Brand new Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2009

When Joe Steiner saw a headline that read, “Reinvent or die,” the phrase hit him so hard that he went to his top management and proposed that they rebrand the company.

When they were done, the company had a new vision for growth and would soon have a new name — Color Art Integrated Interiors Inc. Steiner, chairman and CEO of the office interiors dealer, walked the company through the rebranding process nearly seven years ago, and the company continues to grow: Color Art posted 2007 revenue of $92 million and anticipates $115 million for 2008.

“You have to constantly reinvent yourself and do things differently in the market, or the competition will either catch up or pass you,” Steiner says.

The rebranding process starts with understanding your clients and the market needs, evaluating your vision and then educating your employees and the marketplace about the changes, he says.

Smart Business spoke with Steiner about how to craft and implement a new brand for your company.

Evaluate your vision.
We go through a process of making sure where we’re going is still in alignment with our vision.

The vision meetings have some structure to them, but we don’t try to limit any thought or input or idea that somebody has because basically, our vision is as broad or as focused as we make it.

We don’t talk anything about numbers or goals or objectives. We just talk about where we want to go as an organization — looking at different ways to grow our business.

If you don’t do something differently, it’s just so hard to grow.

We keep ourselves wide open, and after we come out of the meeting with ideas and thoughts and where we want to go, we put it up on the whiteboard and say, ‘Is this in line with our vision?’

Align your new brand with customer and market needs.
As you look at your core competencies, you have to say, ‘Who is your customer?’ You try to take a look at your core competencies versus what your customer is really asking for.

That requires face-to-face visits with customers. It also requires taking a look at what they do and trying to cater your services around their needs.

I think it needs to be well thought out; that’s why we went out and hired a firm to help us through the process.

We hired a firm, and the firm basically did a marketing study on all the various businesses we were in and took all of our competitors and our strengths and our weaknesses and our threats and our opportunities and kind of brought that back and said, ‘How does the marketplace currently look at us, and ideally, how do we want them to look at us?’

[Ask], who are you? How does the marketplace perceive you? How do you want the marketplace to perceive you? And, if those are different, how are you going to change it?

Educate your employees.
First of all, we went through an extensive six-month process within our organization to help everybody understand what our vision was, how they fit in to the vision and what we were going to be doing and how that would make us different.

We had a booklet made up. We told them how we were changing our name, told them how we were branding ourselves going forward, and what the expected and the desired results of those were.

If employees don’t understand how we’re different and why we’re different, then it’s hard for them to envision how they play in to that, and everybody has to play in to it.

When I talk about our employees, I’m talking about every employee in our organization and how they have to understand.

We had a multidisciplined team that went down throughout the organization. We tried to seek input with every level of the organization to not only confirm we were on the right track but to gauge what their understanding level was and try to get a feeling of how they were going to be able to understand it and take it to the marketplace.

Your people have to understand the vision and the process thoroughly before you can take it to the market.

Inform the marketplace.
I’m a strong believer in core competency, and the way we define core competency is being able to do something that nobody else in the market can do. There may be others that say they can do it, but they can’t. And then taking that core competency, branding it and taking it to the market so that the marketplace knows how you’re different and why you’re different.

The significance is as an example: When we went out and researched the marketplace, the marketplace thought of us as an office furniture dealership. We already knew we were much more than that.

If we had all of this and we were trying to accomplish a certain thing in the marketplace but the marketplace only viewed us as an office furniture dealership, then we would have to do something to tell the marketplace how we were different, why were different, why we were better.

As we went through this whole rebranding process, we first of all ran two advertising campaigns. We went out and told the marketplace how we were different, which was basically expounding upon our core competencies.

After the first year of advertising, then we went into another campaign that basically said, ‘We’ve been telling you how we were different. Here are the results of that.’ We had customer testimonials, we had projects that we did and customers commented on.

HOW TO REACH: Color Art Integrated Interiors Inc., (314) 432-3000 or www.color-art.com