Did you know George Washington was not really the first President? This widely-held belief has been propagated for over two centuries. So how does a historical misnomer of such proportion occur? It took a massive rebranding strategy.
For a quick history lesson, the United States declared its independence in 1776, thirteen years before Washington took office. In this time, eight men held the position of President (ten if you include the two who presided before the Articles of Confederation were ratified). Granted, they were considered to be President of the Constitutional Congress, which is different than President of the United States, and their authority was extremely limited in power and scope. Yet these forgotten forefathers were responsible for holding the thirteen states together (no easy task) and defeating Great Britain in the Revolutionary War.
When Washington became the president under the current United States Constitution, there was a determined effort to start anew. This independence marks the establishment of the country as we know it today. In theory, it is not much different from a company trying to reinvent itself.
To ensure your rebranding campaign is successful, here are four things our founding fathers considered when redesigning the government and the presidency.
Define Your Mission
Any rebranding strategy needs to begin with an understanding of what you are trying to accomplish. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were pushing for democracy over monarchy to a group of people wanting a greater sense of freedom. Your intentions may be less consequential, but you need to believe in the purpose before investing your energy.
Ask yourself, “Why do we need to rebrand?” Are you repositioning, scaling up, inviting a new audience, introducing a more diversified product line? Knowing the why will allow you and the team to focus and generate more pertinent ideas.
Research the Competition
If you are going to put the effort into rebranding a product/service that people are already familiar with, you need to know what your competitors are doing and how your new persona will compare. For our pre-1776 brethren, living in a Britain-dominated territory for a few hundred years provided a unique opportunity to understand the enemy. Representatives also spent time in London among Parliament.
Since you most likely don’t have the advantage of getting first-hand intel from the competition, you’ll need to dig into the research. To ensure you remain cutting edge, conduct ongoing studies in two areas—within your industry (How is the market changing?) and outside it (How can the product/service be more relevant?).
Reinvention does not happen without a support system. This is no slight against your willpower; it is a product of leading people who possess free will. Just as America could not have won the war without France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic providing supplies and soldiers, you cannot make sustainable changes with your alliances.
Put time into communicating with the team. If you are making a change, you need to tell the story why. Explain how it will benefit the organization, the customers, and those within the company. Promote collaboration and celebrate milestones as they are achieved.
Create an Action Plan
Nothing happens without a plan. The Articles of Confederation and the Constitution served as a plan for how the United States would conduct itself. There were also financial plans on how to pay the war, military plans to fight the war, and structural plans for rebuilding after the war.
Establish your timeline for preparing and implementing changes. Designate priorities, allocation of resources, deadlines, and measurements for success along the way. Then specify the role of each team member who is accountable for each task. Check your plan periodically and make adjustments as needed.
To remain competitive, your brand cannot stagnate. You don’t necessarily need to cleanse your history of those who preceded your new image, but you must evolve and adapt with the times. Whether it’s a total overhaul or a just few adjustments, we can all use a bit of reinvention. That’s why we amend the Constitution and our organizations—to change, develop, and become a better version of ourselves.