Close-Up with Nick Eades, CMO, Psion

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Nick Eades is the CMO of Psion, a London-based company that makes handheld computers for rugged industrial environments. Eades joined the company in 2009 after holding marketing positions at Dell Inc., IBM Corp. and Nortel Networks. Over the past two years, he has begun reworking the Psion brand, which was formally changed to Psion from Psion Teklogix in January. In a conversation with CMO Close-Up, Eades discussed the strategy behind the rebranding and how the company is building an online community as one of its central marketing efforts.

CMO Close-Up: Tell us the story behind the decision to rebrand the company?

Nick Eades: Psion is a 30-year-old company, and about 10 years ago it bought a company called Teklogix, which was a 40-year-old company. The decision at the time was to call the combined company Psion Teklogix. Not wildly imaginative, but at the time probably the right thing to do. However, we started getting into a phase of the company where it had kind of lost its way a little bit. The company had a new CEO about every year for five years there. And I think in many ways branding is something you have to invest in; and it was pretty clear that no one was investing in the brand.

So we did some research on a) how our website was being accessed and b) how people were accessing the company through social media and search. We discovered we had a brand problem. It's a pretty fundamental problem, because in the U.K. and in Germany, despite being called Psion Teklogix, it was referred to as Psion. Elsewhere, despite being called Psion Teklogix, it was referred to as Teklogix, or Teklo as the French were calling it. Invariably, across North America it was called Teklogix.

When you get underneath this, you discover that in search people were not searching for the company name, they were searching mostly for Psion or Psion Teklogix and rarely if ever just Teklogix. Some people were shortening it to Teklo. Then we get into some other semantics. So we asked why are you shortening the name to Teklo or just Psion and so on? Because in countries, particularly outside North America, you can't pronounce it. In Spain, because of the way they say the x-sound, even if they say it correctly, they're going to spell it wrong. We were in even more trouble in China and India. It was just getting more and more complicated.

CMO Close-Up: So armed with this research, what did you do next?

Eades: We made this big decision to reinvest in the brand and bring it back to life. We shortened the company name to Psion, which is five letters and is easy to spell with a little coaching. People are pretty comfortable with it. What we didn't want to do was just return to the old Psion logo.

I think a lot of b-to-b companies do get very boring. Where we are today with digital is that you can do so much more connection with the brand rather than just plain old identity. What we've done with our brand is to make sure that people really get what the company is about.

It's more of an icon than a plain old logo. When we see a logo, there are three things to note. First of all, it's not a font. You can't buy this typeface anywhere. The logo is made out of modules. The second thing is that it doesn't have a color. It doesn't have a Pantone number and so on. It has a shiny mirror surface, and we use that mirror surface. It's reflecting the environment of our company—ports, airports, logistics—but also we're trying to reflect the tension between the caterpillar and the butterfly. The caterpillar is reflected in the logo, but actually what you see is a butterfly.

The last piece is that the letters are different sizes. There are a couple of reasons for that. First of all, the “S” is big because we want you to pronounce it “sigh-on,” with a silent “P”. But we can't get rid of the “P” because the company stands for Potter Scientific Instruments On—switched “on.” We also want to reflect that all our customers are different; it's not a case of once size fits all. It goes back to being modular.

CMO Close-Up: Tell us about your community site?

Eades: The community has been hugely important because it brings customers, resellers, developers all together in one place, and they all work together. We only have about 925-ish employees, but we have 60,000 visitors per month (on the website). We only started in March of last year. It's been doubling every three months since then.

CMO Close-Up: What other digital marketing initiatives have been effective for Psion?

Eades: We've been doing a lot of webinars. We're finding that e-mail blasts are just bouncing off doors. We're finding the serious value is in case studies. It's about finding ways to have a conversation.

CMO Close-Up: How important is the creation of custom content to Psion?

Eades: I have a view on this. The community generates the content for you. The content for us is coming from the conversation. The dialogue is the content that they're creating. I think the days are gone where you have to guess what content is relevant to your audience—if you're prepared to listen. Figuring out how to respond to that is probably our next challenge. It's a high-class problem to have.

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