Kevin Johnson-Azuara: The Gusto of Rebranding

Kevin Johnson-Azuara is the Chief Marketing Officer at Nigerdock.


Sometime ago, I was privileged to spearhead the rebrand strategy and transition of Axxela from its former moniker and corporate identity as Oando Gas & Power. It’s been an extremely involving process, from managing the expectations of key stakeholders to ensuring adherence to key communications principles. Ultimately, it came down to a brand build that showed the far-reaching socio-economic impact of gas on our daily lives and sub-Saharan Africa’s collective economic empowerment.

I’ve shared what my learnings or takeaways were from the rebrand process in no particular order, several which I deem pertinent for anyone who undertakes such a project in a developing nation, especially within the energy sector. Above all, immerse yourself and enjoy the journey.

1. Research. Research. Research

It all starts here. We’ve become so innovative that there’s almost nothing new under the sun. But to stand out, you’ve got to critically examine what others did before, draw comparisons, and execute better. We thoroughly researched our local competitors, while also looking at global players within the gas & power sector. The Engie rebrand was the perfect blueprint for us. Why did they rebrand? How were they able to transform from such a rigid corporate (from the outside) to one which emanated human empathy? With my Public Relations foundation rooted in the Ogilvy school, I never underestimated the importance of research in crafting our narrative and building brand equity and affinity.


2. Sleep, But Dream

When the project commenced, I hardly slept because I was so fixated on the finer details. One day, I literally passed out due to physical and mental exhaustion. Then I dreamt. I was so eager for our rebrand to be a success that my reality was playing out in my slumber! When I woke up, I quickly scribbled down some of my thoughts in a notebook by my bedside. I quickly realized that in allowing myself an amount of rest, a eureka moment had come to me almost effortlessly. Enjoy the process; constantly visualize the brand coming to life, and allow yourself to continuously dream about the endless possibilities, whether in your sleep or while working, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.


3. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

As the old adage goes, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Not everyone likes change, and even fewer embrace it. In developing a “new normal,” criticism will be plentiful. From aesthetics/designs to naming convention, adaptation will be slow, but it’s up to you to dust your shoulders off, keep at it, and consistently deliver the excellence to bring your brand refresh to existence.


4. The Big Picture; Work Backwards

Many execute without a clear line of sight or strategy. You know the mantra, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.” By clearly defining and mapping what your end goal is or what your brand should ultimately symbolize internally and externally, you can develop and execute tactics that will help see through your holistic strategy. We had to navigate from being seen as just a gas pioneer to becoming a force for change and modernization. In many cases, acceptance of a new brand will be gradual, but stick to the plan and re-align when necessary.


5. Engage/ Involve Others

Don’t be naïve; your brand is worthless without the buy-in of your employees, customers, regulators, vendors, agencies, investors or partners depending on whether you’re a B2B or B2C. During your rebrand process, create avenues for your key stakeholders to give feedback via fora, focus groups, surveys, interviews, questionnaires, user experiences etc. You can’t force brand appeal on people, but you can effectively gauge how your new brand moniker and identity resonates with your core audiences before you hit the market.


6. Be Happy Gilmore and Make Them Believe

In the movie, Happy Gilmore, an ex-hockey player converts to golf, and causes a major stir with his passion, style of play, and unwavering belief in himself. First received with abrasion and apprehension, Happy ends up with a flock of followers and is credited for bringing much-needed excitement to the tour. You must always be your brand’s advocate, custodian and number one champion to sell your vision to your stakeholders and effect Top-of-Mind-Awareness.

This also underlines my biggest takeaway: Rebranding isn’t a precise science. While there are hard and fast rules regarding core communications principles, each organisation is unique with varying nuances. This flexibility in thought and approach, will enable you be creative and disruptive as and when necessary.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *