CMO profile: How Hootsuite's marketing chief staged a social rebrand

Global CMO of social media technology vendor details the result of the company's rebrand and creative bravery

When Maggie Lower took on the role of chief marketing officer at Hootsuite in mid-2021, she knew she was joining an organisation that had defined the social media management category a decade earlier.

What she also knew was that in the world of social media, it does not take long for an organisation to show its age. With social media evolving at a speed unlike any other channel, Hootsuite's brand identity wasn’t keeping pace. For Lower, this presented an opportunity to take a brand position that was bigger and bolder.

"With social becoming a powerful engine of culture, we felt it was time to rethink our brand to mirror the lightning-fast evolution of the space and the evolving needs of social marketers, while also cementing our position as experts in the category," Lower tells CMO.

Her goal for the rebrand was to show customers Hootsuite didn’t just get social, it was social, and hence the partner marketers needed to navigate this rapidly changing space.

"We have acted as advisors and mentors to our customers from day one and know social media rewards authenticity, bravery, and creative courage," Lower says. "We also know showing up this way – and taking a stand – can be intimidating. Through our rebrand, we aimed to continue providing our deep expertise to our customers, but also taking it one step further – encouraging them to become fearless on social and providing the encouragement and guidance they need to do so."

For the Hootsuite rebrand, Lower called on the expertise of branding agency, Prophet, to undertake a stakeholder interview process to understand the company's market position. This exercise uncovered a gap between Hootsuite's brand's perception and that of the modern social media space.

"We had long acted as a B2B brand but, to reflect our customers’ demands and modernisation of the social space, we knew we would have to throw away B2B convention and become comfortable with a more modern, emotive and human brand," Lower says.

Prophet's work led to a revamp of Hootsuite's entire design system, from its logo, colour scheme, and font, through to its tone of voice, and even the personality of its mascot, Owly. Lower's next priority was to position Hootsuite's customers at the heart of the rebrand. For that, her internal creative team came up with a new creative marketing campaign, ‘Your Guide to the Wild’.

Credit: Maggie Lower

"We wanted to show our customers we recognise social can be an overwhelming space, and they don’t have to navigate the wild world of social alone," Lower says. "We share their commitment to showing up on social, and they can lean on us to help guide them through the digital wilderness."

That led to creation of a brand video from New York-based director, Amy Lombard, which acted as the cornerstone to the campaign.

"What we got was a true creative partnership that pushed our team and the overall strategy," Lower says. "Her aesthetic is humanity and joy with a message — which is exactly what people feel when they are on social.

"We took a social-first approach to our imagery, as we know when you get people involved that really believe in what you’re doing, you’ll get better results. By hiring influencers instead of actors – those that really get social – and real people from many different walks of life for our brand imagery, we felt we could tap into the equalising essence of social - that it’s for everyone and is a place where you can feel ‘free to be me.’"

As for Owly's personality update, Lower says the messages received during the research phase was that Owly was sacred and always needed to be part of Hootsuite.

"The rebrand project gave us the chance to give them a bit of a ‘glow-up’," Lower says. "They’re now sporting a new look, with saffron feathers and a library of expressions depicting all of their customers’ moods on social."

Personal and professional belief

For Lower, however, the rebrand also merges her personal and professional philosophies. Lower has been a tireless advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, for which she has won multiple awards. She was also ranked 16th in the Outstanding 2022 Top 100 LGBT+ Executives list and holds a position as a board member of Grindr, the world's largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans and queer people.

"Living in a time where embracing vulnerability on social has become increasingly challenging, I’ve never felt more passionate about working through that on a personal level — and guiding customers to do the same on a professional level," she says.

"I wholeheartedly believe social is an equaliser. Brands collectively have an opportunity to champion the power of social for good and lean into any fear or 'uncomfortability' they might have in showing up authentically. I saw the rebrand as an amazing opportunity to encourage brands to stand out and join the conversation, while highlighting the role Hootsuite can play in helping them do just that."

Since launching the rebrand and the integrated marketing campaign five months ago, Lower says Hootsuite has received great feedback from customers and the broader social audience. The PR campaign generated more than 10 million unique impressions from 36 pieces of global earned media coverage, while a paid media campaign reached 19 million unique users and generated awareness with 1.7 million prospects.

Between this and the additional work of Hootsuite's own social team across Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn, Lower says she is now seeing the business effects of the campaign. This includes an approximate 5 per cent increase in product trials, and a 10 per cent increase in organic brand search in the UK.

"When we surveyed exposed users, the campaign lifted awareness among 6.7 million prospects and purchase consideration among 1.4 million prospects, while delivering a lower ‘cost per lift’ than any campaign in Hootsuite’s history," Lower says.

With Hootsuite's Digital 2022 report showing social channels growing to reach 4.74 billion users at the start of October 2022, Lower believes expectations customers have of Hootsuite will grow accordingly. So having now established the new brand platform, she says a goal for Hootsuite in 2023 will be to assist customers to simplify their heavy-loaded jobs.

"We want to make being a social marketer feel less overwhelming than what we know it can be — we get it," Lower says. "Aside from helping our customers keep up pace with social by providing them with the trends and insights they need to extend their reach, we’re constantly thinking of ways to identify our customers’ pain points and help them solve them through our product.

"Our customers are truly at the heart of every new product feature, integration or partnership."

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