An organization's brand is the CMOs baby. Almost all of their responsibilities ultimately go back to developing and enhancing brands. That's why Yoni Solomon, CMO of Uptime.com returned in another episode of CMO Diaries to dive into the big bad world of branding.
It's something that's been high on Yoni's list of priorities, as he's been tackling a complete rebrand at Uptime.com over the last few months. In the episode, we discussed the power of a great brand internally and externally, how much control CMOs should have over the direction of the branding, and what people are expecting of B2B brands in the future.
Originally available as a podcast episode (which you can find here), read on for a full write-up of our discussion.
- The importance of branding
- Tackling Uptime's rebrand
- Who makes the decisions on branding?
- Your brand vs. the world
- From the big picture to the little details
- Gotta have that merch
- Rebrand timelines
- The dangers of poor branding
- 5 lessons learned
The importance of branding
Today we're talking about a very important part of that CMO adventure and that's branding. Branding is a major responsibility of the CMO, it's basically your baby, right? That's what you control within the company sphere?
Yeah. And it encapsulates so much too. I think the common misconception for either non-marketers or even marketers early in their career is that perhaps your branding is all about what your logo looks like, and your colors, and maybe your fonts. But in my perspective and experience, it's so much more than that.
Yeah, people think of a brand as just this thing, this monolith, but really it's this nebulous cloud that covers everything to do with a business. So let's talk first about what makes a good brand, what is a good brand?
What do people need to think about when they're approaching branding? Let's start at the top, top-level branding, what is the important aspect of that?
Yeah, of course, I think for me, it's the inputs that go into what make your brand what it is. For us, it's one, how we describe ourselves, our messaging and positioning, how we're talking about ourselves.
Two it's going to be how our customers talk about us, how they review us, how they give us testimonials and case studies. How are they explaining our value and showcasing us on our behalf to the world?
Number three, is going to be what is the market at large, also saying about us? How do they perceive us? That's going to be media, that's going to be analysts who are looking at your segment and your category and the products that you're offering.
And then finally, last but not least, but extremely important, is how your employees are talking about the brand, about the company, about their role and their position as well. And so when you have all of those things in line, your messaging and positioning for how you're describing your value is clear.
Your customers are also articulating your value to the world in a meaningful way. You have media and analysts and those who are really looking at your category, they understand who you are, and the value that you bring. And they're also promoting your brand on your behalf.
And then finally, your employees, every single one of them is arguably your most important marketing representation. They represent the culture, they represent the value. If you have all of those four things lined up, you've got yourself a pretty rock-solid brand.
Yeah because it's not just about external perception, it's not just about how your customers touch it. A solid brand changes how you behave internally, it changes how your company works, it changes how your staff perceive their role within a business. Disney is always a good, recognisable brand to discuss, let's talk about one of the biggest brands in the world
If you talk to a layperson and ask them what is the Disney brand? They would say it's cartoons, it's the castle, it's the magic, it's all those sparkles and stuff. But really Disney branding goes deeper than that. Say how the workers at the parks, they call them cast members, how they behave, the brand controls their conduct right down to tiny little, seemingly insignificant things.
So when the point, they point with two fingers because that's how Walt Disney did. And those little things are a huge part of their branding. It's a huge part of getting them into the mindset of being in the Disney brand, to be representing the Disney brand.
Yeah, brand is all about experience, whether that be customer experience, product experience, and everything in between. Disney is a great example of that. I think Nike has done an awesome job of building a really strong culture and experience around their brand as well.
But there are also several brands in the B2B tech space that come to mind, Gong, for instance, I think has done a tremendous job. Even G2 has done an amazing job since their rebrand as well.
So you're seeing more and more B2B brands begin to figure that out That so much of the brand can't be measured in traditional ways but it's so important to have, nonetheless.
Yeah, definitely. Historically with B2B brands, you did have this kind of monolith idea behind it. Think about IBM: IBM just is IBM, no one knew what was going on behind the scenes there, just that it's very important, very expensive. In comparison, looking at these newer companies, like Gong, they're very open.
They're very inclusive, they're building communities and that's a big part of their brand and it's really paying off for them. They've had massive growth. It's a great example to follow if you're building a B2B brand from scratch now.
Yeah and they also have this amazing way, of course staying polished and staying professional, but they also don't take themselves too seriously. Drift as well, these businesses as you start to look at their posts, the way they share on LinkedIn, the way they engage with customers.
There's some cheekiness there, in a fun way they express their personality, they connect to people on a one-to-one basis. I certainly think that's a nod to some of the really great B2C brands out there, that people have developed such loyalty for that.
Not only do they follow those brands for their whole lives, but they pass on those brand loyalties to their children and it becomes a generational thing. Being affiliated with dish soap, or toothpaste, you have these families that really hold true... or a shoe brand, of course. And I think B2B still has a ways to go there.
But certainly folks like Apple, for instance, have cultivated this incredible community and almost cult following around the brand. So when the new iPhone launches, Apple's brand is the line outside of the Apple Store. That's what you see, that's what you perceive and there's this feeling of what's going on in there?
And so trying to capture that in your brand takes years, it takes excellent product quality because that's where people are going to make the connection, to begin with, you have to have something of value that works really well. But of course, wrapping that around in an incredible brand messaging and experience is what's going to lead you forward.
We're witnessing a shift away from seeing it as B2B, there just isn't a really better way of putting it. It's more like business-to-people-who-work-in-a-business, which you can't really make a nice acronym out of in the same way.
But B2B still has people involved, and how they interact with your brand and how they perceive it. Even if you're ordering paper supplies and stuff, you're going to respond better to a paper supply chain that has a nice brand, that has a friendly atmosphere, that feels approachable.
If you had to pick between two things that had the exact same price, you'd pick something that has a nicer brand, surely?
Of course. So yeah, excited to talk about that today.
Tackling Uptime's rebrand
You've been thinking a lot about branding at Uptime recently. Let's talk about that. What is the process you've been doing to tackle that?
We have yeah, so upon coming to Uptime, the number one priority was really this rebrand. And for us that encompassed messaging and positioning, which obviously we talked about. It's going to culminate with the relaunch of our websites, the relaunch of our logos, our color schemes, our messaging and positioning, the way that we express ourselves to our community and to our buyers.
And so, from top to bottom, the order has been let's reimagine who we are in terms of visuals and look and feel. And so as a product marketer, when you're entering that rebrand, I know that for me, my strength isn't going to be in visuals, it's not going to be in branding and colors, it is going to be in story.
I think it's important to note that what we started with for this rebrand was the full messaging and positioning revamp, to make sure that we understood our story, we knew what our why was. Why are we offering this value? How do we offer it? And what are those things as well?
And as soon as we had that message house structure, that messaging and positioning nailed down, it was much more effective then to sit down with a creative director, who we're working with here, to explain the narrative, explain the story and the direction that we're trying to head in, so that she can then think through what the logo, the brand, the visuals can look like to accompany that new story that's coming downpipe.
Do you approach it from a sort of big idea perspective? Did you have an idea in your head of where to take the brand? Or did you just start looking at all the little cogs, all the little moving parts, and then get a picture once you started to adjust those things?
You know, heading into the rebrand, I thought I had a good idea of what I was looking for in terms of visuals and look and feel and I mocked some things up on my own that none of which, thank God, made it to production, they all kind of stopped at the ideation phase.
But that was an important lesson for me too. Coming with those ideas doesn't hurt but I found as we started to work with our creative director, who's incredible, this is as much her process as it is mine.
What you don't want to do heading into a rebrand is almost lay down the tracks before we've even begun the journey and you've already framed your designer to design or create in a certain way that might not be the right way.
Actually, the interesting thing about our rebrand is that round one was all about nailing down our primary logo and secondary logo family and we did an exploration of thoughts. In sitting down with our creative director to ideate what that round could be, I expressed some of those ideas, showed her some of my horrible designs, and walked her through the messaging and positioning.
She then took that, a week later, she got in front of SLT and presented this round one of logo options. And none of them hit the mark, it was actually a really important lesson for me as a young CMO to learn right off the bat that I'd framed her in such a way before that rebrand began that I didn't give her enough space to create. And so all four of those actually missed the mark and we started over.
And in that second round of the redo, if you will, I took a step back, I was like I'm going to give you the messaging and positioning. So from a narrative perspective, you know where we're trying to go. And then I'm going to completely take the guardrails off, go and find us four different options for our mark, that are organic expressions from you, that are really coming from you.
And in that next round, we found our key mark, we found our secondary logos, we found our fonts, it worked extremely well. But that first lesson right around the bat was a really important one for me as a young CMO.
So then once you have the logo in place, how much does that dictate other parts of the branding? Does that form the core and then you change icons to be based around that?
Yeah. So in round one, it was all about nailing down that logo, some secondary logos, and of course, the fonts. But once you have those key pieces in place, then what you can build out is what's called a brand design system. And that is going to be all of the visuals, the iconography, you start to explore colors so that you start to essentially build this entire world around this new mark.
But I would say that the mark is the primary driver, along with color and font, if I had to pick three key components that are the foundation of our design system, everything else to follow, like the designed product visuals that go on the website, the icons that go on the website and in our materials, all the graphical illustrations, as well.
All of those follow the foundation that was laid down through the primary logo, the fonts, and the colors.
Who makes the decisions on branding?
Who were the primary decision-makers in deciding when you'd hit the right mark? Was it just you and the head of design or did you pass it out to the rest of the wider company to get input, to get feedback?
It's a great question. If you are coming into a new company, where you have an executive team that is made up of founders, they're passionate, this is their baby in some ways. And so you want to have that rebrand feel collaborative, you want to make sure that their feedback gets captured. You don't want too many cooks in the kitchen.
And ultimately, the final decision rests with you because the success of the project is ultimately up to you. But I would say that for the first three rounds, where we explored logos, fonts, secondary logos, and making our decision on primary colors, I was in meetings with our creative director along with our founders and our SLT.
So they very much had a role in that so that by the time we exited this first stretch of the rebrand, we'd nailed down our logo, our entire logo family and our colors, and all that, they were very much a part of that.
And as a result, we were able to run really fast in terms of building out the rest of the icons, the visuals, and the design system, because they'd already kind of blessed the core materials and felt very much involved in the creation of those.
Were you keeping it mainly internal with decision-making? Did you do any external testing, focus group testing, or anything like that?
We didn't. It goes back and forth on whether you should. I think that certainly for product launches, and things pertaining to you, it's great to go through focus groups. I think for a rebrand like this, keep in mind that the first exercise we went through was messaging and positioning, which was closely tied to reviews, customer feedback, to customer interviews.
So we had done a lot of that foundational work upfront to find these key themes from customers around Uptime providing peace of mind, for instance, which had huge ramifications on our rebrand.
So I would say that we didn't do the focus groups. Maybe we should have, maybe we shouldn't but the good news is the source material that this rebrand was based on was almost entirely customer voice.
Yeah, focus groups, they can be a blessing and a curse. Sometimes you can get some great insights from them, sometimes you think you're getting great insights because "Oh the focus group said that", but when you actually pull it out to the wider public, you realize that's just a very small microcosm of opinions when it comes to that.
It's almost too small, right? And you're going to get some... everyone's gonna have their own opinions, it's going to come down to taste, and you might find that the learnings that you come out of there aren't really going to help you guide your way.
I also think that's what you have with focus groups with customers is that they already know who you are, they already know your brand, and you run the risk of going through an entire rebrand process and landing on quite a safe mark, and a safe rebrand, when really the whole point of the mark, especially in our space is to help us stand out.
I think it would have been a huge waste and kind of a tragedy, if you will, to go through this entire process and end up with a mark and a logo and a brand that doesn't feel all that different from what we had today, just kind of resting on our laurels, if you will.
Your brand vs. the world
Let's talk about standing out, how much awareness did you have of competitors and their branding when it came to developing the brand? Were you thinking about what they're doing, in order to try and do something completely different?
Or were you more "this is what is expected within our sphere, within our industry", people expect certain logos to look certain ways, the font to be in a certain way? It's tough, you don't want to be a completely clean slate and be completely unrecognizeable but at the same time, you need to stand out. How do you find that balance?
Yeah, and that was a journey that we as an SLT needed to assess. In the very beginning, the first thing that you're going to do is you're going to look at the logos and the branding and everything that your competitors are doing.
And I think a very valuable experiment for all young marketers who are going through a rebrand process like this, take just the logos, forget everything else that encompasses those design systems, take the logos, throw them on a slide and take your mark and throw it on a slide too.
And really ask yourself now, if you were a buyer who doesn't know anything about these companies, would you be able to tell the difference between your mark and everyone else's?
If the answer's no, I think it's time to reimagine it. So there was an element of competitive research, if you will, looking into those marks, looking into those brand design systems as well.
But really, the push for me was how do we take it in the totally opposite direction, and still stay in line with the needs and the expectations of our customers, which will be reflected in the content and the story, but visually how do we make sure that we look totally different and that we feel different from everyone else? I think that's ultimately when you talk about a company like Apple, their biggest competitive differentiator is their brand.
I mean, if you look at the space, you talk about IBM or even Dell, I can't say that they make dramatically different products. They all create computers and phones, all those phones and computers probably work and operate in the same way.
And Apple relative to some of these other companies has significantly less market share too. But their brand is I don't know, the second or third most valuable brand in the world, it used to be number one, but it's right up there with Amazon if you will. The reason is they have this incredible brand that feels different than everyone else in the space.
And that also allows them to stretch themselves and do things like Apple TV, for instance. When Apple takes their approach of ‘think different’, that applies to everything that they do. If I were to tell you, "Hey, I really think you should check out Dell's latest streaming service", you'd be like, "Why would I ever do that? Dell just creates computers", right?
Even in tech, it can seem scary but building a brand that's truly unique and truly differentiated, will open up more space for you to grow and do things that aren't necessarily tied to your business in a sense, but can also help you grow.
And that's what we wanted to land on here was something that would give us enough space to move into brand extensions, new websites, if you will, new products if you will. And that's what we're going to have here with this new mark.
It's interesting you mentioned Apple, when it comes to the look and feel of the products, if you covered up the logo on an Apple product, to most people it would still be recognized as an Apple product.
That's an important part of branding and it's an important part of taking that aspect further. The logo is a very important part but the look and feel, keeping that unique, and keeping that standing out is a very important part of the brand.
Think about Coca-Cola, for example, the shape of the bottle of Coca-Cola is instantly recognizable. If you took the label off, you'd still be able to tell that's Coca-Cola. But if you put some store generic brand cola and took the label off, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
Right? That's the difference.
That's the difference between having a brand and not having a brand. And for us, if you were to take all of our competitors, and read their websites out loud, including ours at the moment, it's kind of hard to tell the difference.
And so we wanted to make sure that we wrapped this new messaging and story that we're going to be launching in a brand that's going to truly differentiate us.
From the big picture to the little details
So you have the visuals nailed down, what's next when it comes to branding? Is it about the tone of voice, employee attitudes, where do you go next once you've got the visuals nailed down?
Yeah, I would say once you have the logo and maybe some secondary logos and colors and fonts nailed down I think then there's this element of world-building that comes into place. It's what is your design system? So for instance, how is your product, if it's a technology product, going to be depicted on your website? Are we just going to go with screenshots as everyone else does?
Or are we going to design up some cool visual components to represent the product in a branded way? And if we're going to do that, how do those visuals look? What are the different components? Are we going to break out different pieces? Are we going to add some sort of background around them?
It really is the whole design system that comes afterward where the real magic happens. And so I think that's the next step that we started to take, how do we now take this brand system and apply it to the website?
How do we take this brand system and apply it to employee branding and headshots, for instance, for all of our employees? How do we take this brand system and apply it to our product, which up until now has had old colors, old logos, old icons? And how do we do that in a thoughtful and elegant way?
And so I think it's about taking this new system that you've developed, setting really hard and fast rules, making sure that you have your guidelines nailed down for voice, for tone, capitalization nuances, all of that stuff so it's totally consistent. And then essentially, treating it like a paintbrush and applying it over your entire company to make sure that it's consistent, all one voice, all one look, all one feel.
I think that's something in particular that Apple... I mean we could talk about Apple all day, but I have never come across a bad Apple landing page, I've never come across a bad web form, everything about Apple is just polished and manicured to perfection. And I think that sort of really detailed focus on customer experience is going to be the make or break, if you will, for your brand.
How important is brand education for employees? How do you go about that, as the CMO? Do you just sit everyone down and say, "This is the brand now" or is it an ongoing process? Do you have a plan in place to educate everyone about the direction the brand's going?
Yeah, definitely put together guidelines and share them out. I think you'd be surprised, there are a lot of companies that I think actually struggle post rebrand with employees still using old, if you have an old naming convention, if you certainly have an old logo, old color schemes, set those rules right off the bat the same way that you would a product launch. Essentially train your employees on what this new experience is going to be.
Also keep in mind too, that the earlier you can loop in your employees on what this rebrand is going to be, what it's going to look like, even collect some feedback and some thoughts from them, they're then going to feel like they have skin in the game. I think that is really important for employees at a company where so much of the culture is going to be tied in with the brand, to feel like they have a part in that too.
Because really, the last thing that you want is to launch a brand that your employees feel so so about, and then you start to feel this subconscious resistance to the changes that you're trying to implement. So we showed our employees several rounds of logos, colors, fonts, of imagery before the rebrand was ever done.
I kept sort of an open door, open Slack policy, if you will, to have some folks shoot me some feedback. And luckily, we've now released these brand guidelines to our employees and everyone seems really excited about the direction that we're heading in. But most importantly, it's not a surprise to them.
They knew that it was coming, they felt like they had a role in at least seeing it develop so that when we roll it out, everyone's on the same page and aligned to move forward the exact same way that you would a product launch.
That alignment, it's very important in terms of being able to do work within those brand guidelines. If you've got people who are resistant to your new brand guidelines they're gonna be always in the back of their head trying to think about, "Oh, I have to follow these brand guidelines, I have to do things a certain way, I have to structure things a certain way".
Whereas if they're engaged with it, if they're connected with the brand, then they can do that intuitively, they know exactly what the brand guidelines are. So then they're able to just be creative with the brand guidelines, they're able to produce more creative work and be able to work better within the brand guidelines.
They're not following rules, they're following guidelines, basically, that's the difference.
Yeah, that they themselves feel like they have a part in, and really, they're gonna help you promote and evangelize that brand if they feel like they have a role in it to play. And so not just in SLT, but across really all of the company, I wanted to make sure that people saw the direction we were headed in.
They saw the messaging, they understood why we were making these decisions so that when we roll this out, everyone feels like this is a brand that we can wear on a shirt, we can put on our LinkedIn so that we can talk about and really promote to its full potential.
Gotta have that merch
Speaking of shirts, merch has got to be a big part of the tech space?
Yeah, right? I was just on a call the other day, you want to talk about great branding customer experiences, there's an Asana shirt that I wear a lot. We used Asana at G2, I'm a huge fan of Asana for project management.
And I was on Twitter one day, I think I just finished a really gnarly product launch at G2, and I literally just tweeted @Asana, I said something like, "Hey, I'm very thankful for your software, because I'm pretty sure I would have lost my mind had I tried to manage this product launch without your software".
And that day, they sent me a direct message to my Twitter with a free link to their merch store and they were like, "Hey, we just really appreciate the shout-out. Use this code, check out whatever you want for free". I got myself a little Asana shirt.
It is the most comfortable shirt that I own. I wear it at least once a week. And I promote Asana, just casually. So I do think that merch or swag or whatever people like to call it is important, but you want to land on a mark and a look and feel that people are actually going to want to wear on a T-shirt.
Definitely, an attractive design, it goes beyond just catching your eye, it's something people want to be involved with, they want to wear it, they want to be out there. And then just promoting your brand for free. In fact, sometimes they've even paid to promote your brand, you might have a store on the site selling caps and shirts and stuff like that and they've paid for the privilege to go out and advertise for you.
A brilliant piece of branding was branded store bags, but that's is kind of fading a little bit, in the UK at least they've banned plastic bags and I'm sure it's similar in some parts of the States. So now so you're not getting branded store bags and stuff like that where people have literally paid to advertize your brand. You're not getting that kind of extra piece of branding that was out there.
The public that likes your brand, the customers that like your brand, they become brand advocates and that's a very, very powerful thing, particularly in the B2B space. Having prominent advocates promoting your brand, just because they like your brand is really powerful, really effective.
I remember as a young marketer, we rolled out backpacks at one of my previous companies. It was an expensive purchase, by the way for backpacks, especially nice ones. And at the time, I was thinking, "Wow, this is a lot of money to throw at a piece of merchandise for all of your employees" until I was on the train, and started to look around at everyone commuting into the city.
I saw LinkedIn, I saw Facebook, I saw all of these big brands, Google, I saw Google backpacks everywhere, and realized how even just passively having people wear a Google backpack on the way to work promoted the brand right off the top. And so I agree, I think merchandise needs to be done thoughtfully.
I think sometimes we can overdo it and eventually you just have too many shirts that you can't even wear them all. But if done thoughtfully, absolutely it is a great way to empower pretty much everyone; employees, customers, etc. to passively promote your brand just on their merry way.
And if you're connecting with your consumers, your customers in a way they might find useful, for example, if you're in the tech industry and you pull out a laptop bag, you're thinking about stuff that's connected to what your users needs.
You're showing extra consideration through your brand to what they might need and showing a wider awareness beyond your brand of the industry at large.
How much consideration did you take into that when you were coming up with the branding, going through the rebrand? Have you got plans for merch?
Absolutely, and actually, I wanted to make sure that we landed on a mark that people would want to put on a piece of merch, which is why really our mark is going to be broken out into two pieces. We have a wordmark, but also have a very, what I hope will be a notable sort of icon logo character that accompanies our wordmark.
And you can from there have all sorts of opportunities to split them apart, there'll be some instances where you just showcase the wordmark, there'll be some instances where you just showcase the logo icon if you will, but giving us a lot of flexibility within the design system to use both was gonna be really important.
And I wanted to have something beyond just a couple of letters that we could put on a shirt as part of an employee gift. That we could put on an award or a gift that perhaps we're going to send out to a client and that's what we've landed on here.
So when it came to approaching the rebrand, did you have a set timeline in place? Did you say, we have to have everything sorted out by this date? Or was it a bit more flexible? Was it like when we have the right brand then it's the right time?
The date was as soon as possible. Which in some ways is good. I like aggressive timelines and for us, this rebrand was way overdue. So we wanted to get it done as soon as possible.
But I also do appreciate that even through the midst of the rebrand, so for instance, when we came back on round one with all those four logo options and none of them worked I did get some breathing room, if you will, from SLT to make sure that we get it right. The last thing you want to do is go through this whole process and rush it and land on a mark that doesn't move the needle for you.
So I would say that the timeline is aggressive. All in all, I think by the time we roll everything out, it'll be just a hair under four months, probably closer to three which is really fast for a full rebrand. Not just cosmetic tweaks a total overhaul. But I would say even if we were behind on our timeline, I don't think that we would have pulled the trigger on a brand that we didn't truly believe in.
And so there will always be that pressure to move fast, especially for younger CMOs who are coming into companies that are either early-stage or perhaps have a lot of brand work that needs to be done because they're not very known in the space, you're going to feel that pressure to move really, really fast.
But above all else, the brand is not something that can be done at 50 to 75%. It's got to be an A, at least in your eyes, before you move forward. Because the last thing you want to do is go through this whole process and end up with something that has a shelf life of six months and then you revert back to the old one, or you try to go through another rebrand which can be incredibly distracting and confusing for customers.
You kind of have one bullet and you've got to get it right. So you're going to move quickly, but move thoughtfully, and make a decision on something that you really feel good about.
You mentioned it can confuse customers if you're rebranding too often. How often should you rebrand? What is the half-life of a brand? How long can a brand survive without being refreshed do you think?
There are certain brands that can just last forever like Coca-Cola, for example, they haven't changed in decades. But say in the tech industry, rebrands can happen fairly regularly, when is the right time to refresh your brand?
That's a really good question. I think it's going to depend, there are gonna be some marks, for instance, you mentioned Coca Cola, that mark isn't going to change anytime soon. But Pepsi did rebrand, Pepsi has rebranded at least once in the last 10 years, you have marks like Nike, that I would argue it would be so ridiculous and silly to change that logo because they really nailed it.
But also at the same time, if you were sitting in a room, going through a rebrand process, and I think if you saw the Nike logo without knowing what it was, I don't know if people would really know what it was.
Nike just tied that logo so well to their product and customer experience that it took on a life of its own. And that mark just became connected to quality and to success and to winning and competitiveness. And so that mark might never change.
But Apple has and Apple has one of the most recognizable marks in the industry. But it's gone from the rainbow mark to I think a static metallic one, to they put a little bit of a glimmer or a little bit of a shine on the apple, they've made these subtle tweaks several times in the last few decades.
So I think it's going to kind of depend on the company. But to bring it back to B2B brands, especially high growth, more early-stage B2B brands I think that rebrand typically happens when you're trying to enter a new segment or begin to market to new customers. I typically see the maturity stage happen somewhere between why don't we say series A and B versus series C.
Where all of a sudden, now you've raised your C round, you are probably several 100 employees, you're trying to move upstream into upper-level mid-market and enterprise and at that point, it's probably time to reconsider the brand, maybe to add an element of maturity especially as you're moving into the enterprise space.
But I don't know if there's necessarily a hard full stop right and wrong time to do it. But for most startups that I've seen go through that rebranding process, it's typically to move upstream and to mature the brand a bit.
But even then, I don't think there's ever going to be a 100% hit on a rebrand. Slack rebranded, and I think it was mixed. If you look at all of these articles, I was reading some the other day just for fun, every single one of these Business Insider articles, or whoever that's covering a rebrand talks about how it's a mixed reaction from customers.
Some customers loved it, some customers didn't. And that's the reality of every rebrand. There's never going to be 100% A, you're never going to nail it fully. But if you feel good about the mark, and you have a strong subset of customers in the market that identifies with it, you've done a great job.
The dangers of poor branding
We've talked a bit about what goes into the good side of a brand. What happens if you do miss the mark though? You mentioned the mixed reaction to Slack, what is the danger of a bad rebrand or just a bad brand in general?
Yeah, the danger is one bad press, confused customers, and even some of the online snark that can remove some of the veneer and polish on your rebrand. The brand Sears, the retailer, in particular, went through rebrand a few years ago and landed on a new mark that, looking back on it now I saw what they were trying to do.
It was this weird mesh of a heart and a house to try to talk about the importance of love in the home, which ties into all the things that they sell as a home goods retailer. But it ended up looking a whole lot like the Airbnb logo, and people just ended up really blowing them up on that, it ended up moving a lot of the polish and momentum of that rebrand.
So certainly there is a risk as a bigger more well-known brand of, if you miss the mark, you're going to pick up some press and from there, it really is a decision that you as a marketing team need to make, are we gonna stick to our guns here and move forward? Or are we going to try to revert back? I'm of the opinion that unless it's something really egregious that was missed in the mark, own your decision and move forward.
Again, if you build an excellent customer and product experience around this brand, the brand will find legitimacy eventually. Again, the focus has got to be around a great product and great customer experience, and the brand will ultimately sell itself.
5 lessons learned
Awesome. So is it time for another five lessons learned from doing a rebrand?
Let's do it.
What are the five lessons learned from your rebranding?
Okay, top five lessons for rebranding. One, start with the story, especially if you're a product marketer or a content marketer by trade that's moved into a marketing leadership role. Start with the things that you know best, which is gonna be messaging, it's gonna be positioning, get that story down.
Because that story is the other side of the coin for your brand. It's going to inform the visuals, it's going to be the thing that the brand and the visuals become the wrapper over.
Number two, if you're not a designer, don't try to inform what the design is going to be. You can have some ideas that you can articulate and share with your designer but ultimately, give them the grace and the space to express themselves and creates a brand around the story that hopefully you provided to them. So don't be afraid to remove some of those guidelines and let them really do their thing.
Number three, involve SLT and founders early, let them feel like they're really a part of this thing. In all fairness, if its founders, especially, this is their company, this is their baby, they're gonna want to feel like they have a part of that.
And the last thing that you want to do is keep them out of the kitchen while everything's being cooked, and then, right before you launch, they have a problem with the fonts, or the color scheme, so involve them early.
Number four, keep your employees at large involved and aligned as well. Give them a peek under the hood, let them see what you're developing, and make sure they understand why we're making these decisions. So that when we roll out this brand, they're totally aligned and excited to help you promote it too.
Number five, I would say is don't be afraid to truly be different. Don't look at the competitors in the landscape and feel like you have to align your rebrand to the dogma of your space. The most important thing that you can come out of in a rebrand is a mark and a design system that truly represent you well and differentiate you from everyone else.
And so if you go through that whole process, and you still have a mark that looks exactly like everyone else's, that's not going to get you to where you need to be. Don't be afraid to take a risk.
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