Rebranding is fraught with risk. It requires a precarious balance of retaining the history of the brand, while communicating what the brand has now become. And the challenge is not just with the rebranding itself, but also with the process, staying on schedule, making sure you get timely input from all of the stakeholders involved.
Today, I am thrilled to bring Director of Marketing, Alayna Giesting on today to share the process that her team used to successfully rebrand FMX, which is a SaaS solution for facilities and maintenance management.
(5:09) Align Your Brand with How You Make People Feel
There are a million different emotions that a brand can evoke. And it’s very important that you’re using those emotions to appeal to your target audience.
(9:00) Create a Plan to Meet Established Goals
We start with a matrix that outlines the maintenance software market — where FMX was at, where its competitors were. We found it to be very effective. It allowed us to determine our goals, how we wanted to differentiate ourselves in the market.
(18:42) Don’t Forget Your Team
When I first started this project, I thought getting leadership and the department heads on the same page was going to be my biggest issue and the trickiest part. But, funny enough, it ended up being my own team. Make sure you’re checking in with your own team as often as you’re checking in with department heads and leadership.
(12:19) Transparency for Project Success
We allowed everybody to ask questions to provide feedback. And we found that by giving this level of transparency, everyone felt that their voice was heard.
(Laura 0:11) Here we are, Episode Five of What’s Working Now. And today we’re talking about rebranding. Rebranding is fraught with risk. It requires a precarious balance of retaining the history of the brand, while communicating what the brand has now become. And the challenge is not just with the rebranding itself, but also with the process, staying on schedule, making sure you get timely input from all of the stakeholders involved. Really just all of the typical project management hurdles that you run into at the big project. And so today, I am thrilled to bring Director of Marketing, Alayna Giesting on today to share the process that her team used to successfully rebrand FMX, which is a SaaS solution for facilities and maintenance management.
Hi, Alayna. So good to chat with you. I’m really looking forward to our conversation.
(Alayna 1:51) Thanks for having me, Laura. Super excited to be here.
(Laura) Before we dive in, could you share a bit about FMX and your role there?
(Alayna 2:00) Yeah, I’d love to. So FMX is a leading provider of maintenance and facilities management software. And in a nutshell, our software enables organizations to streamline operational processes, increase equipment, productivity, and really act on their facilities’ data to achieve time and cost savings.
(Laura 2:21) Awesome. So in your role, what are you responsible for, especially thinking about the branding. Are you playing an active role in strategy? Tell us a little bit about that.
(Alayna 2:35) Like you mentioned, I’m Director of Marketing. And I lead a very small but highly capable team. And our main focus is, you know, acquiring leads and then qualifying them for the sales team. So from a brand perspective, I handle most of the content, but then I’m also leading the graphic design team and making sure that the brand visually is on point and, you know, meets our standards. And then working with a web development team as well, to make sure that everything’s on-brand on the website.
(Laura 3:02) Offline when we were talking, you were telling me about this process that you guys went through for the branding. It was really, really interesting and smart. So let’s start with your definition of brand and why you believe that is important.
(Alayna 3:20) It’s a really good question, Laura. And when it comes down to it, to me is really how a certain organization or product makes somebody feel. It’s the emotional aspect of a company. And the graphics color scheme, tone, layout, choice of words; it all makes you feel a certain way.
And the way that someone perceives your brand is extremely important. Ultimately, your brand needs to align with your target audience’s needs.
And one example I’d like to give here, I know Apple is constantly discussed when the topic brand comes up. But they really are doing this whole brand thing right. They’ve created a great following because of their ability to associate luxury and positive feelings with their brand and with their products.
If you think about, you know, on the contrary, a brand that isn’t aligned with its buyers’ needs and its buyers’ attitudes towards a certain topic, it’s really going to lead to negative thoughts towards that brand and towards that company.
And emotion is playing more into our buying decisions than ever before, I think. So while someone might choose to purchase from brands based on that brand’s environmental impact or how they’re getting back to the community, others might prefer brands that focus on status or affiliation, and gender, age, political affiliation. All of these are playing a role and playing a factor into the brands that people are associating themselves with.
I was kind of doing a little bit of reflecting and I was thinking back to middle school and high school and the brands that I was choosing to purchase then. And it was really from more popular brands amongst my friends and those in my age group. So, Hollister jeans and Abercrombie shirts. That was kind of – those were the brands that I affiliated myself. But now I favor brands that value the same things that I do, like sustainability and equal rights. So there’s a million different emotions that a brand can evoke. And it’s very important that you’re using those emotions to appeal to your target audience. Otherwise, it’s going to be a huge mess.
So, to go back to your initial question, a brand is unbelievably important. It’s just a huge component of a buyer’s decision to purchase a product. And I think it’s becoming even more important with recent world events.
(Laura 5:29) Yeah, that’s such a good point about the alignment between the target audience and the brand. Like you said the effectiveness really does depend on that alignment. You see companies like Starbucks — and Gong comes to mind in the SaaS space — where they’re going really hard after a particular passion of the leadership and the company culture. But it’s very closely aligned with the target audience that they’re going after. So that’s a great point.
So your team took a really interesting approach to the rebrand to make sure it was successful. I’d love for you to give us an overview of your strategy.
(Alayna 6:17) Yeah interesting, I think, is definitely the right word. So funny enough, the rebranding process actually began with our graphic design intern. He had been working at FMX for about two weeks and had heard brief discussions amongst myself and the marketing team about this potential rebrand. And he really took it amongst himself to just create a proposal.
And what we loved most about the proposal was that he created a competitive landscape. And he showed how FXM’s current brand was comparing to our competitors and the competitive market, and where he wanted to take that brand. And we love that he took the initiative to get this up and running. You know, he’s 21 years old, and he’s so ambitious.
So we started to have more in-depth conversations. And we started to involve the leadership team and other department heads and really determined what our strengths and weaknesses as a brand were. And then used this as a trajectory for where we wanted to take the brand in the future.
Ultimately, we found that we wanted to create a more sophisticated, organized, clean brand, while still maintaining our presence as an approachable thought leader. We found that customers really liked to come to us because we were so approachable, yet we knew our stuff when it came to maintenance and facilities management. So we still wanted to maintain that approachable presence.
Then from here, we started to think about the brand. From a visual perspective, we had an idea of where we wanted to go, what we were striving for. And so we started to think about what colors and font styles really represent sophistication. And how could we organize content and webpages to create that more organized and clean feel.
So, after looking at things visually, we started to evaluate our company’s positioning statements, and what FMX’s strengths were relative to its competitors. And we evaluated our tone, and the way that we were promoting these strengths and making sure that everything was in alignment.
And we started to perform research on our target audience and discovered that, believe it or not, maintenance leaders don’t respond well to marketing fluff, they want to just know. Right? It’s a big surprise. They want to just know how a product helps them. And honestly, they don’t have a ton of time to figure that out. So that opened up our eyes a ton.
The way that we were promoting our products beforehand, just wasn’t ever going to be successful, we were using a lot of marketing fluff, we were trying to be funny and witty. And while that works for a lot of audiences, it wasn’t working well for us. So we completely rewrote content for the website, and focused on providing extremely valuable information. But in a more succinct manner. These people don’t have a ton of time. So we were like, let’s give it to them straight and hope that it works.
So all in all, looking back on the project, we found that starting with this matrix that outlines the maintenance software market, where FMX was at, where its competitors were, we found it to be very effective. It allowed us to determine our goals, how we wanted to differentiate ourselves in the market. And then after that the details just really fell into place. And we found it to be quite a fun and easy project.
(Laura 9:19) So interesting. I love the matrix. Was that a visual presentation that you kind of work through? Did you do that in a spreadsheet? How exactly did you go about that?
(Alysa 9:31) Yeah, it was definitely more of a visual. And it was kind of like a quadrant almost, where you had your x-axis and your y-axis. And it really just plotted on that axis where our competitors were lying, and then where FMX was lying. And you could, you know, you could put different things on the x and y-axis and kind of strip it and take a different look at it and a different approach to it. But ultimately, that was really what guided us during the project.
(Laura 10:00) Nice. So I know that one of the major challenges with a rebrand is getting everyone on the bus, so to speak. So how did you encourage collaboration and keep everyone accountable for input and approvals through the process?
(Alayna 10:18) Yes, definitely a difficult task to say the least. One thing that we did from the very beginning was establish who we wanted to have on this rebrand tiger team. And this group involved people from leadership, product marketing, sales and customer success, and then even external advisors.
And we really wouldn’t formed this Tiger team, we wanted to make sure that all departments were included, for a few reasons. One, it ensured that we were communicating these changes along the way. The last thing that we wanted to do was launch a brand and then have concerns from one or more teams after we had launched it.
Pretty similar to that, and it also allowed others to share their opinions early in the process before the marketing team had invested all this time and effort into something that might need to be changed down the line. So I know that those two go hand in hand. But I really think that it did allow us to come together, align on a vision and say, “this is what we’re doing moving forward.”
So once we had that tiger team established, we met about bi-weekly to just go over progress, ensure our questions were answered and if stakeholders had any concerns that those were addressed, and that everyone was just kept in the loop on all the progress that we were making.
As the project began to develop, we ensured that all of that progress was visible to the tiger team. We actually created a spreadsheet that gave every team member the opportunity to highlight questions, concerns, and even make suggestions.
And that pertained to every single component of the brand and of the website. So it was almost like every single cell of that document, we knew who exactly it was that was commenting on it, every single person had their own spreadsheet and had their own column.
And then every single element of the webpage was included on there. So if you had an image issue on the hero section of the homepage, you could identify that. If you had an issue with a positioning statement, you could highlight that specific concern. So it really helped keep everybody on the [same] page, gave us transparency into what some of the concerns might be, and just allowed everybody to ask questions to provide feedback. And we found that by giving this level of transparency, everyone felt that their voice was heard. And so that was really a big component of this process.
As the leader of the project, I would also check in with team members individually and just get a pulse check. I might chat with the product manager and get their thoughts on brand language, like as it was relating to the product’s capabilities. And then I might chat with the President and CEO about FMX’s brand, I don’t know, 510 years from now and what they wanted that to look like. And it was really in these conversations that I started to uncover some of the best insights from the team. Speaking about the brand as it related to each department and their needs, as opposed to big-picture what’s in this for the marketing department. I found that it suited me really well.
And because of this, I ran into few major concerns during the entire rebranding process, the leadership team and department heads, they really had full trust in the marketing team’s ability to create this new brand. I think that keeping the door open at all times for feedback and suggestions most likely had something to do with that. Because when it came to the time of the launch, my team wasn’t scrambling at the last minute to satisfy needs from the product team or the sales team. Because we had just checked in with them along the way and given them the ability to raise concerns early in the process.
(Laura 13:52) I feel like transparency is so important with any marketing initiative, because you really are – I mean, you do rely on the other departments, specifically sales and customer service, but also the product team. Because everybody has their own unique viewpoint into the customer or into the product and where the company is headed. So to be able to capture that in the way you did was really smart. And I love that you got the product teams so involved. So do you have any comments, you know, specifically about how you use the product team or brought them in?
(Alayna 14:31) Absolutely, we try to work extremely close with the product team. After all, they’re the experts on what it is that we’re marketing. So when we were launching the new brand and the new website that was no exception. And I really didn’t want to provide misleading or incorrect information about how the product worked or the value that it provided. And I found that by looping them in from the very beginning. They were able to help with all kinds of things. They gave me product screenshots, product messaging positioning, and the product manager, she was just a huge help for me and my team during the process. And I honestly don’t think that the launch would have been successful without her.
I realized that, you know, the circumstance that I had was a little bit different. So for those who don’t have as much access to the product team as I’m fortunate enough to have at FMX, my advice for you would be to try to understand the department’s goals. You can partner with them, you can understand how your messaging can help them achieve their goals, and you can try to foster a better relationship. Ultimately, aligning your brand and messaging with their goals is going to go a long way. And I think that that will start to form a great partnership with the two of you. And the two teams rather, and lead to a lot of success.
(Laura 15:47) That’s great advice. I’d love to hear about any other challenges that you ran into in the process and how you dealt with them. Was there anything else that, you know, you came across as you’re working through the process?
(Alayna 16:03) Yeah, I mean there were many small issues. And there were pitfalls as with any large project. We were fortunate enough, like I mentioned earlier, to not run into too many huge issues, which I know is a little bit abnormal.
But of the notable issues that we did have, I think that one was, funny enough, getting the marketing team on the same page at points. We sometimes have differing opinions on how a page should look, what the goals of the page were, and really how to convey the content in the best way possible.
So there were times when I would meet with the graphic designer, he and I would be on the same page. But we wouldn’t really think about things from a development standpoint. So the graphic designer might spend hours creating a page and saying, this is what I want it to look like. But then the page didn’t comply with web standards or couldn’t be built in the time allotted for the project. And so this became an issue.
And as is the case, for most teams, we just don’t have time like this to waste. We had so much time to dedicate to the development portion of things, to the design of things. So we needed to come up with a solution as quickly as we possibly could. So we started to do what we called sketch sessions for new web pages and new content pieces.
So when we would meet for content pieces, it was usually just the content team and the graphic design team. For web pages, we would include content, graphic design, and then web development as well. And we’d first start by, you know, we go up to the whiteboard, and we outline the goals of the page. We’d say, what are the CTAs? Where do we want people to go next? Maybe there’s a piece of content that we want somebody to download. And we found that setting the goals allowed us to frame the rest of the page around meeting those goals, and really driving conversions. So from that point, we just kind of let the graphic designer drive the bus. He’d start by laying out a framework that made sense to him, [and] the web developer and I will usually provide input. We might make suggestions and offer alternatives if we felt that that was necessary. And just make sure that the goals were kept top of mind while laying out the flow of the page.
And we found that this saved us so much time and so much energy. It allowed the content team to know upfront if there were any additional content sections that they needed to create to push users towards the goal. It gave the graphic designer a framework to build from; he wasn’t just working in his own brain. He had thoughts and ideas from myself from others on the team. And then the web developer knew that when he was receiving the page mock up, it would all be possible. He had weighed in, he knew the goals of the page. And just everything was very transparent. He knew what he was going to get. And he was expecting it.
So when I first started this project, I thought getting leadership and the department heads on the same page was going to be my biggest issue and the trickiest part. But, funny enough, it ended up being my own team. So my advice for those that are going through their own projects is just make sure you’re checking in with your own team as often as you’re checking in with department heads and leadership. The chats that I was having, the one-on-one chats that I was having with other departments, and the President and the CEO, I should have been having these with my own team as well. And we probably would have been able to tackle these issues sooner than we did and save a lot of time on the project.
(Laura 19:20) I love the emphasis on starting with goals because it is so easy as creatives to jump right into the creative process like you mentioned. That can easily get everybody going in different directions. But starting with goals is really, really helpful. Do you have any other advice to share with SaaS marketing teams who are preparing for a rebrand?
(Alayna 19:51) I do, and I hope that this is going to be helpful, but when in doubt, over-communicate. During the process. I sent countless emails to the tiger team, that no one even responded to, and it was fine. I didn’t expect them to. It was more of a check-in. It was, ‘hey, this just launched’ or ‘this is going on, if you have any concerns, let me know.’ And ultimately, it just allowed others to raise concerns along the way, as opposed to investing time and effort and energy into part of the rebrand that was completely off base from what another stakeholder or another member of the team was anticipating.
So I found that not only did this help with the rebrand itself, but it’s helped me as a leader. Since then, I’ve found that people around the company are more willing to come to me with questions and concerns regarding the brand, content, website. So keeping an open line of communication and ensuring that everyone knows that you’re open to feedback is something that I think every brand leader should embrace. And just being the voice of the company and allowing people to come to you with suggestions is huge.
Another piece of advice that I give is that there’s going to be a lot of opinions when it comes to the brand of a company. I mean, a lot of people are going to have thoughts on colors and tone, and font choices, and even silly little things that, you know, I don’t even remember what they were. But at the time, I remember thinking, wow, that’s so small, but you will have so many opinions that come up. And it’s going to be impossible to accept all of the suggestions from every single person.
It’s important that you listen to others, you take note of their suggestions and opinions and you try to do your best to squeeze all of them in. But at the end of the day, you’re gonna have to make a few tough decisions. And it’s up to you as a brand leader to make the best decision for the company and for your brand. So be prepared to have those difficult conversations sometimes, but know that if you’re keeping the interests of your company and your brand top-of-mind, you’re probably on the right course.
(Laura 21:47) Awesome. Yeah, those tips are really helpful. So I’d like to just give you an opportunity to share anything that you’d like to share with the listeners that I maybe didn’t ask about, or anything else that you’d like to share?
(Alayna 22:03) Yeah, I don’t have much. This was really comprehensive. And I thank you again, Laura. But if there’s anything that I can leave you guys with, it’s to rely on your team, allow your teammates to focus on their areas, and what they’re best at.
So I relied on the graphic designer to come up with some difficult decisions himself. I would say, hey, I don’t know what the best solution is here. But as a graphic designer, I’m relying on you and I’m trusting you. And I do the same thing for my web developer, I do the same thing with my content team. And I constantly rely on them to make important decisions.
So while you might be the brand leader, while you might be the leader of the project, while you might be the department head at the end of the day, and this is advice for any marketing team too, not just a brand project. But at the end of the day, rely on people who are experts in their field and utilize that to your strength. You don’t have to be an expert on every single area. And you don’t have to know every single component of a rebrand or of building a website. It’s important to rely on your team for that. And for you to know the overarching goals and the overarching plan. But ultimately, just rely on your team. They’re there for you. And they want to help. And more often than not, they want to be given those big projects, and they want to dive into some areas that are a little bit more complex.
(Laura 23:23) Yeah, it’s so true. It’s amazing how people really just take off and fly when you give them the freedom to do that, in their area of expertise. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing your experience and insights. I know that the listeners are going to really get a lot out of this. So thank you!
(Alayna 23:49) Yeah, absolutely. It’s been such a pleasure, Laura.