We've discussed messaging and positioning. We've dived into branding. On a recent episode of CMO Diaries, it was time to see how Yoni Solomon, CMO at Uptime.com has been putting it all into practice as he tackles the biggest project of his time as a CMO so far: a full head-to-toe rebrand of Uptime.com, sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way.
You can check out the original podcast episode this discussion appeared on, but read on for a full write up.
It's sort of like the end of the trilogy. This is the big one, this is the Return of the King.
Right? This is the return of the king, I love the Lord of the Rings analogy and it certainly feels like the bookend of a very important chapter in terms of my CMO journey.
Yes, the end of the chapter, not the end of the book.
Hopefully not the end of the book!
Because today, we're talking about you've been nose to the grindstone for the last few months, which is relaunching the brand of Uptime, which is a mammoth task for pretty much any CMO. But for someone who's fairly new into the role, this was the first major project that you've been working on, isn't it?
Absolutely. For those who've been tuning in so far, so much of this journey thus far has been building up and culminating with this moment here. I was brought in initially by the company to work on a couple of very important things.
But probably the biggest piece of it was a reimagining, and a reinvigoration of our brand, of our messaging, of our product marketing presentation, and all of that together is really rolling up into this major rebrand and launch of our new website that we're heading into next week.
At the time of writing (October 22nd 2021) you haven't actually done the relaunch yet. It's gonna be Monday and it's now Friday.
Yeah, it's Friday now, and starting Monday morning we're going to start slowly but surely and methodically relaunching our website, getting all of our comms ready across press releases, blog posts, social media awareness, etc. And we're going to spend pretty much the entire span of next week educating the customers, the market at large, and reintroducing ourselves in a sense as Uptime.com.
So at the time of reading, that will have happened.
Yeah, we'll be on the other side of it.
Our audience will be able to see how it's gone.
Before we start going into the process of relaunching the brand, let's reel it back and talk about why there was a need to relaunch the brand, what was the motivation behind it?
Sure. Really the big piece that comes along with a rebrand and with a product launch and any sort of initiative that you're taking on as a CMO or just a marketer, in general, is fundamentally we're looking to solve a problem.
And our problem as a reminder, to those who've been listening, had to do with one, needing to increase market visibility and awareness, number two, needing to change and evolve and differentiate our go-to-market messaging and story.
And then number three was finding a clear and more modern way to present our offerings and our technology and our visual story to the market. And so those problems all came together and the solution was the rebrand and I would never recommend to any CMO or marketer out there to just jump into a rebrand for no reason.
But if you do find that it solves and addresses several really important business problems and challenges I think that's the right road to take. That was why I was brought into the company to tackle these problems and that is culminating now my friend with this rebrand that we're heading into.
Where was the direction when it came to the rebrand? Was it just come in, sort it out, relaunch the brand for us? Or did you see these problems and then you thought you need to do the rebrand? What was the process behind it?
Well, first, it started with an analysis of the current state of the company. Before we even decided that we were going to go down the route of a rebrand we knew we needed at a minimum to update our website in terms of usability. We needed to optimize for SEO, optimize for demand capture, we needed to change the way that we were presenting our product marketing imagery across the site as well.
So I knew that there were some tactical things that we needed to fix and update, but the need for the rebrand came after my first two weeks, why don't we call it my first 10-day analysis of the current state of the company, in terms of finding issues with our visibility, with our differentiation, with our funnel performance.
And really all of that led me to this conclusion that I think a full and bold and fun rebrand would be the right call to make for the company.
But once that analysis was done, and we looked at the data, and we made a decision to senior leadership to move forward, that's when the direction and the steam started to build up, if you will, for this rebrand.
How to start a rebrand?
Let's talk about direction. So which direction do you start with when it comes to a rebrand? Or better yet, which direction did you start with when it came to Uptime? Did you start at the very top with logos and stuff? Or did you think about all the bells and whistles and see how they fit together and then the logo and direction of the company come out of that?
Yeah, great question. For me, and I would recommend that I think the journey is gonna be a little bit different for every CMO out there depending on what your superpower in your background was. I started first and foremost with the things that I knew in my gut, I could do well as a product marketer. So I started with messaging and positioning.
And I would highly recommend if folks are tuning in for the first time, check out our previous sessions as well, we dive really deep into building a strong messaging framework, go-to-market strategy, everything that leads up to the rebrand launch.
But I started with the story itself, to really make sure that I understood how we wanted to present our new messaging and positioning to the market. I wanted to vet that against our customer base through segmentation, through, of course, customer voice, like reviews, and interviews and everything like that.
And once we built out a really good messaging house framework for who we are as a company, how we're different, the value that we present, from there, all of that messaging and context went into the creative brief that I filed with our creative director to then start to work on the visual brand.
Even then, we still went through two rounds of logos and visual ideas before we finally nailed down our direction. But yeah, we sort of did it inside out, started with messaging, and then the messaging informed the visual and the brand story that we're going to be presenting starting next week.
Two rounds that sounds pretty low! Not every logo rebrand is going to be done in two rounds. You've been very lucky in this situation to get it done so efficiently.
It felt like breakneck speed, to be honest. And that's also part of the reality of being early stage two. I think when you're a larger, more established company, things are just naturally going to move a little bit slower. But for us in particular, we wanted to move quickly but correctly.
So I don't feel throughout this process, despite how quickly we moved that we've made a call on anything in our guts that we didn't feel right about. But yes, it certainly has been a very fast road from starting.
I think we started the rebrand journey in maybe June and now we're in October and we're about to roll out a completely new messaging and positioning story, a completely new website, completely new branding, and logo. So it's happened fast. Very fast.
That does sound like a really small time scale. Is that the norm do you think, that kind of time scale? Or is it just something that needed to be done as soon as possible in your case?
Yeah, I don't think it's the norm. I think for us the realities of being early-stage and knowing that in many ways this rebrand and overhaul was long overdue, we had that momentum of "Hey, all of SLT is aligned, we know we want to move quickly and efficiently here" so we put that to our advantage. But even so, there are certainly bumps along the way in terms of moving really, really quickly.
So if you're a new CMO, you're coming into a company, it's early stage, and we know we want to move relatively fast on a rebrand, I would still say be very intentional in the decisions that you're making. Give yourself that extra time if you do need it because you want to get this right.
In theory, you shouldn't be rebranding 12 months from now because you messed up the first one. Let's be really clear and intentional about the choices that we're making so that this can be a brand and a direction that you can put your weight behind as a company for quite a long time.
The choices you have to make as a CMO when rebranding
Let's talk about some of the choices you need to make as a CMO beyond just deciding on a new logo or a new tagline or something like that. What other decisions need to go into a full rebrand? Because branding goes beyond just your logo and the name of your company. There's a lot more that goes into it.
Sure. Even starting fundamentally with gut checking your new messaging and positioning, your textual storytelling, your content storytelling, versus the new visual brand and the visual story to make sure that the two of them align, to see that there's some consistency between both so it doesn't feel like you had on one side in a silo a team working on the coolest most innovative, most bold and daring branding and colors schemes that you can imagine.
And on the other side, you have some, why don't we call it very corporate, very enterprise-specific messaging, and it just doesn't feel like it fits together. So first off, just looking at the full scope of your rebrand to make sure the content and visual story that you're telling are indeed consistent.
Then beyond just the branding and the logos, and even the words that go on to the web pages themselves, if you will, I think it's really important for CMOs to not forget to really consider how you're gonna be presenting your software.
Have those conversations early in terms of are we going to be a company that presents screenshots of our products? Or are we going to be a company that designs fun and branded vector files? Is that going to be right for our audience? Are we trying to target SMB versus mid-market versus enterprise?
What are the segments within those big specific categories that we're looking at? Are we talking about banking and financial services? They're going to be used to a certain tone. Are we talking about higher ed or brands?
Really focus on your customer personas as well, I think that'll help inform the way that you present your technology. But keep in mind, especially if you're a CMO at a tech startup, your product is going to be a little bit more complicated than blue jeans or T-shirts, or shoes.
So really think about that product marketing wrapper around how you're presenting your technology, and make a decision early in terms of how you want that to look and feel and work on your website.
It sounds like a lot of different moving parts to keep track of, how do you keep track of them all? Did you have a spreadsheet where you said all these different things, or what was your process doc?
I'm a big fan of project management software. In past lives I've used Asana, shout out to that team, I think it's one of the best tools that I've ever used. We, unfortunately, don't use it yet at Uptime.com. So I would say for us, it was a combination of a couple of things. We certainly use Trello for collaboration in terms of different boards, creating out our sitemaps and all the pages that needed to be created for the rebrand.
For visual imagery we worked a lot out of Google, Google Slides has been instrumental in collaborating with my design team to make sure that they know exactly what they need to do. I'd say somewhere in between this convergence of Trello and the Google Suite, we found the right combination of project management tools.
Certainly, if I could go back and do this all over again, I think we would have just started with something like Asana and used that as the singular HQ, the home base for all of our project management needs.
You need a single source of truth, don't you?
In fact, a single source just where you keep all the files and assets.
And the punch list keeps changing too, I think you'll find along the way, even if it's a product marketing launch that you're relatively familiar with, you're never covering all your bases from the onset. There are going to be things along the way that you use to tweak and enhance and add to that project plan.
So I think there's almost a beginning, middle, and end in terms of your initial project plan, all the different tasks and priorities that you can think of off the top of your head that makes sense. And then along the way, sort of in the middle of your project, you're going to be navigating different issues and needs that come up. So you're tweaking that plan as you go.
But typically, what I like to do before a major launch like this, and we're literally gonna have a meeting like this later on today with my team, is let's establish our final punch list. What are the very specific 5/10/20 items that need to happen in between now and next week to ensure that we have all of our bases covered before we go to market?
Covering all your bases
What are those bases that need covering? Can you divulge that to us?
Yeah, of course, from top to bottom, let's talk first about the website. So for us, our rebrand and our website are tied very closely together. So a full A to Z check of our websites, all images, SEO, tagging, content, buttons, we literally led a company-wide QA of the new website itself.
So we opened up that QA process beyond just the marketing team and just let everybody loose on the website to try to break it in every way they possibly could.
So first, operationally making sure that your website is up and running, making sure that all campaigns are set up ahead of time, reporting and ROI is ready to go. Comms all across all of our different channels. Are those written? Are those approved? Are those ready to go to specific audiences?
And then finally, heading into next week, what are those meeting blocks that you need to put on your calendar proactively to make sure that we can all get together on a Zoom and do some gut checks together before things go live?
So I'd say it's a lot but it generally encompasses marketing ops, content, promotion, campaigns, and final team meetings and collaboration next week as things go live.
This sounds like a lot even when things are working well. What problems can occur when it comes to relaunching the brand, and how do you deal with them as a CMO? Because the buck stops with you.
First, I think it's very easy for especially a big launch like this one for that final punch list to get bigger and bigger and bigger. And people will be eager to just add one more task or one more image or one more page or one more campaign.
At a certain point, I think you have to close phase one and say this is exactly what we're gonna do, we're not going to add any more variables into this first phase of the launch.
And then what you start to do is build a very strong phase two have all of the items that you couldn't quite get to with this first launch, it didn't make sense. And start to build a go-to-market continued phase, if you will, from once this website, once this new brand goes live.
So let's not throw too many wrinkles in last minute. In my opinion, I think that's just how mistakes are made. Being definitive, and closing down your first big launch at a certain point is going to be a really important thing to do to keep yourself and your team sane before you launch.
Aligning everyone behind a rebrand
Definitely, keeping the team sane through this exhausting process has go to be important. Was it important to be emotionally supportive all through the relaunch process?
Let's talk about leadership skills, not just the actual technical stuff, what leadership skills did you need to lead the rebrand?
Whether it's a rebrand, or a big product launch, or a big media campaign, energy is everything, and keeping morale high and keeping the energy positive, and fun, especially in those last few hours and days leading up to this big launch is absolutely critical.
I've been beyond fortunate to work with the kind of marketing team that has turned this long and arduous launch process into a really fun experience where we're keeping each other fired up, we're checking in with each other constantly via Slack.
We have weekly, at this point, almost daily check-ins on the website to see how we can support one another. It's almost putting aside the individual stresses and needs that we might have and really focusing on the collective and the goal then almost becomes twofold. It's one, how can we, of course, have the best rebrand and launch possible?
But two, how can we best support each other through this phase and keep it fun? What are we going to do afterward, to celebrate this thing as a milestone? Those are really important things to think about as a leader, and as a team. So certainly keeping that energy high and keeping this project fun has been a top priority for us.
Because we've talked previously about how important branding is to the internal structure, internal motivation, it's got to be even harder when it's a brand that doesn't even exist yet, it's not even out there to the public. A new brand you're trying to get people bought in, you're trying to get people excited about this stuff, how did you do that?
Did you pitch this whole rebrand to the entire company? Did you make a big speech? Or was it just individual conversations? How did you go about getting everyone on board?
The good news is none of this has been done in a silo. We have two all-hands a month and so for the last several months we've been checking in and keeping the company up to speed on the latest developments with the website and with the brand. And then, of course, getting them all involved for the company-wide QA I think was really important for culture as well.
It felt like everybody at that point had skin in the game, and they were excited and invested in the success of this launch. So not having this be something that just marketing owns and protects and keeps everybody out of, I think has been really important to our success.
I've got to say, beyond just the marketing team, our whole company is now really excited to see this thing go live. As a marketer, there's nothing more rewarding, I think than seeing people within your company get behind this and you feel that energy and enthusiasm coming from them as well.
Because a rebrand doesn't just affect how you market, it can affect how the sales team works. They're gonna have customers who suddenly turn around say, "Hey, everything's changed, what's up with that?" You need to have them prepared for it. You need to have your operations team prepared for the differences. You need to prepare every aspect of the business.
Everything. It takes a village and that is no understatement but preparing your sales team to go to market with this new messaging, letting the product team know that this rebrand is going to change the way that we're presenting our stories to the world. As you can hear my dog clearly agrees as well.
Keeping customer success and support ready to go because they're gonna be getting questions from customers once the rebrand launches as well. So really treating this as an exercise in organizational alignment rather than just a big one-off rebrand marketing extravaganza is gonna make or break the success of your launch.
And it just is a good reminder for us as marketers that everything that we do doesn't just exist in the silo for us, it impacts every facet of the company internally and externally.
It's got to be tricky to manage as well. If everyone knows this rebrand's coming, they're all getting trained on this new way of working and stuff, they've still got to keep operating with how the brand currently works, and then they've got to be ready to make the switch. How do you prepare people for that? Is there a lot of internal training going on?
A lot of alignment and proactive communication. I mean, there are things that are going to... for example, we have newsletters that are regularly scheduled to go out, we have scheduled emails and comms to customers, and there's always this question of, are we using the new brand here? Are we gonna be flipping new logos and color schemes in?
So just keeping everyone proactively aligned on when that switch is happening and what exactly they need to do to contribute, that's what the rebrand is. For customers, what they see is a new website and they see a new logo going live. Internally it's just a massive exercise in organizational alignment across the board.
Making the big brand switch
Let's talk about the actual switch - Monday. How are you going about it? Are you making a big announcement about it? Or are you just doing the switch and this is the way we work from now on? Because I've seen some companies do it differently. Some companies make this big celebration out of a new rebrand. Other ones, they just do the switch and your customer notice it's different all of a sudden.
Yeah, it's going to happen, I would say in several phases over the course of several days. I'm a big believer that when it comes to major launches like this, I don't really like to save all of the bullets, if you will, for one day, have a major push, and then zip, nothing ever happens again. I don't think that's how people consume information anymore.
If you put everything into a single day and half your audience misses it, because it's a busy Monday, then it just feels like you've missed a lot of opportunity for momentum and visibility there. So we are going to have a series of comms that go live.
Monday is really our operational rebrand day, we're going to be methodically relaunching our websites, we're going to be switching out all of our campaign assets, we're gonna be updating all of our third-party review sites like a G2, our partner directories, our social media profiles, really getting our house in order, if you will, with this new look, this new brand, and this new feel.
Then, in the coming days, we're going to have a blog post that's going out by me, that's almost like a walk down memory lane in terms of the history of the company, how we got here, why we decided to rebrand, and what it looks like now,
Then, of course, we're going to have a press release going live I think the day after that on Wednesday, with some customer comms and emails and social posts ready through the rest of the week.
So I'm kind of hoping to get like a solid five-day promotional window out of this thing, rather than putting all my eggs in a single basket on a Monday or Tuesday and hoping that people see it.
So it's a long-term thing. Does that mean all of the marketing operations stop and it's just all rebrand all the time? Or do you have to keep other functions still going all through this process?
I would say that we certainly do have other functions that we have to keep going throughout this process. Monday morning, we're going to have almost like Zoom office hours, we have about a block for I think three hours where anyone can hop in and out, ask questions, and collaborate as needed.
I think what we're going to try to do is save most of the operational work for Monday so that by the time we head into Tuesday through the rest of the week, our focus is on campaigns and communication, and also opens up time for the rest of the marketing team to, of course, get back to the regularly scheduled programming and jobs so that they can keep other things going in the meantime.
Awesome. So what is the future beyond that? What is the long term? How do you measure the success of this rebrand?
I get asked that question a lot. I am very lucky in terms of the kind of data that we have accessible here already. There's been a strong culture around making sure that our admin instance is full of historical data.
But we wanted to make sure before this website went live, and this new rebrand launched, that we put in the work to build out our historical marketing performance. I think it's a report that we built out, it goes all the way back to 2014, basically, to the onset of the company.
And we're going to do a before and after in terms of traffic, free trials created, subscribers converted, we're a PLG model; product lead growth so our focus is of course on generating as many free trials as possible, converting those subscribers.
So we're going to take a look at those things plus traffic and basically follow them every month with 3, 6, 9, and 12-month reporting windows apps so that we can compare before versus after. And what we should see is higher traffic.
Obviously a higher number of free trialists created because our messaging is clearer and more concise, I would expect to see a higher percentage of those convert to paid subscribers, which means more revenue generated and sourced for the marketing team. So we're gonna keep it simple.
But those are the sort of measurements that we're going to be looking for to gauge how successful this thing has been.
Because at the end of the day, you can't get by just saying, "Oh, we like the new logo", it's "is this actually a better thing for the business?"
Yeah, and fundamentally you can get really fancy in the kind of things that you report on, I prefer to keep things really simple here. In theory, we should have a brand that drives higher visibility. As a result, we should be seeing increased engagement and traffic direct to our site, we should see our organic performance increase.
By the way, our paid channels, our PPC campaigns, all those are being refreshed with new messaging and new branding so we should be seeing a lift in the number of free trials and demos converted through those. And all that leads to higher revenue sourced, opportunity generated details. And so I think those are going to be the kind of measurements that we look for to benchmark success here.
Let's talk a little bit about the time of year, is now the right time of year to relaunch the brand? Did you pick this time of year intentionally or was it just how the timeline worked out?
Yeah, it's how the timeline worked out and I would say that if we waited any longer, it wouldn't be a great time. Thanksgiving, end of your holidays, and before you know it everyone's kind of checked out and not looking at their inboxes anyway.
So just by the nature of when I started, and the team got pulled together, this was the best timing that we could put together all things considered. For all the other marketers and CMOs out there, I certainly wouldn't recommend launching a rebrand anytime approaching Thanksgiving and beyond.
Definitely not. Don't do anything around Thanksgiving and beyond. Unless you're in commerce or retail, why bother doing any marketing at all?
Exactly. So I think in many ways, this is the last stretch of 2021 where it makes sense for us. But what's nice is, once we get this out of the way, obviously, we're going to be entering the holiday period, things will slow down a little bit, but then we get to enter 2022 with an entirely new brand, an entirely new Uptime.com to present to the market.
It gives you time to take a step back, reassess, what you've learned from the process, how your team's gotten through it, what you work on in the future.
5 lessons learned from launching a rebrand
Let's talk about lessons learned. Let's do Yoni's five lessons learned from the relaunch.
So lesson number one, speed is always going to be important, especially at an early stage when you have to find a way to accelerate pipeline and funnel in a hurry. But be intentional and make the right decisions despite that speed.
Don't make concessions, especially in regards to your brand, your product marketing presentation, and stuff like that, it's going to come back to bite you 12 months, 24 months down the road when you have to rebrand all over again because you didn't get it right the first time.
Number two really take a step back and ensure that all of the elements of your rebrand, of content, website experience, brand, logos, visual color schemes, all align so it doesn't feel like those elements were done in silos away from one another. So there's a clear and consistent through line all the way through.
Number three put an extra amount of focus on your product marketing imagery, it's really easy to over-index on the logos and on the color schemes and the things that get your average consumer really excited. But we are in software and technology, it's a hard product to sell and present well. And so you have to put that extra focus in.
Decide if it's screenshots, if it's vector files, really go back and forth on the look and feel to make sure that fundamentally you're putting up product marketing imagery that presents your software in the best way possible.
Number four, be open to the idea of closing off your Phase One launch as you near your go-live date. Let's commit to the things that we're going to do, anything else that gets thrown in on top that feels like we're going to have to rush to sneak it in as an extra project or an extra task, you do run the risk of screwing some things up if you add too many chaotic variables in there right before launch.
So be very clear in delineating your phase one versus phase two, and be open about sharing that with the company like "Hey, it's a great suggestion on X, Y, and Z. We're gonna get to it's in the next two to three weeks once the website is live, once the rebrand is done".
Number five, get your reporting apparatus in shape early, let's like think about the before and after benchmarks that you want to put together to prove ROI. And be sure to communicate to your company that we're gonna check in every 3, 6, 9, 12 months, but we have to give this rebrand time to marinate and perform.
And as long as you're very clear and transparent around the things you're gonna be measuring that span the funnel, whether that's traffic, leads, or opportunities, or free trials created, revenue source, you should be good to go with your senior leadership team in terms of proving ROI, and results around all of this work and effort.
Rebrand done - time to relax?
So everything's out the door next week, you've got it all done. Do you have time to just relax for a little bit, to chill out with your team? You mentioned having a celebration, like are you going to be on the beach for the next few months?
No beaches but we'll have a really fun happy hour and then from there, we kind of head into another two or three really big projects that are coming down the line that I'm sure we can dedicate an episode or two to as well.
Right after the rebrand launches, we have a very big priority coming down the line of relaunching our entire pricing and consumption model, which I would say is every bit as big as the rebrand project. And in some ways even more important. Especially when you're talking about pricing and packaging. And then after that, we have a massive ABM and dataset project going forward to essentially pull together our foundational automated marketing and sales motions, as pertains to prospects and customers.
So if the website and the rebrand were one, we kind of have one B and one C coming down the pipe very quickly. But we'll certainly find time in between those to celebrate, catch our breath, give the team time to rest before we move forward.
Awesome. But no rest for the wicked.
No rest for marketers, my friend.
Thank you very much, Yoni. Hope it goes well! Where can our readers check out the results of the rebrand?
It's an easy domain. If you're interested in seeing the results, visit us at www.Uptime.com and check it out for yourself.
Are you approaching a rebrand and need advice? Have you learned lessons from running one in the past? Share with the CMO Alliance Community!