Speaking from experience, changing your brand to better reflect the company you are today is challenging. After 28 years, we made the decision to step away from ‘Software Europe’ and rebrand to ‘Selenity’. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it was the right one. Software Europe has been part of my life for 25 years and after so long you become attached and familiar with what it means and what it stands for.
There is a fear when companies rebrand or change names that it could somehow change the ethos and principles of the business, especially if you are trying to grow the business into new areas and attract investment. But, in this hyper-competitive world, a little bit of change can be a good thing.
With software development and cloud being ever more accessible, it’s never been easier to take your million-dollar idea and develop it into a working product.
Of course, the easier it is for ideas to become products, it means there is increased competition in the market. The age of companies is coming down too, with almost half of businesses registered in the UK being between one and four years old.
In such a competitive market place, branding is everything; it’s what can make or break a company. You could have the best technology, the best services, and the best products in the industry, but if you aren’t able to tell your customers in a way that makes them listen, then you’ll struggle to beat even the most average of competitors.
It’s compounded by the fact that the world changes and keeps moving so what was once a refreshing, innovative and perhaps even quirky brand can become outdated.
Our own company was founded in 1989 and was named Software (Europe) Limited, but trading as ‘Software Europe’. When we first started out, we were a software reseller. Now though, we have our own portfolio of proprietary cloud technology across Finance and HR and, whilst we do technically sell software, it’s all hosted in the cloud and we operate a Software as a Service (SaaS) model.
Our own desire to change came from the need to update our brand to better reflect the organisation we are today, and that’s the first question you really need to ask yourself – does your brand reflect the organisation that you currently are? If the answer is ‘no’ then perhaps that’s your first step in considering whether a name change is right for you.
Do your customers get it right?
The other challenge we faced was that our customers were getting our name wrong. Some called us Software Europe, some called us Expenses (after our flagship product) and, confusion arose from the fact our trading name is different to our company name.
If your customers are consistently getting the company name wrong in emails, conversations, or even legal documents? Again, this is a good indication that you should consider a name change or rebrand.
It may seem counterintuitive to change your name. You’ve spent years building up your brand and your reputation. Your customers know you and, if you’re good at what you do, your prospects will have heard of your brand, and your competitors too. When you’re a mature business there’s the misconception that rebranding can do more harm than good.
You’re probably right if you’re just changing your name for the sake of it, but if you have clear, tangible ideas about why you’re changing your name and understanding the potential benefits it will bring, then it becomes much more than a simple change of name.
What investors really want to see
There are a lot of different factors involved in a decision to invest in, or even acquire a company, and the relative size and growth of the company isn’t necessarily the sole reason investors will consider your company.
They want to see solid recurring revenue and low churn rates and, ultimately, they want to see a management team that is committed to the business. Are your products good and do they show potential to deliver revenue in the future?
Fundamentally though, serious investors will be looking at your business as a whole and changing your company name is a statement to all of your stakeholders – staff, customers, prospects, competitors, and the investors you want to talk to – that you’re pushing the business forward. That your refusal to remain stagnant and are willing to make big changes to keep up momentum.
I know for many, the dream is to run their own successful business and see it grow but don’t ignore the opportunity to be acquired. Whilst not what you necessarily considered, the company that acquires you can take yours to the next level.
As an example, we saw an amazing piece of HR cloud technology that fitted well into our portfolio. It was a true start up called Workforce Metrics, with just one person in the company and around £30,000 a year in revenue. That technology ended up becoming our ER Tracker product.
In the two years since acquiring ER Tracker, we’ve made the MD a director and shareholder in Selenity and have been able to grow the product to £500,000 a year in recurring revenue. In the technology industry, companies are valued at around between 3-6x its revenue stream, making ER Tracker alone potentially a £3 million company.
My point here is that being acquired isn’t always a bad thing.
Cost of change
The cost of changing your brand is not insignificant either and needs to be taken into account. There are obvious changes that will need to be made – your website, logos, letterheads, for example – but you’ll also need to consider all your legal documents you have, from the contracts with customers through to being correctly registered with Companies House.
The longer you’ve been in business, the deeper your branding will have permeated and the more challenging, costly and time consuming the change will be.
But the pay off could be well worth all the time and effort you’ve put in. In such a competitive world, rebranding and changing your name could be the difference between standing out from the crowd and securing new investment, or getting lost in the crowd.
Final tip – when you choose your new name, don’t forget to make sure the domain name is available!
Neil Everatt is CEO of Selenity.
Is this the year to rebrand your business?
Niall O’Loughlin discusses the high-profile branding errors made by businesses in recent times and what to make sure of when refreshing your own brand this year.
One of the most important first steps in any rebranding is to define your brand correctly – it’s the most efficient way to show potential customers what your business is about. Your brand is reflected visually via your logo and company design elements, as well as through each of your marketing activities, materials and collateral.
In such a cut-throat landscape, it’s never been more important to stand out from the crowd. It’s true that some brands are immediately compelling, moving you to find out more about the company. Others you could stare at for half an hour and still not really know which message they are trying to communicate.
A confused branding message
Let’s take for instance the very unfortunate case of the London 2012 logo. Even now, it’s hard to grasp what exactly they were trying to communicate!
Unfortunately, branding is often overlooked by young companies. A frequently held belief is that quality design need only be considered after corporate success when there’s more time, data and funding to make better decisions on brand direction.
It’s a decision that’s often detrimental to success.
But done correctly, your brand can immediately help gain a stronger foothold in your target market. The great news for SMEs is that they can learn a lot from what bigger brands have been up to. Rather than go through the time-consuming process of evaluating different ways to refresh your brand, analyse and gain from both their successes and failures.
There are several high profile, global tech brands we can look at for rebranding examples. The likes of Airbnb, Moo and Hootsuite have all updated at some point to a simpler branding style – proof that SME rebranding does not have to be over-thought and complicated. It’s clear that keeping it simple is often the key to success.
One current trend – for simple, flat design – is one SMEs can capitalise on. Simplifying your branding and communication in connecting with your target audience might be the cleverest move you make this year. But there are a few who have got it very, very wrong.
For example in 2001 Royal Mail announced a new company name and brand – Consignia. The idea was to show that the company did more than deliver mail, but the public didn’t buy it and after a year the Royal Mail brand was dusted off and reintroduced. The rebranding to Consignia had been lost in the post.
It was a great reminder to keep your brand message simple and to focus on the benefits.
One reason Royal Mail survived the fiasco was that after 300 years of delivering the post, it’d already carved a unique place in British culture; a luxury no start-up enjoys. To make sure a brand hits the ground running, SMEs must avoid idioms and slang terms that may not translate effectively. Consult with those within the target culture during the early phases of the campaign. What might be witty sarcasm in your mind may be offensive to your potential customer.
Fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken made one huge error when attempting to enter Asian markets in the 1980s. The first was finding a way to translate its familiar ‘Finger lickin’ good’ slogan into Chinese – however it emerged the tag line translated as ‘Eat your fingers off’ in Chinese. After some tweaks, however, the chicken chain recouped (or re-cooped) and now has over 4,000 locations in the world’s most populous country.
Similarly, when nappy maker Pampers attempted to enter the Japanese market, it did so with the familiar image of stork carrying a bundle of joy. Unfortunately for Pampers, the whole ‘stork brings baby’ story doesn’t exist in Japan. So many parents and parents-to-be found the imagery confusing and frankly a bit unsettling, given that it wasn’t clear whether the stork was bringing the baby or taking it away.
A refreshing brand update
Every industry and marketplace will experience regular transformation and change. Small business can benefit immensely from these changes by refreshing and updating their brands on a regular basis.
The key is identifying when your brand needs a refresh. What signals should you look for? As an entrepreneur, you need to regularly review your brand as a whole by asking yourself the following questions:
- Does your brand feel outdated?
- Is your brand communicated consistently across all of your business activities?
- Have your products/services changed recently?
- Are you no longer reaching your target audience?
Simply assessing these questions on a regular basis will allow you to regularly assess whether or not your brand is doing the job it set out to do.
Take a look at your visual identity and messaging, then determine what parts of your brand still have value and should be retained, and what should be refreshed to make the brand representative of who you are today and where you’re going.
The key is to maintain the integrity of your existing logo and web design, while making modifications that are noticeable – but not too drastic. It could be as subtle as a change in the width of a font; the sizing, scaling and placement of an image; a change in the colour palette; or even a new tagline.
A rebranding effort will look slightly different for every company. Ultimately the end result should be a freshening up of your business and making it more effective in communicating with your audience – and ultimately bringing in revenue.
Niall O’Loughlin is marketing manager at graphic design marketplace 99designs.