Socializing the brand implementation plan early

Ron Brissette is a Director at Slalom, a purpose-led, global business and technology consulting company. He has worked in the world of brand, digital, and e-commerce for over 20 years and has a passion for enhancing brand experiences and building brand loyalty.

Ron has worked on several rebrands on the client side and agency side. During our conversation, Ron discussed how his past experience encouraged him to refine his approach to brand implementation. 


Moving beyond notional designs to bring a brand to life

Ron was at American Airlines when they rebranded in 2013, leading the visual identity team through what he’d consider the “sexy part of the project.” Working with a creative agency, his team came away from the design phase with a new logo, colors, and visual system. However, they were still wondering, “How do we make these work in the real world?” 

“I learned that these were notional designs,” said Ron, “they were a simple stress test on brand elements, but they weren’t templates or tools to use the brand in everyday formats. I needed something to give people that would help them understand what to do with the new brand, and a pretty PDF with ‘notional designs’ wasn’t going to do it.”

To solve this, Ron worked with the agency to further develop a brand implementation plan to determine what American Airlines needed to roll out, manage and govern their global brand beyond its launch. “We approached it as more than just a project,” said Ron, “we had to think beyond launching the sparkly new brand and consider ongoing efforts that would support the brand in the long term. That’s why it was so important to have a well-defined implementation plan.”

American Airlines’ implementation plan helped Ron and team manage expectations from leadership to front-line employees. “One of the things I took away was how important it was to communicate the plan. I was able to share what was going to happen and by what date so that other leaders could make their plans accordingly. It also prevented people from solving branding challenges on their own or doing things wrong because they knew their needs had already been factored into the plan and were going to be addressed.”

Bringing the brand implementation conversation up earlier in the process to make better decisions

Ron acknowledged that implementation planning conversations should take place at the start of a rebranding process. “It can be overwhelming when you start to think about all the things your brand touches, all the work that has to be done, and what it will cost, but if you don’t get that on your radar, you’re just kicking the can down the road and making it more difficult on internal teams when the time comes to solve these problems.”

At American Airlines the implementation plan became critical for executive buy-in. It outlined what was going to happen, when it was going to happen, who was going to do it, and how much it would cost. It drove alignment and built trust. Without a plan, timelines would have been delayed significantly, and securing budget would have been a major roadblock.

Ron applied his learnings from the American Airlines rebrand to the Sabre rebrand. (Sabre is a global technology company that was spun off from American Airlines.) “We enabled the executive team early on by bringing implementation planning forward in the process. They were then equipped to make educated decisions about the scope of what was changing visually and what it would mean from a time and resource perspective. We acknowledge that implementation planning was just as important as the sexy creative design aspect.”


Involving more people in brand implementation planning to drive greater success 

Ron spoke about the importance of bringing people into the fold early to understand how the brand is truly being used. “When we were developing the brand at American Airlines, we were a pretty tight team, and we treated the rebrand as a secret. When we did finally start to form working groups with key stakeholders, we began to understand what people actually needed – what their touchpoints were, how they worked, how they operated, and how they preferred to communicate. We were able to have productive, informative conversations to help wrap our arms around how the brand would be used and how much there was to do,” said Ron.

His current point of view is that the more people who feel involved and have a sense of ownership, the more successful brand implementation will be. “While you don’t want the logo to leak out to the external public in order to maintain a level of security, you do want to involve people internally to discover what they need and get more buy-in. A lot of companies only think about what the customer will see, but the employee side is extremely important. If you get your employees on board, that’s 90% of getting your brand implemented,” said Ron. “The worst thing you can do is ask your employees what they want after the brand has been launched, that just doesn’t work.”

During the American Airlines rebrand, Ron’s team had a 'war room' where they could document all branded touchpoints, keep track of what everyone was working on and ensure it all fit together creatively. “Everything from airplanes to websites to luggage rack tugs that are pulled behind the airplane - we were able to get a more accurate sense of everything we needed to convert,” said Ron. This was also important for touchpoint consolidation. “We had 56 groups producing 56 newsletters, and now we could simplify that.” Bringing people together helped the team understand unique technical and technological needs that wouldn’t have been obvious otherwise, allowing them to be both inclusive and comprehensive.

What it takes to succeed

When we asked Ron what he considered key to rebranding success, he mentioned a few things:

1. Don’t label rebranding as a project. “Projects have start dates and end dates, a brand does not. It’s something that goes into your DNA as a company, it’s integral to what each person does, every day.”

2. Get executive buy-in. “I know it sounds cliché, but it’s necessary. If executives aren’t out there championing, promoting, and being the spokesman for the brand, then it just becomes just another brand team initiative.”

3. Digital experience is critical. “Given high visibility, digital touchpoints should be a priority when launching the brand. Planning for changes to your digital ecosystem can go a long way, so don’t just wait to get around to it.”


Tell us about your rebrand

We were excited to speak with Ron and learn from his experience as a part of our Tell Us About Your Rebrand series. If you’ve recently gone through a rebrand, no matter what industry, we’d love to hear about it. Reach out at to share your thoughts and stories.



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