How do you know when it's time to rebrand?
Every CMO wants to leave their mark, to help their organization evolve or transform into something bigger and better. It’s no wonder that, with the arrival of a new CMO, marketing often changes direction and rebranding is put on the table. But how do they know when it is really time to rebrand versus time to invest their considerable energy and organizational capital elsewhere? Is rebranding an ego-driven change or something that is necessary for the business to move forward?
One person who knows the answer is Lynne Capozzi, who has been CMO of Acquia twice, first in its early years (2008-2011) and again since late 2016. In between, Capozzi left to run a non-profit organization. Having seen this open source software company grow from a hundred or so employees to more than 900, Capozzi had the advantage of understanding the founding culture—it was open and collaborative—as well as the significant maturation not reflected in the original branding. As it turns out, it was an easy call for Capozzi, and the results were well worth the effort.
What were the signals that told you it was time to rebrand?
I felt like it was time for us for several reasons. We hadn't changed our image and our initial look since we launched the company earlier, back in 2008. It was time for us to have a bolder image. Our brand itself was very humble, and that came back to our open source roots around that. But, based on the market, we needed to be a bit bolder in our look and feel. We wanted to have crisper messaging. We wanted to be ready to talk about how we stand against competition and be proud of that and have a new cool look, as my team says.
What did rebranding mean for you?
We kept our original Acquia drop logo, but we modernized it with a new color palette. And then, basically, everything else changed. We had a new website, we had a new look, we had new messaging, we had new colors for our messaging. And it was brighter, bolder, prouder and, as I said a little bit earlier, a kind of cooler look. The new messaging that went along with it worked not just for a developer-type community, but also to marketers. We had new products that were marketing-based products. We needed to make sure that our look and feel matched that. I think our tag “experience digital freedom” summarizes the messaging well. That's what we use, and that's our claim to fame. And I think it really works well for us.
Can you talk about how you rolled this out internally?
After we developed all of our new messaging, I brought in a new branding team, and that team focused on rolling out first to employees. Our first constituents were definitely our employees. We literally had the branding team go around from department to department with a branding presentation. We showed them what it was. We got them engaged. We got them involved. We gave them swag and we got them really engaged in the new brand and got them excited about it. And, you know, we did it once and then again about a month later as a review. We had some fun with it. We called them the fun branding police. Rather than a strict, punitive approach, it was about bringing people to the new brand with swag, giveaways, that sort of thing. It was a nice way to engage employees first because we knew that that was our first step in the rebranding: getting employees on board.
Why is it so important to get employees on board first?
Because I think you want everyone in the company behind your brand, and you want them to have a good feel for the brand, and you want them to be engaged in the brand, and really like the brand itself. Then you have an entire company where all your employees are focused in the same way around that brand. Everyone knows, as marketers, consistency is important. And so, having everyone focused around the same consistency for the brand is really good. It was really good for morale, as well.
What do you think was the coolest thing that you did to make this new brand come to life?
We're all about websites, but we actually took a chance with some out-of-home advertising. We did digital billboards in regions around the country. And we had train station takeovers. All about Acquia. Locally, if you came into the Cambridge, Massachusetts, train station, you saw Acquia everywhere. If you picked up your phone and you went to Google, you were getting an Acquia ad. You were surrounded by Acquia in the high-tech area right within Massachusetts. We did a similar thing in San Francisco. We were trying to rise above the noise a little bit. And of course, we did digital as well. We did a lot of digital advertising. I'm happy that we did all of it. It gave us a nice boost and we were able to see an increase in awareness around the brand.
How did you measure this?
I really wanted to know what our starting point was. As we were getting started with the rebranding process, we did a brand tracking. We needed a starting point because it's the only way we’re going to be able to measure, and I'm a big believer in: If you can't measure it, don't do it. It was important that we started that way in terms of where we were for our initial brand assessment. It's been just about two years. Now, every year from that point on, we do a brand assessment to see how we're doing and to see if we're increasing that awareness. And we are. With the outdoor, it was also interesting to look at geographic web traffic spikes coinciding with certain regional campaigns.