with crazy ideas and the guts to implement them. This is not a fireside chat and there's absolutely no bullshit allowed here. And I'm your host, Stephanie Cox. I have more than 15 years of marketing experience, and I've pretty much done about everything in my career. I believe speed is better than perfection, I use the Oxford comma, I love Coca- Cola, have exceptionally high standards, and surround myself with people who get done. On this show, my guests and I will push boundaries and share the re real truth about marketing, and empower you to become a real marketer. So, first question, tell me something about yourself that few people know.
Mary Catharine Grau: I love that question, Stephanie, thank you for asking. So one thing that few people may not know about me is that when I was little, I, at one point aspired to meet everyone in the entire world. I told my mom that over conversation one day, and she reminds me about it pretty frequently. It's a surprising goal for someone who is an introvert. And I think for a while during my career especially, I tried to force my myself into behavior that would enable meeting lots and lots of people at once, and kind of force extroversion. Until I settled a little bit into my personality, and realized that okay, a goal of meeting everyone at once really just means, hey, you love people. You love hearing their stories, and it's okay to hear them one at a time in an environment that makes you comfortable. And that's kind of how I have paired my introversion with my love of people and love of getting to know them.
Stephanie Cox: I love that story. So one of the things I'm excited to talk to you about today is, you've recently went through a huge rebrand at your company. And whenever... I think that's a question that a lot of people are faced with. When should I rebrand, should I rebrand? What should the process look like? So let's maybe take me back to the beginning. Why did you decide to embark on a rebrand for your company?
Mary Catharine Grau: Sure. Well, I have to tell you I've been at Resultant for seven years, and even during the interviewing process, when we were KSM consulting and still a part of KSM, one of the questions that was asked of me was, should we rebrand? Do we need to find a new name? And at that point in time we were still really small, and honestly trying to figure out who we were. So it didn't make any sense at all to be our own selves out in the world. However, as we've grown, and as we eventually became not a part of our parent organization anymore, it became time both legally and for our organization's growth, and the true spirit of who we were, to have a different name that truly embodied the story of who we are today, and allowed us to be ready for the future.
Stephanie Cox: So one of the things I know about your organization is that brand and marketing are actually two separate teams. Who else was involved in making that decision on, not just, okay, we're definitely doing it, but what the new brand is going to look like? Can you talk me through that process?
Mary Catharine Grau: Sure. The process of creating the new brand was actually a really long and intentional process for us. So we had a variety of different stakeholders involved. We had champions from all across the company. So we had people from every different team in our organization be a part of the brand discovery, of the brand inventory where we collected all of our branded items, of the conversion, of the execution, of the rollout. And they were our champions on their teams for facilitating it, for helping us understand what we should be building, and then also for executing it and bringing the brand into the world. So we had lots of different stakeholders. At the highest level, our executive team was involved, and then our leadership team as well. And that included myself as well as our VP of marketing, Chelsea Gill.
Stephanie Cox: So as you said, it was a long process. Talk me through the conversations around figuring out not just the name, but what the brand's going to stand for. Was that something that was easy to align on early on, or did it take lots of conversations and people have different opinions? Because you have a company that's already been created, so you want to, a lot of times, stay true to who you are, but also grow that into this new entity because of all the change that's happened.
Mary Catharine Grau: Right. We were driving to an employee- developed brand, right? We wanted to appeal to our team first, knowing that appealing to our team was the greatest path for ownership and advocacy in the market as well. And so our process included interviews with 45 different employees, which was, at the time about a third of our staff. We talked to 25 different clients. We did a variety of industry research. And so it all came back to, the most important thing in developing our brand was to reflect who we were. And that was how we did work, not what we did. So we needed to tell the story of how we help clients thrive, of who our people are, how we bring empathy into the process of problem- solving, and all of the things that make our organization unique. What was great about the company that we worked with, they drove that creative process. And they helped us really articulate all of those important things along the way. And we agreed on those at the beginning of the creative process so that every time we made a decision about creative, we could point back to those decisions that we had decided were fundamental to what we were trying to develop.
Stephanie Cox: So, yeah. I know you worked with an outside agency that you've mentioned. How did you determine that they were the right partner? Because I think there's a lot of times, right, when you're think thinking about a rebrand, do we do this internally? Do we partner with maybe our existing marketing agency? Do we look at someone who specializes in it? What was that kind of conversation around finding the right fit for a partner for you?
Mary Catharine Grau: Sure. I think, coming from an agency background, I am partial and understand the value of having outside party be a participant and a facilitator in that process. Because they can hear and see things that sometimes we're too close to see. Right? So we worked, we took our time in finding the right partner for this process. Because we knew that developing a brand that based on who we truly are, that was a values- based brand, required a partner who believed in the same kind of branding philosophy that we did, and also worked in the same collaborative, iterative way that we did. And so we did, as you do, right, reach out to a number of different organizations, have initial conversations, bring them in to meet different people. And ultimately it was a bit of a gut- feel where it was like, this organization we worked with JDA Worldwide. This organization came and the conversations, their initial pitch for branding, lined up almost exactly to what I had pitched to our executive team when we decided to rebrand. That's how closely aligned we were on the fundamentals of branding and what we wanted to bring to the world.
Stephanie Cox: Which is highly unusual, usually.
Mary Catharine Grau: Yes, I do think that is highly unusual. But as an organization, it's really important to us to have partners who approach work, and who see the value of people in the process of whatever it is that we're doing, just like we do. So for instance, we're looking for a new human resources software right now, and the process has included also, what are their values? How do they approach work? How are all of the different stakeholders involved? What does it look like to involve the right people at the beginning of this conversation so that the outcome that we achieve actually helps those people who all are stakeholders? And we did the same thing with the brand. We put people first, we put how we wanted to work at the front of the conversation, because we know that that's how our team works when we work with clients.
Stephanie Cox: So now you've partnered with this agency, who's very well- aligned to really, your business. What's the first couple things that they did as part of that process? I know, obviously you wanted that to be employee- driven. So talk to me through how you started to work. What kind of activities, sessions were held to really start to come up with what this new brand's going to look like?
Mary Catharine Grau: Sure. The first thing we did was discovery, right? So we had a day- long session with our executive and leadership teams to really think about brands. What we liked in the world, what we didn't like in the world, who we were then, today, and then who we wanted to be. What our business plan was, all of the different things that roll around, and you take into account when you're looking to develop a brand that truly represents the organization. And then we got into really understanding who Resultant today was to our employees. So we've been around now for 13 years, and we have some people who have worked for our organization for the entire time. They were and are really invested in who we are, and how we represent ourselves to the world. And so we had conversations with 45 different people. They were people from all over the organization, from all different teams, right? Sales team, internal teams, actual project managers and technologists, and all different people to understand what they thought of the organization, what they thought our brand aligned with, didn't align with, what they wanted to see in the world, and why they think that Resultant is different and special. And so we had lots of those conversations, and then we did the same ones with clients. And had the same kind of conversations. Why do you work with this organization? What do you think of their brand? What is missing for you? What do you admire about it? What kind of value do they bring to you? Why are you a partner? What do you think of the people? All kinds of different questions that helped us really discover the true essence, if you will, of our organization. The true value that we had to provide so that we could write the story around it. It was an intense and time- intensive process, I would say. Lots of people involved, lots of different conversations, most of them in person, some of them over the phone. And then we also dug into all of all kinds of data that we had on our organization, from client surveys, employee surveys, sales numbers. Lots of industry information, all different kinds of research and discovery that the team had available to them as well.
Stephanie Cox: So after you've done your discovery and you start to really shape what this brand looks like, where did the name change come into effect? When did you start batting around different possibilities for the name?
Mary Catharine Grau: Honestly, I think they started from day one, but then with the actual creative brief that came out of all of that discovery, were really able to dig into it. And so the partner came back to us with multiple names, and we talked about what fit the best, what felt right for our organization, what different possibilities there were in terms of legality of course, as well as where we wanted to be in the world. And honestly it took a little bit of back and forth, a couple of rounds, and then we landed on Resultant. And that, honest, that felt right from the get- go for our executive team.
Stephanie Cox: Why is that? What about it stood out to you?
Mary Catharine Grau: Well, Resultant is a math term, and it means multiple inputs yielding a single output. So it kind of alludes to collaboration and creativity in that sense. And our CEO and our president both have engineering backgrounds, so I think they were drawn to it from the get- go, right? Because it spoke to who they were. For the rest of us it was a draw because it feels unique. It feels like it represents who we are, it has strength to it. It has strength to it. And it has a lot of possibility in terms of where we get to and want to go as an organization. It also, when it was presented to us, you review a name, right? The name has no creative association attached to it. And so Resultant, with the strength that it had in the confidence that it portrays, allowed us to really build a brand around humanity and empathy that maybe wouldn't have been available with a more traditional consulting firm name.
Stephanie Cox: So now that you've had the name and you've started to shape this brand, how did you think about the rollout process? Both internally and externally. What was the thought around how and when we're going to do this?
Mary Catharine Grau: Sure. Rebrands are a beast, right? Especially full rebrands. And in a professional services firm? Everything we do is branded and presented to a client. And so our rebrand project plan was enormous. And honestly, the rollout was intended coincide with some organizational milestones that we needed to hit. And from the dates we worked backwards, right? And this is when we need this information for the launch, this is when we'll have to execute X, Y, Z for IT, legal, et cetera, et cetera. I think a lot of times when people think about a rebrand, it seems like, oh, marketing will do some things. And they'll put something out into the world, and we'll make a big splash of it. Well, that's true. Right? But in order to get there, especially for an organization that does IT managed services and technology implementations, we needed to make sure that our clients felt really, really supported, understood what was happening, and knew what to expect from a technical standpoint, right? The logo that is on their computer, that supports them for the help desk, was changing. You don't want that to change without clients expecting something like that kind of change. And so we went into a lot of thought, initially had a plan that rolled everything out to our clients on day one. And after a little bit of time, realized that that was not the right approach for our organization. That we needed to give ourselves a little grace in terms of slowly rolling it out. But more important, we needed to provide an opportunity for additional conversations with our clients so that they felt supported in that transition. And so that drove a lot of the timing as well. Internally, our internal rebrand process started before we even started the project. So we started talking to employees about the rebrand, about what was to come, when we decided to do it. That's when we chose our brand champions. And they were involved every step of the way. We brought employees into the learning process, here's what came out of discovery, here's how many different conversion documents we've discovered in our organization, how many different applications we use that will then be rebranded? And so we brought them into that process in a way that helped them feed into it, as well as set expectations for timing, for level of effort, for all of the things to come. And it built excitement, of course, as well. Our employees also helped make some key decisions along the way, right? So we had people participating in website development, we had people weighing in on what should our initial t- shirts be? We did a photo shoot with people from all over our organization to get actual photos of our people when we were ready to launch. All different things along the way that we knew our team had lot of ownership of, and wanted to be a part of, and we also knew would be additive to the process and not necessarily... I'm trying to think of a way to phrase this, so cut this part out. But we involved our team in things that would be additive to the process, where they could really help us shape what was presented to the world and to our team in ways that were exciting, and fun, and engaging.
Stephanie Cox: So as you thought about giving yourself grace, which I absolutely love. Because I think oftentimes marketers and other leaders tend to hold ourselves to these exceptionally high standards, and want to get all of it done so quickly, and have it all roll out like in a perfectly tied bow.
Mary Catharine Grau: Right?
Stephanie Cox: Right? I mean, it's so true. So I love that approach that you took to it. Now looking back on what you've been able to do with the rebrand, it's been out in the market for a few months now. What would you say that you wish you would've done differently, in terms of the whole process? Is there anything that you, if I had to do it all over again, I wish we would've made this decision, or we would've, we could have waited on this.
Mary Catharine Grau: I think throughout the process, in order to meet those organizational milestones, we changed the launch date at one point in time. And what that allowed us to do was build out the brand really significantly before we launched. If we had gone with the initial launch date, we would've had a brand for day one. But then on week two, we would've had our hands in the air and thought to ourselves, what happens now? So by giving ourselves a little bit of grace and extending our timeline, and matching that with organizational timelines, we allowed ourselves to say, okay, how do we not just launch, but how do we engage in the whole process here along the way? And I think we did a... I feel really good about how we launched the brand, how we brought it into the world. And I think three months later, one of the things that we're focused on now, that we probably could have focused on a little bit more during that time, is making sure that we continue training our team and continue providing brand resources for our people who are going out into the world, being advocates and being stewards of the brand. So one of the things that we've seen is that everyone has taken a ton of ownership and a ton of pride in the Resultant brand. And so what we're putting out into the world in terms of client deliverables, in terms of all of those pieces of the brand that go lots of places, have been exceptional and really thought- through. But we probably could have made it easier on our people. If we had implemented a tool to gather those things a little earlier, and if we had provided ongoing training earlier on after the launch,
Stephanie Cox: Is there anything that you would say that, this went exceptionally well, and other people could learn from it if they're going through a similar situation?
Mary Catharine Grau: Sure. So we launched our brand at seven o'clock on a Monday morning. And we had everything ready to go, every... I went to bed fairly early the night before, it was so surprising. I couldn't sleep of course, because I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, just waiting for all of this to happen. But I knew everything would launch at 7:00 AM. And so come seven AM I get my email that has our launch video for our employees, it gives me all the good feels, I'm so excited of about it. I see our client email go out. We're watching the open rates, watching the clicks, they see and are excited about it, or at least are responding in ways that show that they are interested. But there were almost crickets, internally. And I was kind of like, oh no, what did we do wrong here? Why isn't when making a big deal out of this? And after I got over an initial shock about that, I realized it was best possible scenario, right? The market was talking about the rebrand, but our people and our clients had been so well brought into the process that it just seemed like another Monday. It was like a Monday wearing a different hat, right? Everything was happening as it should happen, and that was the biggest surprise. And looking back, I can't think of something that I am more proud of than the fact that on day one, our employees, our team, was simply operating as Resultant. Like it had always been that way.
Stephanie Cox: Which is a job well done.
Mary Catharine Grau: Well, I mean they were all, everyone was a part of the process, right? They helped to build it. And I think honestly, they were as excited as we were to finally get it out into the world, and to be able to wear a hat, wear a story that felt like it fit correctly, and we were really proud of.
Stephanie Cox: So, final question for you. If you're talking to someone else that's getting ready to embark on a rebrand, what is the one piece of advice you'd give them?
Mary Catharine Grau: May I give two pieces of advice?
Stephanie Cox: Of course.
Mary Catharine Grau: I'm going to, I'm sorry. Okay, one is bring the whole team involved. Don't surprise anyone that this is happening because your team has really valuable knowledge about who you are and how you present yourselves into the world. And so make them a part of that conversation, and let them help build it with you. You'll have a better outcome in the end. The second piece of advice is bring the right people into the room. We had, on our launch team finance was involved, legal was involved, administration was involved. IT was involved. We had a project manager in addition to all of the marketing functions, the brand and marketing participants on that team. And we never could have done it well without them. So everybody was an expert in their own area, knew exactly what they needed to do. Did exactly that. And having the right people on the team, and knowing that the right people was well beyond the scope of creative, was incredibly important for our success.
Stephanie Cox: You've been listening to Real Marketers. If you love what you've heard, make sure to subscribe, rate and review our podcast. And don't forget to tell a friend. All of this marketing goodness shouldn't be kept a secret.