Anatomy of a Rebrand – a Q&A with Kathy Neumann, CMO of Rent

Kathy Neumann, CMO of Rent

By R. Larsson, Advertising Week

Kathy Neumann is the CMO of Rent. She brings over 20 years of experience in building brands, teams, and consumer experiences spanning retail and tech at best-in-class organizations. Previously, Neumann oversaw integrated marketing and consumer experience at online pet retailer, Chewy, and prior to that served as VP of Marketing at Carter’s, leading the go-to-market strategy for the Carter’s, OshKosh B’gosh and SkipHop brands in North America. She also served in leadership roles at Land’s End, Victoria’s Secret Direct, LLC, and Limited Brands. Neumann is the recipient of 12 industry-associated awards including the 2019 OnCon Icon Top 50 Marketer Award as well as the 2015 AMA Atlanta Marketer of the Year Award for Integrated Marketing Campaign, Interactive Marketing & Social Media Campaign.

Q: What prompted the rebrand?

We have been working on this internally for a while now.  Our team has really been focused on improving the experience, simplifying the process and improving the results.  We really saw an opportunity in the industry to create a true partnership between Rent. and our clients.  There is some much that our partners have to get done on any given day.  We saw the opportunity to add value by providing true solutions – not products – that work together in a seamless fashion to help simplify the process.  All our solutions work together, and from a client perspective, it is easy to track performance through our RentHQ. interface and dashboards.  With all this great work on the development and solutions offering side, we felt we really needed to make a statement and signal to the industry the evolution of Rent.  A very visible sign of the seismic shift we have made in our offerings.

Q: How did Rent. approach the rebrand? (What steps went into making it happen?)

Our rebrand to Rent. is rooted in the strategic changes we have made as an organization.  The process started with aligning the organization around what we wanted to stand for and ultimately communicate. And we built from there.  The process included a lot of self-assessment around our current messaging along with industry reviews.  I’m new to the Multi-family industry so it was both educational for me as well as a foundation for our rebrand work.  Lastly, we also took inspiration from other industries.  I’ve always been a firm believer in looking outside your current industry.  Our consumers (both clients and potential renters) are engaging with so many brands across a gamut of industries.  It’s important to understand the influence those interactions – both positive and negative – have on our consumer.  These collective experiences shape their expectations.

From there it was pen to paper, with lots of rounds of creative options.  We are lucky enough to have strong internal creative talent that we were able to manage the creative positioning work in house.  Which in the long run, saved us a lot of time and provided the teams a chance to work on a very different type of project.  It’s amazing what the team pulled together in such a short time. I think it really speaks to not only their incredible talent, but also their passion for our company.

Q: What should companies consider before a rebrand?

When we think about rebrands, it’s natural to go to think about a rebrand in terms of visual identity as that is the most visible manifestation of the brand.  However, to truly create a new brand it is so much more.  You really have to get at the DNA of the company.  A true rebrand touches every aspect of the organization.  Every asset, and I mean every asset needs to be updated.  Working with our facilities team to update our office environment.   HR to update our training and onboarding to reflect the brand.  Are there organizational changes that need to happen to align internal resources with the new vision?   Legal filing new trademarks. IT and Engineering building new solutions.  Sales updating their clients on our changes.  The list goes on.  The last thing really is the creative side.  It’s the proverbial bow on top.  But I have found that without the alignment and integration across the organization, rebrands don’t last.

Q: What goes into choosing a new company name, and why does it matter?

Again the naming process needs to follow the strategy. This can (and should) vary depending on your industry and your mission. For us, it was about simplifying things  – for both sides of the marketplace we service.  A name can be anything as we have seen with various startups over the last few years.  For us, we took the idea of simplification to our name as well.  We shortened our name to Rent.  It’s what we do.  It is why people come to us and we felt it was the best way to communicate that.

Q: What were the biggest challenges?

You don’t know what you don’t know. What outdated branding might be lurking on old collateral? Surprisingly for us (or maybe just luckily), we caught most of those things, which is a testament to our team being fully invested in the relaunch.

Q: What were the top lessons learned from the rebrand?

I think there are a couple of things that you could say all tie back to change management as that is what a rebrand is – change.  As we mentioned before, a rebrand is about change at the core of an organization.  Don’t underestimate the time needed to socialize the thought process behind the branding.  You’re not asking your colleagues to get behind a seasonal campaign, but rather a new brand, so it is important everyone understands the “why” so they can get behind the “how”.   The second one is similar, but people calibrate at different speeds so it’s important you know your internal audience and bring everyone along, together.  You’ll need to plan on communicating the message (and background) multiple times.  Even after the rebrand is live.  It needs to be a continuous process and education for internal teams.

Q: What advice do you have for other companies interested in pursuing a rebrand?

Give yourself more time! It is always tempting to jump to the end state and focus on the brand identity.  Don’t overlook the strategy work that needs to be done to ensure the brand will hit the mark, reinforce the company vision and stand the test of time. Plan for lots of communication and socializing of the process to bring people along.

Secondly, and this one is just as important – set your team up for success. We’ve re-organized teams to deliver on our renewed, shared purpose. From adding new teams to combining others to reflect the new brand and focus.  Not just in Marketing, but across the organization.  Think through how you want the teams to work to reflect and align on the new brand.