Picture it, if you will.
You’re a designer, working amongst a throng of designers, at one of the biggest retail corporations in the country. The work you produce is seen by millions of people. High profile, to say the least. One day, however, you enthusiastically announce that you’re leaving the corporate rat race for better, albeit smaller pastures. “Where is this golden opportunity?” your designer friends ask. You awkwardly mumble the name of your new employer, knowing full well that it will simply prompt inquisitive squints and ambivalent nods. Worse yet, when they search the name — if they remember it — they’ll land on a website you, yourself, admittedly winced at prior to your interviews. It needed a facelift, first and foremost. But upon further scrutiny, that was barely the half of it.
When I joined Zeon Solutions just over a year ago, I had no idea that I was about to embark on the most intense, insane, incredible journey of my professional career – past, present, and I dare say, future. But let’s back up for a second. Let’s talk about branding.
You may or may not realize that branding goes way beyond your company logo. It goes beyond your color scheme, your tagline, your website, your photography, your style guide, even your powerful, super inspirational corporate value statements. Brand is about emotion. Sure, branding can be artfully articulated, but it cannot be dictated. Brand is your company’s personality, its core essence. It is the stuff your company was born with and exudes to the world. Brand is the promise your company makes to its clients, customers, prospects and employees alike. “We do this!” your company exclaims to the anyone and everyone who will listen. “And we promise you, we do it the best!”
If you’re doing it right, your clients, your customers, your prospects and your employees alike – well, they will all believe you.
Nike. Apple. Google. Zappos. BMW. Coca-Cola. Think about it. It’s all so much more than a logo. It’s a gut feeling. It’s promise that you’re going to get fit, that you’re going to be the coolest kid on your block, that you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for, that you’ll get the best customer service, that you’re getting top notch quality, and that you shall thirst no more.
So when I told my new boss and, gulp, my new CEO that our company logo…well…kinda sucks a little, I realized that it had nothing at all to do with our uninspired logo and ho hum colors and the chaos of content on our lackluster website. What happened was that I got to know the people who worked at Zeon, affectionately known company-wide as Zeonites. I wanted – no – needed to unearth and deliver to this exceptionally creative, hilarious, talented, hardworking, brilliant crew of people the brand they rightfully deserved. I needed to give them the brand I saw as footballs flew through the air, as friends laughed and supported one another, as our fearless leader doled out enthusiastic high fives for a job well done. This was stuff the outside world just had to see. Zeon was like the ‘80s movie nerd, clad in thick-rimmed glasses and high-waisted pants, who just needs a makeover. So I was officially tasked with what we called a “rebrand,” but for all intents and purposes, merely a brand refresh: strip away the mundane exterior to reveal the true beauty underneath. Take off the chunky nerd specs and suddenly everyone sees what was always there, just, better.
The following nine months were a challenge to say the least. Zeon’s marketing team, our new user experience strategist and I joined forces. We more or less started from scratch. We overhauled everything. We interviewed our leadership. We challenged their view of Zeon’s landscape and vision. We challenged each other. We pushed limits. We threw out our tip-toe shoes and gallumphed over eggshells. We put all fears aside. I’m not gonna lie, it got dramatic. But it’s important to realize that branding is a dramatic experience. As I mentioned, emotion is at the heart of branding. You shut off emotion and you’re wasting your time.
In the months that followed, we established new company value statements, which actually encompassed our culture and would hopefully act as sincere inspiration, rather than corporate gobbledygook. We crafted a new positioning statement that announced to the world: We are more than just an eCommerce development shop! We conceived a tagline that, well, isn’t Accelerating Revenue Through Technolo … zzzzzz. And we designed a new logo based on a heroic backstory and archetype that we felt truly captured our dedicated crew, now affectionately known as Zeonauts. It all sounds so easy on paper, doesn’t it? Well, while the core essence of Zeon Solutions came to us naturally, we scrutinized over the details for months. We put the final touches on our new brand book — the Flight Manual — and revealed it internally at our holiday party in December. We reluctantly urged our Zeonauts to hold tight and keep mum until the new website launched in the Spring.
For all the blood, sweat and tears we poured into the brand refresh, we had no idea what was in store for the devoted group in charge of building our flagship and our mecca: a new corporate CMS-based, responsive website. I could wax poetic for at least ten more blog posts about the challenges our UX strategist, our marketing team, our front end developers, our Sitecore gurus, our .NET experts, our program manager [....AND our dear, dear family, friends, pets and significant others] faced over the past few months. I mean who in their right mind rebuilds a complex company website from scratch in a few months anyway? Insanely determined people like us, that’s who.
And here we are. In the blink of an eye, we’ve arrived. It’s the pivotal scene. The clunky, awkward glasses are off, we’ve pushed open the doors to the gym in slow motion, the DJ cues up “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,” balloons and confetti rain from the ceiling, heads and spotlights turn.
Dramatics aside, rebranding isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s definitely worth the price of admission. If you feel the same way I do about your own company, I urge you to throw caution to the wind and go all in. If you’re lucky enough to have the support and inspiration from your fellow coworkers to fuel the arduous journey ahead, the results may not only surprise you, but galvanize you and your team in ways you never expected.
Go forth with pride in the brand you deserve. Be confident. Guide our customers to their better destination. Fulfill our brand promise. But, above all else, continue to be the inspiration that started this whole crazy adventure.