Content Intel—Season 1, Episode 1: Optimizing a Rebrand

We sit down with Optimizely’s Andrew Davies, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, to discuss the process of what goes into an acquisition rebrand and optimizing a new website that ensures your content remains recognizable and that it coincides with your brand’s mission.

We sit down with Optimizely’s Andrew Davies, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, to discuss the process of what goes into an acquisition rebrand and optimizing a new website that ensures your content remains recognizable and that it coincides with your brand’s mission.

 

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Transcript:

Laura Dolan:

Hello listeners, and welcome to Optimizely's brand new podcast, Content Intel. We are so excited to have you with us, so thank you for tuning in. I am your host, Laura Dolan, Senior Content Marketing Manager here at Optimizely.

Laura Dolan:

I am joined by Andrew Davies. He's the Vice President of Corporate Marketing here at Optimizely as well. Andrew, you're our first guest. Welcome to the show.

Andrew Davies:

Thank you very, very much. Appreciate the welcome, Laura.

Laura Dolan:

Thank you for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to be here with us today and to come on our very first episode to talk about content and how we optimize and all that fun stuff.

Laura Dolan:

Obviously, it's been a very big year for our company. We experienced a rebrand and a major overhaul to our website with the discovery and planning that went into it. Let's start out by discussing what led to our rebranding. Why did we decide to do this?

Andrew Davies:

Sure thing, yeah. We can cover that process of how we became Optimizely. We're formed by multiple acquisitions, so it's been an interesting journey. I've been here for almost two years. I came in with one of those acquisitions, a company called Idio, where I was the Co-Founder and the CMO. And came into this business that was then called Episerver, owned by Insight Venture Partners. And there was lots of aspiration from our owners and also from the management team here around the impact we could have in the business by increasing the profile of our brand in the marketplace.

Andrew Davies:

And we were already discussing that, already researching some potential solutions when the business made the decision to buy Optimizely, the private standalone company based out of San Francisco that obviously bears the same name that we chose to use. And we'll tell a bit of that story over the next 15-20 minutes. So really, the conversations gathered a pace once we knew the acquisition was going to close, because it really brought to the fore this question where we needed to understand what we were going to call this organization formed from five or six different acquired companies, what we were going to call it to put our best foot forward in the marketplace.

Andrew Davies:

And the reason that Optimizely triggered that discussion, the acquisition triggered that discussion was because they had such a strong brand in one of our key territories, North America. And so that was really the main thing that accelerated this discussion, and we jumped into a whole bunch of conversations over looking through the existing brands in the stable, multiple of which we'd already shuttered in order to profile Episerver as our main brand.

Andrew Davies:

And we were faced with really this decision, do we keep Episerver or some derivative of Episerver? Do we go with Optimizely, or do we rebrand everything with something completely new in the marketplace? And so that's what triggered the discussion and started this process.

Laura Dolan:

Very cool. What did we determine where to start? I mean, what inputs were considered when we talked about rebranding and relaunching our website and all that?

Andrew Davies:

Yeah. So if we just take those three alternatives to start with and then dig into the process, so Episerver had a fantastic brand in particularly the Nordics, in the European market, which was its home territory. People really saw it very favorably. Although there were some problems over the name, Epi, when you Google it, E-P-I, it's a medical term. Server is what we're trying to move many people away from, migrating them away from it.

Andrew Davies:

But it did carry a lot of good reputation in the market and a good amount of awareness, particularly in Europe. Optimizely clearly had some strengths in the market, particularly on how it's perceived alongside topics such as innovation, experimentation. And it had a really strong brand in the North American market. And then something new, clearly you could associate anything with that. It was a chance for a fresh slate, but usually costs more money to do that effectively, starting from a standing start and also finding a name is just tough.

Andrew Davies:

Finding something that works in every territory, works with every domain name, etc. And so, we're looking at these three alternatives and the first thing we did was a whole bunch of research. Now, we absolutely went and stress tested this with partners, with customers, and analysts, but let me come back to that in a minute. The first thing we did was dig into the digital presence of both of the two key names we were looking at, Episerver and Optimizely.

Andrew Davies:

And we did an analysis on how people were perceiving it, what words and topics were spoken about in relation to it online, the content that was being published on those domains, where that appeared in the decision cycle and a whole range of other facets showing the digital strength.

Andrew Davies:

Now, the reason we did that is because digital is our business. Our website is our biggest sales engine. It's how we educate, it's how people find us. It's how people even test and understand what we do. It serves our partner ecosystem. It's a fundamental piece of our business. We don't just have a website. Digital is absolutely critical, and so clearly, the name that we would choose had to stand up well in terms of its visibility, its searchability, its preference, the topics that people thought about when they thought about that name or when they talked about that name online.

Andrew Davies:

And so that was the key focus of the research we did. And it really yielded a whole bunch of really interesting data, including showing us with more data, how strong Optimizely was. They invested very significantly over the last five or six years in a glossary, for example, which was driving over a million organic visits a year, people coming in to search for definitions within the wider experimentation and digital marketing topics.

Andrew Davies:

And then some of that was turning up as inbound leads that were then forming into opportunities, so a very strong inbound engine there. It was clearly aligned with innovation and forward thinking ideas in the marketplace. People saw it and perceived it as something that was innovative, but also something that was pigeonholed into the A/B testing experimentation-type product set, whereas Episerver, again, some of the strengths that I've already discussed.

Andrew Davies:

What we did find is that neither name really played extremely well. Both had work to do there. That's really owned by a lot of the big four consulting firms, for example, who talk about digitization and direct to consumer and those strategic topics. Optimizely showed up really strongly in the research phase, lots of technical topics that were talked about and that content had very strong rankings.

Andrew Davies:

And then Episerver had very strong content rankings and very strong perception around the consideration and evaluation phase, where there was lots of analyst reports and clear evidence of a partner ecosystem and customer service and support. There were really strengths and weaknesses to both, but we just really knew that we wanted to position this business for the future, not for where it had been. And therefore, being perceived with something forward thinking, something innovative, something that was market-making was really, really critical to us.

Andrew Davies:

So yeah, that was part of the research we did. And then we shared our findings from that via customers, partners, and analysts that we did briefings with to share with part of that decision process.

Laura Dolan:

Excellent. So after all that, you decided to do a rebrand. And so what processes went into that as far as changing the look of the company and the messaging behind it? Can you speak a little bit on that?

Andrew Davies:

Yes, of course. So, I guess our fundamental decision was that firstly, we didn't want to create a new name. We thought we had a fantastic name in Optimizely.

Laura Dolan:

Definitely.

Andrew Davies:

So then it was a choice between Episerver and Optimizely, and we felt it would be an easier job and a lower risk job and a higher potential outcome if we repositioned Optimizely for the wider digital experience space, which our wider tool set played in rather than trying to reinvent Episerver for this brave new world.

Andrew Davies:

And so we decided on Optimizely. In terms of then the process, this was a huge team effort from across the business. It wasn't just a brand that we were consolidating and we clearly had two very strong websites, two .coms, Episerver.com and Optimizely.com. We had two marketing automation platforms, two Salesforce automation platforms, and a whole range of other ancillary technologies that were interlinked into that Salesforce and Marketo sitting on both sides.

Andrew Davies:

So it was a huge amount of work to consider through all of those different technical as well as process, as well as people issues. And we took a huge amount of input from leaders across the business, as well as looking outside of our business to how other people had done this well. And so the processes that were involved included taking a lot of time talking through with various different teams who had a clear skin in the game on the brand or particularly the website, and needed to have a voice on how that was going to happen.

Andrew Davies:

We had a clear comms plan over how we were going to tell the team, how are we going to tell analysts, and then how are we going to roll that out to the partner and the customer community. We wanted to build a whole new brand because we didn't want to just choose between the old Optimizely and the old Episerver. We wanted to reinvent Optimizely, its look and its feel and its brand foundations for the future.

Andrew Davies:

And then of course, all of the fun details of content migration, which content would we choose from which ecosystem, how would we build that new website? How would we then roll out all of those new rebranded assets across the shop? So yeah, a huge amount of work that was done there. I think what was critical though was understanding which pieces had to come first, and also what we valued in terms of the speed versus planning and solid process and maintaining a very high-quality bar.

Andrew Davies:

Now I think in these exercises, it's very easy to keep delaying it, because you want to get everything perfect. And to the business' credit, and this was very much led from the top from Alex, our CEO, there was a desire to move fast, even if it made things uncomfortable in our wider ecosystem, in our team with the project plan and the schedule. We believed that we would reap the benefits from doing this fast in the future, even if it caused pain in the present. And so we really went for the most aggressive schedule we possibly could to get that done.

Laura Dolan:

I just want to bring up our logo really quick. I know there's a really nice story behind it, how we came up with the new Optimizely color scheme and things like that. Can you talk about that?

Andrew Davies:

Yeah, absolutely. So we've made this call to unify everything, but clearly, some of those systems take a long time to unify. So the first thing we did was actually go back and rebrand Optimizely.com, which at that point was still serving the former Optimizely business, not the whole company. We worked with an agency partner as well as internally on some brand foundations, some fundamentals around how we describe ourselves, how we talk about our product portfolio, what we stand for.

Andrew Davies:

And then we also looked at as you say, the brand artifacts and some of our internal team, as well as some agency partners, worked really hard on trying to bring to life this concept of something that always changed, something that was always experimenting. And if you look at our logo, it's not just in its static form. You'll often see it in its dynamic form.

Laura Dolan:

Right.

Andrew Davies:

And you've got these curves that make up the O, in multiple colors. And really, what we're showing there in our form, in our symbol is the process of experimentation, because those symbols and those colors can be arranged seven or 8,000 different ways if you use different colors and you use those symbols in different rotations, different alignments.

Andrew Davies:

And we had several digital versions of that, that was animating through, showing people that even our logo was showing the concept of experimentation. It was preaching our gospel, which is one that you've got to trust experimentation and the data that results from it, and where we landed was this idea of yes, multiple colors, a very bold and vibrant new style guide, a new logo mark that had these new symbols that could be arranged in lots of different formats.

Andrew Davies:

And the fundamental static format was them all pointing up and to the right, which is what we want to do for our customers. We're very outcome-focused in what we obviously want to build for our business.

Laura Dolan:

I love that. It's a very dynamic logo. And even if you notice our podcast logo, it's using the colors and the symbols rearranged as a podcast mic, and I just thought our design team was very creative when they came up with that. So that's just great that there's so much we can do with that.

Andrew Davies:

Yeah. And I think one of the challenges often with rebrands is that there's not enough time to work through every application. And I think as much as was possible, our team did such a good job of playing it out in lots of different scenarios. How would it look at a trade stand? How did it look in a PowerPoint deck? How would it look if you tweaked it and used it for different product sets or new initiatives? Absolutely, that was a lot of hard work that went into making sure the applications worked across the board.

Laura Dolan:

They did a great job. It's very recognizable and for a brand to do that and have that identification where you can always recognize them, that's half of the success right there. So, that's awesome. What system and content consolidation work did we do for the new website? What processes were involved?

Andrew Davies:

We're a DXP, digital experience platform.

Laura Dolan:

Sure.

Andrew Davies:

So one of our products, our core product is a CMS, a content management system, which the old Episerver business was on. The new Optimizely business wasn't. It was using a competitor technology. We really believe in drinking our own champagne.

Laura Dolan:

Sure.

Andrew Davies:

We want to use our own products across the board and I'm really proud to say, we do across the board now, whether it's our own personalization, our own experimentation, it's our own commerce engine, our own content engine.

Andrew Davies:

We're using that across the board. We wanted to migrate as fast as possible to be using our own technology across that stack. So that was a key piece of work going through all of the content. Now we're talking here, I think probably including sub-domains and other things that were showing up, probably 14 different domains we were consolidating, about 80 stakeholders in the business, six or 7,000-page URLs on the core websites alone.

Laura Dolan:

Man!

Andrew Davies:

So this was a huge volume of work. And there were some people who just really went through that detail with a fine-tooth comb to choose for every bit of content, did we want to keep what was on Optimizely? Did we want to keep what was on Episerver? Did we want to rewrite either or both, or did we want to retire it or create something net new?

Andrew Davies:

And in all of those scenarios, there was also design implications of stuff that needed rebranding. So a huge amount of work that went on there, and we went department by department. So we talked to our sales team about what they needed from the website, and what were the key pages they needed. We obviously lent heavily on our own analytics to work out what the digital team needed.

Andrew Davies:

Our partner team, our sales enablement team, our product team, across the board, we made sure we worked with all of them, and there were some departments that had a huge skin in the game here, but could have easily been left out. For example, our employer branding team within our HR function, we're hiring rapidly. We've got loads of open roles and making sure the website worked for them and told that story really well was important, the employer brand.

Andrew Davies:

And so, yeah, we went through that process. We then went through that consolidation, that merge of all the content we wanted to do. And of course, yes, in the background, there was a technical merge of all of this content in terms of moving it from another CMS into Optimizely digital experience platform and making sure that that was all safe, secure, and ready for deployment, once we'd also gone through the other bits of infrastructure that were related, like our marketing automation and our Salesforce.

Laura Dolan:

Awesome. One last question I have for you, Andrew, for businesses out there that are planning to embark on the same endeavors we just experienced, what advice do you have for them?

Andrew Davies:

So I think it's really important to identify the critical path. So anyone who works in project management, you understand that critical path is where you line up everything that you've got to do and find the shortest distance. And there were certain parts of this that we could do fast. And there were certain parts of this that we just had to take some time over.

Andrew Davies:

So if I can just separate out for a moment, we've got a Salesforce implementation, it's our core CRM. It was in Episerver, it also is at Optimizely. Now, unifying Salesforce instances is very, very complex at the scale we're operating at. And that is something that we wanted to take care of. We wanted to go as fast as possible, but that was our critical path. And so we could have taken longer time over the website and longer time over the brand and longer time over the marketing automation, but there was definitely a decision in the business and it was definitely my choice as well, as someone who wasn't owning the Salesforce implementation, that that should be the thing that defined the pace we were going at.

Andrew Davies:

Because it didn't really matter if we had a nice website and a nice-looking brand if our core customer data wasn't unified, if our customers were filling out a form to get help, and they were going to the wrong place, if our data on understanding how we could serve our customers better or serve our prospects better wasn't in order. And so we basically built a project plan where we said, "The data that we believe we can first safely unify our Salesforce instances is the date where we will do everything. And that will be the point by which we will also have done our full implementation of the new website, the new branding everywhere, and the marketing automation system that sits with it."

Andrew Davies:

And that was exactly the process we went through. And I've spoken to several others doing the same process and that's been my first bit of advice, is find that most technically difficult thing that will take the time and let that set the pace. Everything else can really suit to fit. So that'll be the first piece. The second piece of advice is really just to pull off the Band-Aid.

Andrew Davies:

There really are significant benefits to speed. Now, it's not easy. There are people in our business who have worked with the old Episerver brand for decades. There are people in the market who remember the very first versions of Episerver, and they geek out over those first version upgrades and have been active and valuable contributors to our community and our ecosystem for again, more than a decade. And I'm sure it felt uncomfortable, but we knew the benefits of moving fast would mean that we could be a single brand with a single business, a single foundation, a single set of values that would enable us to launch forward into our future.

Andrew Davies:

And so some of those costs and some of those concerns and some of those risks that we had to mitigate in flight over the speed we were going at, I think really have paid dividends now that we are all showing up as one business into the market. So yeah, pull off the Band-Aid, go as fast as you can, because I really think that you yield those results in the future.

Laura Dolan:

Sage advice. Sometimes you just have to get out of your comfort zone and move forward, right?

Andrew Davies:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I guess the third thing is just always speak to the market, speak to peers, speak to people who've done it before. And we've got a team now who've done this multiple times through a few different acquisitions. This being the biggest we've done.

Andrew Davies:

We spoke to others, come and speak to us about it. We'd love to talk to you about some of the nitty-gritty, talk to you about the technical details. Talk to you about that process in-depth. We've done it with a bunch of our customers and prospects already, people who are going through this same gnarly process in their own world. And we'd love to do it with you too. So yeah, number three, definitely reach out. We'd love to chat.

Laura Dolan:

Awesome. Thank you so much, Andrew, for being on with us today and thank you so much, dear listeners, for joining us on our very first episode of Content Intel. We hope you keep up with our podcast series as we take you on the journey to improve your content by unlocking your digital potential, which will help you learn and grow as a business owner. I am Laura Dolan, and I will see you next time.