Why Old-School Data Firms Are Donning Modern Brand Garb

Dun and Bradstreet, Epsilon and Transunion Have Each Undergone Major Brand Overhauls in Past Year

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Dun and Bradstreet may be 173 years old, but when it came time for a massive rebrand, the business data firm was anything but stodgy. The company, founded in 1841, worked with Droga5, a creative agency that's better known for its eye-catching work for consumer brands including Under Armour and Newcastle Brown Ale.

Dun and Bradstreet's rebranding efforts, launched in March, reflect a broader trend among consumer and business data firms that have shifted direction to navigate the ebbs and flows of client needs as all facets of business become reliant on data. In the past year, Epsilon and Transunion, both of which enhanced their offerings mainly via acquisition in recent years, also underwent brand overhauls.

Data is at the core of what Dun and Bradstreet does. In a nutshell, the firm gathers regularly-updated information on the health of businesses from around 35,000 sources, many of them clients that divulge accounts receivable data. However, the company's CMO is adamant that its brand story is about much more.

"This brand can't be about data; it should not be about data," said Rishi Dave, CMO of Dun and Bradstreet, regarding the firm he joined about a year ago after a stint as executive director of digital marketing for Dell's B-to-B operation. "Data is not something people want more of," he added. "We're here to help businesses form relationships."

The company builds profiles of businesses and scores them based on their financial health. That information is used by businesses looking for a third party to evaluate whether they should loan a corporation money, to keep track of product supply chains, or to help target messages to potential clients. More and more, Dun and Bradstreet's data is used for sales and marketing purposes, said Mr. Dave. The company in 2011 formed its partnership with Salesforce to provide its CRM information through Salesforce's Data.com.

Yet, before its brand facelift, Dun and Bradstreet was known mainly as a transactional credit data provider and little more. "Our branding and slogans were all oriented around the historical piece," said Mr. Dave. The updated tagline, "Growing relationships through data," is accompanied by a new logo that includes an ampersand linking a lower-case "d" and upper-case "B."

"Instead of going to a business-to-business brand agency, we needed…to simplify the language for the industry, especially for new customers," said Mr. Dave, of working with Droga. He added that Dun and Bradstreet aimed to differentiate itself from what it sees as an increasingly "in-human" data industry.

Open to a Name Change
Epsilon has been up against the same sort of brand perception headwinds as Dun and Bradstreet, though it's overarching problem was that marketer clients weren't aware of the newly-enhanced breadth of its agency-esque capabilities.

"We started this process with all options open, including changing the name of the company," said Epsilon CEO Andy Frawley. That didn't happen. Instead, Epsilon simplified its brand identity and message to the marketers it hopes will use its array of data, analytics and creative agency services. The company, a subsidiary of Alliance Data Systems, has gobbled up several agencies including Hyper Marketing, which encompassed brand agency Ryan Partnership, social agency SolutionSet and retail agency Catapult, in 2012.

"We had a problem that while the Epsilon brand had a lot of positive brand equity, it was very associated with a data and technology company" rather than an agency services firm, said Mr. Frawley. In January 2014, Epsilon commissioned its own marketing agency, Acorn, a Dublin firm it bought in 2012, to craft a cohesive identity for those once-separate entities. It hopes that by revamping its logo and streamlining its messaging to eschew complex jargon, it will get its new message across.

As a result of integrating those acquisitions, the firm, which today calls itself the "global leader in creating connections between people and brands," wants to be viewed as a direct competitor in the modern cross-media agency arena among heavyweights like Digitas and Razorfish. "We tried to create an identity that didn't look like a tech company," Mr. Frawley said.

The company also put its money where its mouth is. In 2013, it worked with 75 of its executives to restructure from a financial standpoint, ending separate P&Ls for all of its capabilities and brands to deter internal competition and project a holistic agency concept to clients.

Transunion, best known for its credit report services, has also updated its analytics offerings through acquisitions, including its purchase of assets from data analytics firm TLO and predictive analytics firm L2C. In January, the company revealed a new brand identity and logo, a "tu" in a circle that resembles the ubiquitous @ symbol. The company said the modern look better suits its evolution as a provider of information that could, for instance, help healthcare providers find patients who might be eligible for government healthcare coverage. Transunion calls its updated business proposition "information for good." It probably doesn't hurt that "tu" means "you" in Spanish.

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