[Editorial Note: Foodiebay rebranded to Zomato and one of the main reasons for doing so was the strategy to move beyond the food category. In this two part series, Zomato team shares key learning and experience while rebranding one’s startup.]
Now that you know the what of rebranding, let’s get our hands dirty with the how to rebrand. If you have read this far, then your decision to rebrand is a serious one. We switched the names and it was relatively smooth. Here’s how we pulled it off.
Broadly speaking, it took us around two months to execute the transition. We had a to-do list that guided us on the various steps. We discovered a few things during the process, all of which has been noted here.
The first and foremost thing you need to work on is:
Create a new identity
What takes the most amount of time is actually thinking of your new brand identity. And this is the most difficult step – for whatever name you think of, you have to make sure that the website name is available or affordable. In today’s social age, you also have to ensure that facebook and twitter handles are also available for you. And do not forget to check out the list of some other very important factors over here.
After deciding on the name, call your graphics designer for designing the logo. Alternatively, 99designs.com is a very good resource for you to get good stuff done for cheap. Also, it would be useful for you to read up on best practices for logo design.
Once you are done with the logo, you are already half way through the challenge.
Most of the other steps are relatively easier:
Prep – create representations of your new brand
1. Register corresponding domain names (.com, .net, .org, .co, .me and any other country specific TLD that you want)
2. Also register any obvious mis-spellings of the newly chosen name (.com only would do here)
3. Register on twitter (you can also switch handles in twitter)
4. Create facebook page (get 20 fans quickly and set a username); also put in a request for a work network at Facebook if you want to have one; yes, unlike twitter, you cannot change you facebook page name as of now – it means that you will lose all your existing fans
5. If you use a bulk SMS service, register a new Sender-ID
On the day of the change, here’s what you will need to do (of course, you can do some of this stuff beforehand to reduce the pressure on that particular night):
Internal and external tools
1. Register with Google Apps (or similar); recreate all e-groups within your organization and add people in them.
2. Send an email to all current team members to inform them about their new email IDs; ask them to forward all existing and incoming email to the new inboxes; then, on the day of the change, your team simply needs to log onto the new mail IDs for very easy email transition.
3. Test outgoing email from new Google Apps accounts – make sure MX records are configured correctly.
4. Create new IDs for any other productivity tools that you use.
5. Get new Adwords account – not necessary, but nice to have.
6. Change your powerpoint templates if you cannot live without them; also get some basic stationery (business cards, letterheads) designed and iterate on them later.
1. Identify any and all instances of the old brand name in your codebase and change it to the new one (except where it is intentional to keep the old name). A copy of this codebase should be put live on the server on the day of the switch.
2. Make sure that you include a banner “ABBA is now XCCD” on top of the new website’s codebase to let your regulars know that you have changed your address and identity
3. Create new favicon.
PR & Marketing
1. Write a blog post informing your current and new customers regarding the change; be straightforward and honest.
2. Ask as many media websites/publications as possible to cover the change as a story.
3. Email all stakeholders about the change; also send an email to your registered user.
4. SMSing your users who have signed up for SMS alerts from you is also not a bad idea.
5. Facebook post on your existing fan page asking people to Like the new page; tweet about the change asking people to follow the new twitter handle (or just switch your twitter handle).
1. Ask as many webmasters as possible to change references to your old brand name.
The actual web server switch
Here, I am assuming that you know what I am talking about. If you don’t, please hire someone else to do the job for you.
1. I am assuming that your nameservers are configured correctly, but there is no harm in checking twice.
2. Block search engines from the website using a robots.txt file.
3. Then put your website in “Temporarily Out of Service” mode for real users; make sure you filter your own IPs to see the website normally – else, you wont be able to test the change.
4. Set global redirects in your .htaccess file to redirect users (and search engines) from old pages to new pages. Ensure a page to page switch i.e. any user visiting abba.com/rttr should be redirected to xccd.com/rttr.
5. Open Google Webmaster tools and find the “Change Domain Name” option – make good use of it. Also do the same in Yahoo! and Bing webmaster tools.
6. Test the change from as many entry points as possible; click on all types of links on your website to make sure they are working.
7. Once all is well, remove the Temporarily Out of Service for your real users; do not open it for search engines yet. Keep yourself glued to Google Analytics to spot any discrepancies which you might need to fix.
8. If the traffic is normal and you start getting hate email, your job is done. Delete the robots.txt file to let the spiders in.
I intentionally left out a lot of detail around a lot of these points (no point writing a book, right?). But working broadly around these pointers should help you see the light at the other end of the tunnel.
What about your experiences? We’d love to hear about them.