What’s in a name? A lot if you want to create a strong brand connection. Relation Insurance found this through a year-long renaming initiative that helped it engage customers in a variety of B2B verticals.
Relation is an insurance brokerage that offers solutions for individuals and mid-size companies in industries such as agriculture, education, transportation and nonprofit. Founded in 2007, it has 485 employees and over 30 offices in nine states. Initially, the company was more of a holding company, formed through the acquisition of different firms. Five years ago, new corporate leadership wanted to brand the company—then known as Ascension Insurance—as a more cohesive organization.
“We needed a name that represented a break from the past and showed the direction the company was going in,” says Natalie Zensius, senior vice president, marketing communications at Relation Insurance.
The search for a new name began in earnest in January 2017. It isn’t an easy process, says Zensius, particularly as time goes on and the number of new, viable names continues to dwindle. The name needed to not only be available in the financial space, but be protectable from a legal standpoint and truly convey the company’s value proposition. “We kept coming back to the idea of being partners with our clients, and being in their world,” she says. “[Relation] was at the core of what we are about.”
Once a name was chosen, Zensius notes that it was critical to get internal decision makers on board. A naming committee was created to facilitate the rollout process, comprised of folks from all facets of the business, including everyone from senior leaders to entry level employees in marketing, IT, legal and HR. Two naming agencies were also in the mix, as were several graphic designers, web developers, copy writers and a PR agency. (Zensius herself started working with Relation early in the renaming planning as a consultant, and joined the company full-time three months into the process.)
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A planning task force for the rebrand oversaw two phases of the rollout, a soft announcement and a hard launch. “We wanted to be super transparent and keep everyone in the loop, and we also needed to build momentum and excitement,” she says. “And, we wanted to buy ourselves some time to put all the pieces in place—we knew everything wouldn’t go to plan, so a phased rollout let us drip things out as they became available to keep people’s interest.”
Prior to the soft announcement, the task force identified two groups of people to shepherd internal buy-in, brand champions and brand ambassadors.
The “champions” were typically non-management types with influencer status in different departments, who worked to help sell the name to team members internally. They were given FAQs and messaging to share with team members in their respective groups. The “ambassadors” were people in each office who were responsible for helping out with the nuts and bolts aspects of the rollout, things like making sure everyone had business cards and signage with the new branding. The ambassadors’ identities were public knowledge, but names of the champions were kept on the down-low, as they worked more in a stealth mode to cheerlead the rebranding to fellow employees.
The official rollout of the Relation Insurance branding in January 2018 included not only a PR push and media placements online and off, but a content marketing campaign built around the pillars of people, process and technology, and how the new brand connected all three.
“We looked at the areas where we have credible expertise and where were the conversations that we could add value, and then tie it back to insurance,” she says.
The ROI of the rebrand was measured both internally and externally. Employee satisfaction surveys measured internal sentiment.
“The feedback internally was a sense of pride, but there were some detractors,” says Zensius. “One of the mistakes we made is that some folks who were influencer employees felt left out. We misread the tea leaves on that one. But over time, some of our hardcore detractors have come back and said their feelings have changed over time. To me, that speaks volumes, if we can win folks over.”
External measurements included looking at awareness in the insurance industries across different client segments. “Our production and account teams helped us communicate with clients,” she says. “It’s not uncommon for there to be multiple databases [in companies] in the insurance industry, because there is a lot of acquisition, but we were able to do a direct mail campaign to all of our clients, even though we didn’t have a central database.”
“Overall, the response was overwhelmingly positive,” says Zensius. “We tried to communicate that we were same company, the same people, with a better name.”
The next step is to continue building awareness of Relation Insurance in the marketplace. “We’ve seen spikes in visitations to our social channels, and we can overlay PR activities on those spikes,” she says. “As we move forward, we’ll use PR to get the word out and deepen our presence in conversations about how we are leveraging technology and data to provide solutions for clients, and tell stories about our processes in a compelling way.”