The team behind the transformation

It takes more than just the communications team to pull off a corporate rebranding effort. Michael Bush shows how ITT tapped a variety of expertise

It takes more than just the communications team to pull off a corporate rebranding effort. Michael Bush shows how ITT tapped a variety of expertise

In 2004, when the then-named ITT Industries was preparing its major rebranding effort, Tom Martin, SVP of corporate relations, realized he would have to expand his communications team if the effort was going to be a success. That didn't mean hiring more people; it meant tearing down some figurative walls and letting everyone from the CEO and board of directors to the ad agency and branding firm fall under the communications umbrella.

Martin says this all-inclusive approach is his longtime philosophy. "The way to get the most from a team is to treat them as such, break down barriers between agencies to open up the communication lines between all the players," he says.

Martin describes the rebranding as a "refinement" of ITT's initial 1998 rebranding effort.

ITT Industries, now called ITT, was created in 1996 when the old ITT Corp. broke up into three companies focusing on hospitality, insurance, and manufacturing. "Two years ago, we took a fresh look and asked, 'After we've been a brand and separate company for several years, does that put us in a different place?'" Martin says.

The company's new CEO at the time, Steve Loranger, its board of directors, and Martin and his communications team felt the company needed to strengthen its corporate brand. "We felt we needed to clearly establish the organizational brand ITT as the predominant brand," Martin says.

A tight-knit team formed, with Martin and director of PR Tom Glover coordinating internal resources with external ones, including branding firm Landor and ad agency Doremus.

Loranger says his role was to be the champion and architect of communicating to the organization what the new brand was, and why it was taking this initiative on.

He achieved this on two levels: intimate conversations with smaller executive groups, and on a public level with town-hall meetings and executive leadership forums.

"The smaller meetings were more candid and focused on what we do well and what areas we need to advance in," Loranger says. "These were more introspective conversations I was leading to get high-level buy-in to the notion of creating an organizational identity. But when Tom started getting a very specific agenda, they became more formal and structured... so it transitioned... to decision-making around execution."

And like any other team, there were times of disagreement.

"On many occasions, these were energetic and passionate conversations about how to actually implement this," Loranger says. "We all needed to argue in a healthy way with Tom and with ourselves in terms of how we advance it."

Hayes Roth, Landor CMO, says everyone has to be on the same page to ensure a company's message is conveyed in a single voice.

"Everybody has to be clear about the core brand idea and the right way to implement it, and I'm not just talking about what part of the page you put the logo on, I'm talking about what the brand stands for and how you articulate that verbally and visually," Roth says.

Martin says his goal was to always have his communications team be an extended family.

"My mission... was to take the existing employees in the company in the different business units, along with the agency support, and build a seamless team, whether or not they directly reported to me," Martin says. "It's working. We're not perfect, but I think we've made a lot of progress in building a much stronger brand because of it."

More than a campaign

Other companies have also embraced internal collaboration. At Merrill Lynch, Emily Pachuta, director of GPC (global private client) strategic marketing and brand management, field communications, and PR, says its most recent rebranding effort needed to be viewed by stakeholders as a business strategy and not a campaign. The only way to pull that off was to have everyone involved.

"It started with the president of our global private client service," Pachuta says. "The effort had a strong marketing influence because part of it was built around packaging and presentation. There was also a business strategy behind it, so advisory was involved, the business units were involved, and executive management and marketing was involved.

"If everybody's not convinced that this is going to benefit the business immediately, I don't think a rebranding or brand evolution effort will ever be successful. Because then it becomes a campaign and not a way of corporate life."

"Total Merrill" was launched in 2002 to demonstrate that Merrill Lynch did more than provide advice on stocks and bonds. "So we took on a mission to align with the business strategy to help change the perception, internally and externally," she adds.

Pachuta says the company since 2002 has consistently seen a larger number of clients using four or more core products, which, she says, demonstrates they are using Merrill to satisfy all or more of their financial needs.

ITT's Martin believes this blurring of lines between departments is going to be the successful blueprint for companies in the future.

"Departments are going to be much more virtual than big empires," he explains. "The days of having vast departments report to one individual will be a thing of the past soon. Companies are going to want the flexibility to get certain kinds of talent and functions at different points in time."

What a successful corporate team needs

1 Involvement in the decision-making process in team members' respective organizations

2 Thinking about the brand's position in a strategic way

3 Constant communication with other departments

4 Having a global perspective on all issues

5 Knowledge of the critical issues affecting the industry (HR, legal, financial)

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