September 16, 2014

Corporate rebranding dilemma – should RFPs focus on “push” or “pull” strategies?

Having worked on corporate rebranding initiatives for years as brand implementation experts, we are often asked by our corporate clients to help them develop RFPs for supply chain vendors, such as vehicle graphic manufacturers and installers. In almost every case, they ask for our help because of past brand implementation nightmares, either rebrands that took too long or went way over budget.

Typically, the nightmare had to do with brand management and/or procurement teams assuming they were buying branded products. In reality, a combination of services and products are required, similar to other outsourced specialty areas. For example, if the corporation needs a specialized intellectual property contract drawn up, in-house attorneys know that the expertise of the lawyer creating the contract (service) impacts the quality of the contract (product). During a corporate rebranding, the expertise of vendors selected to create or install branded materials impacts the overall quality of the branded touchpoints.

The first step in assisting our clients involves reviewing draft RFPs to understand their corporate rebranding process. In almost every case, we’ve discovered the brand management team started with a product-driven RFP template developed by the procurement department instead of a service-driven RFP.

Let’s use a corporate rebranding for a regional cable company as an example. Due to the complexity and scope of a multi-state rebranding, we’ve found that the logistics and service elements cost as much if not more than the tangible materials. It’s not like there’s a warehouse full of pre-branded materials in each market where cable company brand managers can simply pick up what they need and “poof,” the materials are installed. Finding the right vendors to rebrand vehicles, signs, uniforms, etc. across an entire region is what leads to corporate rebranding success.

There are also the issues of time and cost to consider for RFPs. Looking at the “push” versus “pull” framework for logistics and supply chain management, the cable company brand management team needs to decide which option is best for its corporate rebranding. If a product-driven RFP is used, then the completion date is tied to when branded products are pushed into the marketplace. This framework doesn’t allow for changes to brand treatments, brand messages, or brand touchpoints along the way, so unforeseen changes (which we see happen all the time) drastically impact the overall cost.

Conversely, the service-driven RFP starts with the end result in mind. When do we want our new brand to be fully implemented? “Pull” planning works backward from the completion date and identifies benchmarks for stages of the cable company’s corporate rebranding. This schedule pulls materials into the project when needed, and controls the production flow so that just enough branded materials are produced.

We recommend a service-driven RFP using the “pull” framework for your corporate rebranding, regardless of the industry. By qualifying supply chain partners up front, you can avoid brand implementation nightmares at the end.

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