Rebranding Lessons

We recently undertook a massive rebranding job for one of our clients. We’ve been working with the company for well over a decade providing them with standard technical writing services – user manuals, admin guides, help systems, white papers, etc. We’ve also done a fair bit of marketing writing for them.

A while back, they bought a company in the US, then one in Iceland, now one in Germany. Someone got the very bright idea that to unify the company, it was best to rebrand all into one, rather than three into an existing company. So, the new name was selected, new colors, new fonts.

The first challenge was that the font they chose was not a Windows standard. It was agreed that documentation and marketing would part at the level of font – we went with Calibri.

The decision was made to rebrand even the legacy products – and after assessing the amount of documents, we got to about 300+. The first thing we did was create unified templates for the standard documents. The problem was, except for the Israeli company (that WritePoint had managed), most of the documentation was written by engineers and developers and marketing teams – meaning, no styles to speak of and often inconsistencies between documents within each company, never mind between previously unrelated companies.

We made a detailed list of what had to be changed and agreed on the limitations. We were not going to get into changing the text, for example, though we finally broke down and agreed that we needed to spell check all documents. We beat our initial estimate by 30% for the Israel-created documents. After all, they were properly styled so it only took seconds to change the original red, Verdana heading one to the new deep orange, Calibri heading one – that and many other changes.

Graphics took longer obviously, but overall, that part of the rebranding went well because we had done the preparation work – a detailed list – copyright statement, boilerplate text, support email, company name, etc. Add this, delete that – all simple.

The challenge came in when we needed to move documentation from LaTeX to PDF to Word for rebranding and back to PDF. It was, as many things are, an excellent learning experience and we realized that we needed to redefine the list we had created. LaTeX to PDF to Word created line breaks that needed to be deleted. Much of the text became normal – with some manual formatting as well. So the new list included checking the styles (again), checking the tables, deleting those extra spaces, and more.

Rebranding is a great experience because what it does is force you to look at the company’s documentation as a whole. Too often, we jump from product to product or document to document without relating to it as part of a larger package.

As we are reaching the end of this project, we look forward to streamlining the ongoing documentation. The company is moving to RoboHelp for single-sourcing and content reuse and therefore the next phase will be to take the properly formatted Word documents and import them into RoboHelp.

One product was already in RoboHelp so rebranding it was easy and fast. The next step will be seeing what content we can reuse from the legacy documentation and working to improve the overall quality of the language that is used in some of the documents that were translated from other languages.

We had a great team working on this – three senior writers and three junior writers. was a great blend because without the senior writers, many things would have been missed and without the junior writers from our course, the cost to the client would have been much higher.

Rebranding can be extremely stressful – between the decisions that have to be made – what to call the new company, website redesign, blending the many into a single global unit, fonts, colors, etc. Decisions have to be made and in order to keep customers calm and unaware of any service interruption, it has to be done quickly and efficiently.