What it takes to rebrand a fast growing tech company

Ivanti’s CMO and executive VP reveals how the company’s rebrand was successful amidst rapid company acquisition and mergers.

A major rebrand can be challenging for even the most astute CMO, but for Ivanti’s CMO and executive VP, Steve Morton, the pressure to roll out the new brand was heightened by multiple and rapid company acquisitions and mergers.

Formerly known by its legacy name, Landesk, the tech company formed its new name in January this year when it combined with Heat Software. Over the years, both Landesk and Heat Software have evolved, with Landesk acquiring a number of companies including Wavelink, Shavlik, Xtraction Solutions and AppSense.

Most recently in July this year, Ivanti announced the acquisition of RES Software, making the acquisition Ivanti’s tenth in five years, and the second under its new brand name.

“We’ve done 10 acquisitions in the past five years and it has been a crazy, crazy ride but an enjoyable one,” Morton told CMO. “It's such a big change - we've doubled the size of the business in the past 18 months through acquisitions, through growth and through changes and the way we go to business.

“I think for a CMO that's a good time to be with the company, when you're when your biggest stresses are scaling the company and keeping up with everything that's a lot more interesting than you know, death by a thousand cuts.”

Getting the brand basics right

According to Morton, when the opportunity to rebrand arose, the first thing to do was to move towards a name that suited today’s more digitally mobile world where things change and move forward very quickly.

“We thought this is a chance to build a foundation for something new,” he said. “We wanted to figure out something that felt kind of forward moving but also has a little mystery to it and that people could spell. Landesk was a 30-year brand before we changed that - and that’s a big organisational shift.

“We engaged an agency, we did all these brand studies, we put together 12000-lined spreadsheet with all the activities that had to happen for us to execute a brand change and we just went for it. And it's been a real positive thing. I didn’t get much sleep for about six months and neither did my team, but we did it.”

One of the biggest challenges in rebranding was to make the final decision on a name that was truly something different, and that didn't have the connotations of any of the previous brands, Morton said. Ultimately, this became an executive decision between the CEO and CMO.

Ivanti’s CMO and executive VP, Steve Morton,says he underestimated the time and scale of the rebrand, but overestimated the time it would take for people to embrace it
Ivanti’s CMO and executive VP, Steve Morton,says he underestimated the time and scale of the rebrand, but overestimated the time it would take for people to embrace it

“But it was just a force of will to make that happen, and part of the strategy was we don’t need everybody to love it, but I can't have you hate it or didn’t work in different languages. In fact, we actually had another name for the company but it didn't pass the French test. But then we had arguments about the logo other elements of the rebranding which set us back a few months. Everybody had an opinion, but I didn't want it to be a democracy because then we'd never get it done.

“At the end of the day, it was just Steve Daly [CEO] and I sitting down in a room with a few PowerPoint renderings of the logo and the name and we said that's it, let’s go. Then it started to fall into place.”

Embracing an organisation-wide shift

Morton claimed it was amazing how people quickly rallied around the rebrand, generating organisational unity.

“I underestimated this, people were waiting for a name and vision to rally behind,” he said. “All those individual companies that came under that brand embraced it and really wanted to be part of something new.

“So while I underestimated the amount of time it took to get us there and to reach an agreement, once it was done I overestimated the amount of time it would take to get people on board. They were waiting for this - they were ready to do it. We had requests for every article of clothing you can imagine to be branded Ivanti. Every partner wanted it on their site, every engineer with T-shirts that had different logos on it were coming up and trading them out. The pleasant surprise was how people embraced it.”

Takeaways for tech companies about to embark on a rebranding project

Morton agreed this has been the largest rebranding project he’s seen in his extensive career as a marketer, with the second-largest being the logo change he was involved with at Symantec 10 years ago.

“That was a refresh of the brand, but this one has touched every nook and cranny of the business,” he explained. “It's one thing to change a logo, it's another thing to have to change your financial forms, the way POs get processed, all the legal entities and not only the signs but t you know the way that that we've identified herself.”

Morton said the lesson for marketers keen on taking on a large-scale rebrand is to be bold, get the people buy-in and have everyone in the organisation recognise and embrace their part in the new brand.

“Just get out there and do it,” he said. “In hindsight, I wish I could have executed this faster and had more courage just to get it done.

“The people buy-in is my second piece of advice - you just have to you have to spend the hours getting people to do it. You need to sit with the engineering team, the finance team - you need to just work with all those folks to get that done.  

"And thirdly, you need to acknowledge the contribution of your legacy brand and the contribution of all the merging businesses, in order leverage the brand equity as part of something new. That way people in your organisation also make the emotional connection to feel part of the new brand.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu    

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