July 29, 2015
Case Study

Brand Relaunch: Stock price increases 5.5% after global firm's rebranding efforts

SUMMARY: After several years of evolving its offerings and expanding business, the team at AllianceBernstein realized its branding did not reflect the advancements the firm had made. Along with a more integrated and collaborative company culture, the firm required the creation of a brand that reflected its new focus.

By implementing a synchronized global relaunch, AllianceBernstein publically rebranded itself to be "AB." Learn how, through this campaign, AB was able to better reflect its goals while improving company morale and culture.
by Kayla Cobb, Reporter


AB, also known as AllianceBernstein Holding, is a global asset management firm that provides high investment management and research services to customers worldwide. From big-name corporations, such as Intel, to private wealth clients, the company manages over $500 billion in assets. It works with clients primarily in the U.S. as well as individual investors who invest in mutual funds globally.

"We are a wholesaler, so we sell to what we call the 'retail intermediated business firms,'" William Hays, Global Brand Director, AB, said. "We can partner with them to do that."


AB always had the goal of keeping its clients "ahead of tomorrow." In order to keep its clients on the cutting edge of an ever-changing industry, AB spent the last several years after the financial crisis developing a diverse range of opportunities to help clients achieve their investment goals.

According to Hays, "We've diversified our business over the years to be able to offer more and more to our clients to meet those goals."

In addition to offering a more diverse array of investment offerings, AB as a company had also evolved with the times.

"We went from being sort of primarily focused in equities to being a firm that isn't just in equities but also in fixed income as an alternative business and is able to do so much more," Hays said.

However, the company faced an awareness challenge. Most of its customers did not know that AllianceBernstein had changed from the firm they knew in 2007 and 2008.

"While we've evolved, we hadn't stopped and taken the time to really explain to people that we've evolved, so a lot of people were surprised to hear that we could do as much as we could do," Hays said. "We needed people to understand who AB is today. That was really at the core of it."


To better reflect the new company AllianceBernstein had become, and to publically share the firm's relatively recent innovations, a large-scale rebranding effort was put in place. This large rebranding campaign utilized a website redesign and a B2B multimedia marketing campaign that included email campaigns, event promotion, mobile advertising and full page print ads. The rebranding effort also included both an external and an internal brand launch to transform AllianceBernstein into AB.

This transformation helped to simplify what the brand now offered to its target consumer.

"Legally we're still AllianceBernstein," Hays said, "but part of what we found through our strategy and the rollout is that there was an opportunity to just simplify how we refer to ourselves."

Learn how, through the course of this rebranding campaign, AB was able to better reflect its goals as well as reflect and improve company morale and culture. Since this launch, AB's stock price has increased 5.5%.

Step #1. Assess the company's strengths and weaknesses

The team at AB knew that their company needed a rebrand, but they weren't sure what exact elements that rebrand should consist of.

To determine the direction the new AllianceBerstein would be going in and to ensure this new direction would reflect the firm's current identity, Hays and the team at AB's agency started on a comprehensive deep dive focusing on the firm's strengths and weaknesses. The internal effort for this rebrand started in 2013.

The team used interviews and competitive analyses with the use of the company's marketing material, all while looking at the industry landscape. Specifically, this assessment was created from a global review of client survey data, industry brand awareness studies and interviews with employees and executives. There was also a communications audit of AB materials and competitive samples. From this assessment, AB targeted opportunities for distinction.

"I think there was clearly a need or an opportunity for us to have greater distinction," Hays said. "We needed to put some definitions around exactly what is our tone, where are there more opportunities to be more consistent both in the writing as well as our visuals and all of the other aspects of our touchpoints — whether it was print or digital or video, any of those pieces."

The name AllianceBernstein also proved to be a challenge for the global firm.

"Globally, we were not able to use the AllianceBernstein [logo] in parts of Europe, and it was cumbersome in Asian countries," Hays said. "Having so many logos in use around the world created confusion about our firm."

This assessment gave AB a much clearer idea of what it currently was as a company, which gave the team insight into how the company should be presented in the rebrand.

"[Our vendor] did a phenomenal job of taking us through the process to hold the mirror up, look at ourselves and say, 'You know this is who you are and this is most compelling way that we can articulate that,'" Hays said.

Step #2. Alter company strategies to reflect rebrand

AB focused on building the strongest brand platform possible to ensure the firm's strategy was being implemented consistently worldwide.

"We really had to look at, how do our strategies and our ideas externalize our culture and, ultimately, how are we going to connect this idea of who we are to a tangible client benefit?" Hays said.

Step #3. Encourage an atmosphere of collaboration

An essential element of AllianceBernstein's transformation to AB was collaboration. This focus on teamwork also complimented the changes CEO Peter Kraus had made to the firm.

"He's really been instrumental in driving a much more collaborative firm," Hay said. "He's brought a lot more cross-pollination of ideas across all of our business and all of our investment teams."

Not only did the company assessment reveal AB's awareness problem, but it also showed the team potential collaboration opportunities they had previously missed. According to Hays, the assessment identified collaboration as a point of differentiation.

In order to ensure that the new AB accurately reflected the company's current climate, employee feedback was used during the rebranding effort.

"We spent a fair bit of time socializing the strategies, the logos, all of the messaging internally and working with internal teams in highly collaborative workshops to develop the messaging," Hays said.

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He added that AB worked with its vendor to help employees connect what they do day-to-day with the idea of keeping clients "Ahead of Tomorrow" — AB's revamped brand promise.

"People want to be proud of the firm that they work for, and you need to make sure that you're able to give them significant, real justification for how the firm is embracing that," he said. "Our CEO and our senior leadership throughout the whole firm have done a terrific job of doing that."

This focus on collaboration had the added benefit of ensuring that AB's new brand was in alignment on a global level. This global component is very difficult to manage and requires a lot of work, making the time and effort invested in this early stage of the rebranding process even more valuable. The team at AB set up committees to make sure the brand was accurately actioned across geographies and businesses.

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"It was really successful because we now have global consistency in a way that we really never have had before, both visually and in terms of the messaging," Hays said.

Step #4. Launch internally

Hays explained the importance of creating a company atmosphere that employees are proud of.

"The internal touchpoints are incredibly important. However, you create those whether that's a branded event or even in the small things like the business cards and the giveaways, the swag, those type of things," he said. "People want to be proud of the firm that they work for, and you need to make sure that you're able to give them significant, real justification for how the firm is embracing that."

To highlight this exciting transformation in the firm's history, AB's largest global offices hosted a brand launch day for its employees.

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"We erected these immersive gallery experiences where people can get a sense of what we were going to be rolling out. That included everything from who we are and what we stand for and our business strategy going forward," he explained.

This brand day showcased the design work that had been implemented during this rebrand through interactive touchpoints. New brand guidelines, videos, new messaging, floor graphics and 3D displays, which explained various facets of AB's new logo and identity, were also exhibited.

"It was a really cool, exciting day where we got everyone together to share in this relaunch that's going to be happening and to feel the brand change in every way they could before we went live with it," Hays said. "That was a really critical part."

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After the brand relaunch day, the team then sent out follow-up emails to AB's employees and conducted brand forum workshops, which brought leaders of the firm together and made sure they understood the firm's new approach. This gave AB's employees time understand how it related to their day-to-day lives.

Step #5. Launch externally

After the brand was launched internally and employees were familiarized with the new AB, the firm rolled out its external launch on January 20. According to Hays, this external launch was focused primarily on B2B targets, primarily the retail space.

Announcements about the firm's rebrand were made via elevator video advertising, space advertising, email campaigns, newsletters, digital advertising, articles and the various media outlets that AB uses.

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"We needed people to understand who AB is today. That was really at the core of it. I think that external clarity was really a key driver of this initiative," Hays said.

This launch also featured an external B2B multimedia marketing campaign for the launch. This campaign included print and digital display advertising that promoted AB's new website and brand video. Several marketing strategies were utilized for this external campaign, including integrated PR, email campaigns, event promotion, sponsored content, mobile advertising and full page print ads.

When it came to the client-side external relaunch, he explained that, "it was really a comprehensive rollout from our PR initiative to launching a new website, to creating brand new collateral, a whole new identity system for everyone's business cards, letterheads. There were email campaigns that went out."

They dripped out the messaging with videos that launched and introduced "who we are and our positioning of how we are a firm that can be proactive to meet client needs," he said.

AB's new website was especially important to this effort. This site was specifically designed to be mobile-ready, which correlated with an effort to make many of the tools that were used digitally become more mobile.

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After this external launch, a three-week push was implemented to connect AllianceBernstein to AB.

According to Hays, this campaign has "really taken us from sort of an internal 'who we are' to an external way of connecting with our clients and focusing on everything we do being about meeting their needs."


Due to this rebranding effort, AB saw an increase in clickthrough and engagement. Before the rebrand, the firm would see digital advertising clickthrough rates that averaged around .08%. Those rates increased to averaging at about .13%. However, it was AB's new engagement rates that really impressed the team.

"I think what's more impressive is the engagement rate. We have to credit this design and simplification and clarity of the messaging for being much more engaging because we jumped off from what we were seeing as 3% or 4% to on average now [at] 20%," Hays said. For certain publications, the firm is now seeing engagement rates with advertising as high as 50%.

"We used to see bounce rates like that. Now we're seeing engagement rates like that," he added.

Since the launching of AB's new brand, the firm's stock price has increased 5.5%. However, as impressive as those metrics are, there is one internal measurement that Hays is especially proud of.

"We're in the process of surveying the data from internal surveys. I can't quite report on that yet, but what we did see is, when a lot of people internally were asked 'What do you love most about working at AB?' — many of the anecdotal responses said the brand, the goal of keeping clients ahead of tomorrow, the focus," he said.

"That wasn't a brand specific question. It was just, 'What do you love about being here?' … We are viewing that as a really important metric for how the culture is embracing the work that we've done," Hays added.

Throughout this rebranding process, Hays and the team learned the importance of making sure the external elements of a company reflect its internal culture.

"Definitely make sure that you invest in the communications and embrace the culture of the firm. I think that that is really key in making sure you are not trying to force a square peg in a round hole," he said.

"The cultural change that took place was a significant part of the work and it continues today," he said. "Now we're building on that momentum. It really became a spark that's ignited the organization."

Creative Samples

  1. Logo

  2. Global alignment

  3. Plans for internal launch day

  4. Interactive touchpoints for internal launch day

  5. Media outlet

  6. Mobile-ready site



MBLM, AB's vendor

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