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In the last installment I talked about how you know it’s time for a brand refresh.

So by now you know we decided to go for it. For me, there were 2 driving reasons to tackle a brand refresh now:

1- Evolution: This company is vastly different than it was 10 years ago. We are not 17 years old; we are 17 years strong (yes I’m a marketer, that’s how we talk…). We are ever-evolving and our brand should reflect the caliber of technologies we are building today.

2- The Human Element: There are truly wonderful aspects of our company that are not readily visible externally. This group is so customer-focused that we will obsess over a single frustrating customer experience. But, unless you have had direct interaction with our sales or support teams, you would not know the depth of our commitment to making users happy. Yet this is one of the core brand qualities that keeps people coming back.

“The friendly skies” of United

Getting Started: the Brand Audit

Oy. Like your  first step into the cold pool, getting started is the hardest part.

We started with a brand audit to tell us who we are. (OK, yes, we are Extensis. I got that part. But who are we from the outside-in?) Too many companies try to build their brand on top of who they WISH they were. Consider: any healthcare company—or US-based airline—that you can think of and you’ll see what I mean.

Ever hear the expression “you can’t fight genetics”?  Well, perhaps that also applies to branding.  You just have to be who you really are and focus on showcasing that, otherwise there is a high probability of looking like a phony.

“Love to fly?” Really? Because the rest of us hate it!

Yes, lost luggage IS special.

What (and who) we asked

First we had to get some probing questions answered:

  • Do we deliver what we promise?
  • What is our greatest opportunity?
  • Why do people choose to work for/work with us?
  • What have we never been good at?

Well, you get the idea. You simply can’t be afraid to get the answers you need to hear. It’s important stuff.

Yes, market research is invaluable. But at a certain point you hit serious diminishing returns (think: looking down the ramp of a ski jump.) There is a point at which you have enough evidence to move forward.  Tom Fishburne recently created a timely Brand Cartoon on this very topic.

In light of this, we chose to spend our time talking to our brand messengers: customers, employees, industry partners and sales partners.  We had a 3rd party team send out a survey to our employees and then conduct a series of in-depth interviews with customers and partners from across the globe (from customers like Publicis, to partners like Adobe and Microsoft). These guys know us, our product offering and how we fit into the bigger context of the industry. And, as we learned, they are happy to be brutally honest!

What We Learned

A few ‘pull quotes’ from the research:

  • “If they want something that’s solid and works they’re going to purchase our product.” (Employee)
  • “We really strive for quality: the fonts on WebINK are just one example.” (Employee)
  • “Solid products. Extensis really cares about the functionality.” (Sales partner)
  • “The most valuable piece is the internal talent.” (Industry partner)
  • “The best thing about the product is the depth of engineers that can work on the product.” (Customer)

Clearly, the employees here are the nerve center of this place.  But we have done a poor job of allowing this character to show through. For me, this was the biggest take-away: “They like us but they don’t really know us.”

We are not some monolith technology company that is slick but impersonal.  We engage our customers and value their opinions, we share that feedback across the organization, we act on it whenever possible, we work very hard to satisfy. We really do lose sleep over doing the right thing.  We really do groove-out on making customers’ jobs easier. In short: There is a face, a heart and person who cares behind every box. That’s exactly the Extensis we need people to see. OK. we can do that!

So it turns out those icy cold waters were rather refreshing, after all.

Visual Directives

Out of this mass of data we were able to distill some basic visual guidelines to pursue. We need to communicate we are a company that:

  1. Loves type
  2. Is open and approachable
  3. Respects design tradition while progressing forward
  4. Takes our work and our customers, but not ourselves, seriously

So taking these and articulating them into a visual architecture is easy, right? (gulp)  This is where my ‘be brave’ advice comes in to play. And this is the point at which I’m preaching it to myself.

Next up:  The Visual Brand: It’s Decision Time

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