In the episode “Making of a Brand: Brand is Everything, Everything is Brand”, Brandi Starr was joined by Russ Somers, CMO of Lytho. Russ has led marketing for B2B companies including TrustRadius, TrendKite (acquired by Cision), and Invodo...
In the episode “Making of a Brand: Brand is Everything, Everything is Brand”, Brandi Starr was joined by Russ Somers, CMO of Lytho. Russ has led marketing for B2B companies including TrustRadius, TrendKite (acquired by Cision), and Invodo (acquired by Industrial Color Labs). Russ is focused on helping power the creative and marketing teams that power major brands, and on having an awesome time while doing so.
In this episode, Russ shares his insight on the journey of rebranding. Having taken Lytho through a renaming and rebranding the entire company (which included a merging of two companies) in a short, 90-day span.
Through specific examples and broader concepts, Russ provides guidance and his expertise on rebranding from infancy through to project completion, how CMOs need to be at the center of the rebrand, from concept to execution, to foster communication and collaboration with stakeholders as a path to success of the rebrand.
This insightful conversation on how to successfully execute a rebrand and Russ’s four key points to approaching any rebrand should not be missed!
Russ has not one but four: Four points to re-branding. Start with the objective. Map all of the touch points. Bring everybody along on the ride with you. And lastly, give yourself some grace because you will miss something.
The term “best practices”, because Russ asks, “who defines them”? 20 years ago, someone ran a deliverability test and said Tuesday is the best day for email. Is it though?
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Intro VO 00:06
Welcome to revenue rehab, your one stop destination for collective solutions to the biggest challenges faced by marketing leaders today. Now head on over to the couch, make yourself comfortable and get ready to change the way you approach revenue. Leading your recovery is modern marketer, author, speaker and Chief Operating Officer at Tegrita Brandi Starr!
Brandi Starr 00:34
Hello, hello and welcome to another episode of revenue rehab. I am your host, Brandi Starr. If you tuned in last week, Christina and I had a an amazing discussion in episode four. And we talked about how marketing can have greater influence within the organization and within the boardroom. And we have another amazing episode for you today as we connect another area that marketing has influence and I am joined by Russ summers, a CMO of Lighthouse Russ is focused on helping power the creative and marketing teams that power major brands and having an awesome time while doing so. Russ has led marketing for b2b companies, including TrustRadius, trends kite and in Votto. His early roles included product marketing roles for Dell and Dun and Bradstreet. Russ lives near one of my favorite cities, Austin, Texas with his wife, two children, dog and cat and way too many guitars. Russ, welcome to revenue rehab, your session begins now.
Russ Somers 01:50
Awesome. Brandy. It is so good to see you and talk to you today.
Brandi Starr 01:54
Yes, I am excited for our discussion. You know, I know we've talked brands a lot. So I'm really excited to bring that to the couch. But I like to start with a little icebreaker that I like Scalo Oussama moments called buzzword banishment, where you get to tell me the industry buzzword that you would like to get rid of for ever.
Russ Somers 02:18
There are so many I have to choose just one. So I will choose just one. And it's one that annoyed me this morning. It is best practices. And here's why Best Practices bugs me, Randy, who defines them. A lot of times best practices. I mean, we send our emails on Tuesday, because 20 years ago, someone ran a deliverability test and said Tuesday is the best day for email. Is it though? Is it though? So that's what I am totally
Brandi Starr 02:49
with you on best practices. I always say that best practices aren't always best. I like to lean on proven practices. And that is what has been proven to work in this particular scenario. Because yeah, that email on Tuesday thing is one of the things that like is a hot button for me because I'm like, if everybody's sending on Tuesdays, then guess what? It's just a crowd of noise. But you know, I know I'm preaching to the choir here. Awesome. So now that we've gotten that off our chest, tell me what brings you to revenue rehab today?
Russ Somers 03:28
Well, we recently went through at life though a major rebrand, renamed and rebranded the entire company. In fact, it was in the process of merging two companies together. Many of us have marketers of Ben's have been through rebrands, but probably not on this accelerated timeline, the whole thing was under 90 days from start to finish. So we learned a lot from that, among other things, try not to do it in under 90 days. It's not realistic, but we learned a lot of other things as well. I'm just super looking forward to talking about him.
Brandi Starr 04:01
Awesome. So I believe in setting intentions. It helps to give us focus and purpose and it also helps our audience know exactly what to expect. So after our chat today, what are your hopes What would you like to be different after our session?
Russ Somers 04:20
I would love anybody who listens to this when a rebrand comes on the table to be able to in discussing that with the rest of their leadership team or their marketing team go. There's a lot of stuff here but these are the two or three big things we really need to nail
Brandi Starr 04:38
perfect and I pulled I did kind of did my homework and I pulled a quote from branding magazine that says the best way to achieve sustainable growth is not via short term activities like PPC campaigns, but building a brand strategy that is heavily based on the ever changing customer expectations. And I I really love that quote because I always talk about customer experience and how everything ties back to the experience that we are giving our customers and prospects. And so with that in mind, I want to start with I know the the rebrand came as a result of, you know, the merger. And a lot of companies choose to go with one brand or the other, what prompted you to say it's time for us to rebrand and let's go down this path?
Russ Somers 05:29
It's a good question, because it's, I did it reluctantly, first of all, Brandy, because the thing about rebranding is it's time you never get back. If you want to completely tank a marketing team's productivity for a couple of quarters. You can do one of two things you can reap lat form marketing automation, or you can rebrand, right? Both of those things done well pay huge dividends. But they do take a lot of time and focus from the other things that we might be concerned about. So one minute, because the dog doesn't eat out, I warned you this might happen.
Brandi Starr 06:03
It is no problem at all. You know, it's we welcome the pooches to the couch as well.
Russ Somers 06:12
Awesome. Well, he is comfy on the couch, but he had to go take a bit of a walk. So anyway, so I was reluctant at the start. And it was something that before I started in the role I talked a lot about with the CEO, he asked me, Do you think we need a rebrand? My initial answer was no, everybody thinks they need one most people don't. But the more that I dug into it, the more we actually did for a number of reasons, there was a long history of the company making brand decisions that were probably good at the time, but they hadn't really thought about the ecosystem of the brand. So for example, there are different types of names. One type is the evocative name. And other type is the empty vessel name, when you're naming products or features, those can't all be the same type. Some things need to be louder than others. So you can be like Nike, where the name Nike is very loud, and the sneaker name, the series name, 1100 Torch is very quiet, or you can be the other way around and have the product name be very strong, and the umbrella name be weak, but they can't all try to be the same thing. So as it evolved, they just had not sort of prune the hierarchy as it as it were, and kept it effective. So I reached the conclusion that we were going to have an unsolvable problem of being memorable in the market unless we sharpened our brand quite a bit.
Brandi Starr 07:32
Okay. Which is interesting, because, you know, you think about it. And there are certain things where I mean, like Nike, where you know, other than a few sneaker lines, most times you just know, it's Nike, like I'm wearing Nikes. I don't know, you know, the name of it. I just know, I'm wearing Nikes. And for so many people that brand is what carries through. So thinking about that power when you get it right. What does that look like?
Russ Somers 08:08
It's hard to know, in the instant, the hard thing is, it's the lead the lagging indicators that tell you right? So I remember building a brand for a company called Votto that I was at years ago. And initially, the first couple of years at conferences it was in vo who. And then it was, oh, in Votto, you're the video guys. And then a couple years later it was people bringing their friends over, you've got to meet in Votto. They're the video guys, the video people. So you can only really know in retrospect, but you can kind of know ahead of time by does everything look consistent? Is it easy to say? Is it easy to remember, when I say easy to say I am a songwriter and songwriters use a word sometimes called mouthfeel. What does something feel like when you say it? And so Lytho for example, that was the name of one of the two companies, although it wasn't the main company, the acquiring company, but it was a better name. It had better mouthfeel than in motion or in motion now and also had a number of other desirable attributes. So you look for those leading indicators you hope you were right. And a year or two later at a conference, you start to go I think maybe it worked.
Brandi Starr 09:22
And that is one thing that I think that especially those outside of marketing, don't think about is branding is a long game like it is you know, I say a marathon, not a sprint and it is one of those things where there are not you know, it's not like PPC campaigns you run the campaign, you know how many people clicked you know, how many form submissions you got, and you know that in a relatively short timeframe. So thinking about how you, you know, talk about this upward to the CEO and even laterally to other departments. Have you run into To challenges either in this brand or previously, where, you know, people are just not getting it like they're not really, you know, absorbing like that this is something we're not going to know if it's working for a while?
Russ Somers 10:13
That's a good question. And that's a tough one, because we had, the company in motion now had been around for quite a while. And within our customer base, you know, about 600, customers were very well known and within within our company, and yet in the broader market, we don't have a huge amount of brand equity. So there were a lot of questions as we came in and started this, how are we going to know if it works? Do we really need to do this? Are we actually giving up a ton of brand equity, and you made the statement, I think it was something about, sometimes people don't get it. I always prefer as an optimist brandy to think in terms of have I given them the right opportunity to get it. So like on the naming thing, I'm a total geek about product and company naming. So I wrote up probably like a 1014 page, here's what we're trying to achieve. Here are the options we considered. Here's the categorization for how to think about names and all of those things. So people could disagree with the decision. But with all of the things like that we did for socialization, they couldn't really say I don't understand the rationale. They could say I don't agree with the decision, but at least they get the rationale. And we even had a conversation at our last company meeting. How can we measure the impacts of the rebrand and to an extent it's a one way door decision. It's like, it's not like you mentioned a paperclip campaign. Oh, this one's not performing. We'll turn it off, we'll do something else. We're not going to say oh, the rebrand didn't give us the results we wanted. We're going to rebrand again, we're not going to unbranded, we're not going to unbranded. So I've worked
Brandi Starr 11:53
for a company where that was the strategy. We just, it was just like, Oh, this one isn't working, change the name and rebrand. And I in three years that I worked there, I had five different business cards just based on the name changes. So I mean, it is a strategy, not one that I would recommend, but
Russ Somers 12:11
not all strategies are good strategies, are they but they are all strategies.
Brandi Starr 12:15
And I think you hit on a really key point there. In episode three, we talked about change management. And in that episode, Tiffany, like stressed the importance of communication in you know, in change management and driving home any big change. And what I'm hearing is that communicating what you were doing the rationale behind why you were doing it was a key factor in, you know, essentially managing stakeholder expectations and understanding that accurate,
Russ Somers 12:47
entirely accurate, and I'm still floored and humbled by the number of people on the team that can repeat back the rationale for things. Because I really believe if you talk to in terms of the why of a thing that you're doing, we move so quickly in business that a lot of times we just talk about the what we're moving from this marketing automation platform to that one, we're changing our color from blue to purple, whatever it might be. But you need to talk about the why I mean, purple is not an accidental choice, there is a spectrum, we put all our competitors logos on a color spectrum, there was a wide open space where purple was, which coincidentally, is we are not the least expensive offering, we are just the one best suited to creative and brand teams as opposed to others. And so best suited equals upscale. And when you look at HBO, Max is branding, they use all these blue and purple gradients to signify this is a premium offering this is upscale. So again, I think too much about stuff, Brandy, but help people understand the reason.
Brandi Starr 13:49
And that I mean, you know, that is that is a key component of marketing. And one thing that I think a lot of people outside of our function don't always understand when it comes to colors, imagery, word choice, like there's a lot that really goes into that. And the connotation that you know, subtle things said because Purple is the color of royalty and you do you know it has that you know where it's like orange happens to be my favorite color. But it's also you know, Tegrita color because it's the vibrance the friendliness, you know the and so that passion, and a lot of people don't realize like, okay, like this, you know, this is key. And so thinking about like, I think it's a little bit easier to communicate this rationale and what's happening more parallel in senior leadership. What did you all do for the internal teams like once the decisions have been made and you know that the ship was moving? Like how did you get everyone within the organization to buy in
Russ Somers 15:00
endless, endless conversations but and I have had like late night conversations with the product developer about purple versus blue and the names of them all sorts of weird things. So you've always got to have the Office Store open and be able to have those. But then when we look at sort of program programmatic things we did to get adoption and enthusiasm. One is we brought everybody along through the process. So in each all hands meeting every month, I updated people on where we were, if we were trying to choose between group blue and yellow, I talk about that and show them the two colors, right and talk about where we are and how we're making the decision. So people buy into a decision more easily when they come along through it. But then there's a lot of fun stuff that we did, we threw a launch party, our theme song for that was Purple Rain, because purple, and I love print. So it's full of when, and I know that you love orange and wear it a lot. And I just think it's funny that you and I have both chosen companies where we can rock the brand colors. I do wear purple a lot. So we did stuff like give, we made sure everybody had swag the day of the launch party. So they had their T shirts, they had their hats, which they have brand new day on them and have a beer opener because if you can have a beer opener and a hat, you always should. We sent then a few days ahead of time, we sampled confetti poppers and stuff with that swag package. And we got team members to take videos of themselves wearing their swag shooting their confetti, poppers, and some of them were so sweet. This one developer had a picture of his like six year old daughter in this lathe o t shirt that, of course hung down to her feet, popping the confetti, you know, up in the air around herself and screaming, so that just let everybody sort of participate. Because at the end of the day, people don't want to be an audience for that they want to be part of the show. And so how can you help your team be part of the show.
Brandi Starr 16:56
And I think that is such a key points, like in my career, I have been a part of some rebrands that have gone really well. And some rebrands that, you know, not so much like you for months later are still calling the company by the old name or, you know, those sorts of things. And you know, being in marketing, like that's really bad. And I do agree that the key differentiator, if I think about when I was not in the decision making, seeing the key differentiator between those was where I really felt like a participant like I was a part of the show, and not just someone who was handed a swag box at the end like, Oh, this is what we came up with. And it's like, you know, it is what it is. But that that is really, really key. So shifting gears just a little bit, I hear so many CMOs, who kind of talk about rebrand as not as positively as you do. Well, you know, I'll leave it that way. Why do you think so many struggle with this process? I mean, beyond the amount of time like we all know, this is something that is a time suck generally for longer than 90 days. But So beyond that, why do you think it's such kind of a tough thing for many CMOS to tackle?
Russ Somers 18:29
That's a really good question. A couple of thoughts. First off, not every marketer is a brand marketer, there's the Deloitte work on the five competencies of the modern CMO. There's an awful lot of great marketers that don't happen to be brand marketers, so it's not their expertise, and they may not see the need. So that would be one reason, you know, if, if I'm a hammer, I see every problem as a nail, don't I? Then the other thing that I think about a lot with it, when I talk with people that are going through it, is what is the purpose? Because a lot of times when you ask what is the purpose behind the rebrand, you get very generic answers. Well, we feel it's dated. We, you know, feel the brand is kind of tattered. It's kind of atrophied. Those are not very specific. In my mind, a brand is a functional asset. It has to do a couple things, and only a couple things. Well, it has to penetrate the skull of your prospect, and lodge there with a pointy message. This brand is about x. This band brand is about creative and brand teams. And so if you've got a super clear purpose like that, it makes sense. But an awful lot of times rebrands are driven by Vanity, or dare I say boredom. And the other thing when you mentioned that they're often not thought of positively. I'm not going to name names names because these are people that I know and friends. But if you look back over big rebrands, in the past two or three years, I can count three or four stories of cmo does rebrand, rebrand launches, cmo does victory dance and cmo quits. So it's a crucible, it's a crucible for everything you do as a marketer.
Brandi Starr 20:24
That is, you know, you just hit on something I really hadn't thought about. But that does happen so often is that you go through this big transition, and then you get to kind of the end, which should be more of a victory. And then it's like, okay, introducing new CMO. And so do you think that that happens a lot, because either the CMO is just like, worn out at that point? And it's like, okay, it's I'm gonna move on to do something different? Or are they coming out on the other end? And it's like, this didn't yield the results. And so it's almost like writing on the wall, time to go.
Russ Somers 21:10
Again, a good question. And there's a couple people that I want to talk to that I want to ask, why did you leave right after the rebrand because I would love to know, if I had to hazard a guess that thing of bringing everybody along for it is hard to do. It's rare, there's often people don't believe they have the time for it. So I can imagine that if I had led a major rebrand. And months later, I'm hearing people say, I still don't know why we did this, the old brand was better, I don't, at a certain point, I might be tempted to just storm out. I don't know if that's what's happening. It could be brandy, or it could be that they just go I came here to do this one thing, and I'm done and I ascend.
Brandi Starr 21:55
And yes, and that that does happen a lot, where you have someone that is brought in because they have a specialty or a sweet spot at getting through certain hurdles. And it is always kind of intended, that they're gonna, you know, be there through that hurdle. And then, you know, move on and bring in a leader that, you know, has a different specialty. I mean, you see that on boards, but you also, you know, see it sometimes in, especially in the C suite. But I do want to back up a little bit, just because I am very process oriented. And so, you know, thinking about myself, and, you know, our listeners, if we were to talk about, you know, key considerations, so the decision has been made, a rebrand needs to happen. There's a clear purpose. So we know that that's kind of the starting point, is having a purpose and making the decision to do it. What are those key milestones? Or any sort of gotchas along the way that if anybody listening is about to go through this process, that they can almost take that away as the'r like, checklist? Like, I gotta have the, you know, I got to make sure this, these things happen sequentially. And I got to watch out for these yellow or red flags.
Russ Somers 23:12
What a good question. I mean, we are all as marketers use to some degree to managing projects. Some of us are great at it. Some of it like me, some of us like me, or not so great. But a rebrand is really a whole little nested set of projects. I mean, the Gantt chart in there is unbelievably complex between all the things. So you kind of got to start just like you said, with what's the purpose? What are we trying to do? And that becomes your Northstar, your guiding principle. So when somebody says, By the way, should we rebrand our, I don't know, glass door, I mean, of course, you would rebrand your glass door. So I'm making a horrible example. But you would always ask, does this tie to the purpose of the rebrand, if not, throw it off the truck, use that to determine what you're going to do everything that maps to the process. And then you've got a for each sort of do your sense of your little map of brand touch points. Here are all the website pages, here are all the third party web properties were were listed. Here are all of the sales emails, here are the unsub. Here is the email preference page, which I forgot to change. And we just figured out I'm telling you don't tell anyone else. But these things happen, you won't miss some things that just should inspire you to make us a long list of what all your touch points are. And then you've just got to build the the plan out to action east of each of them. And you know, when I talk about a several nested projects and Gantt chart, there's defining what the brand is. There's bringing it to life with the brand elements, and then there's distributing that to all of your brand touch points. And then there's a fourth one as you and I discussed, which is sort of internal Alignment and momentum. So the only thing I could say you would do could do Wrong would be not to go, I need that really detailed map of everything in terms of touchpoints elements, etc.
Brandi Starr 25:08
Okay. And given that there are so many of those touch points that cross things outside of marketing. So, you know, if you're a software, if you're a technology company, there's going to be that in product user experience. If you're marketing through a channel, there's going to be that channel experience customer service, where in the process, are those other groups typically brought in? Like, are they a part of the brand discussion? Are they just more? These are steps, you know, kind of sub milestones in the get er done section of the project? Like, how collaborative? Is it outside of the marketing teams? Or how collaborative? Do you recommend it beat?
Russ Somers 25:50
It? It's a really good question. And I think there's a spectrum, the more the person in their role is served as a brand ambassador function, the more you need the collaboration, so that they feel bought in. So think of your customer experience teams, think of your sales teams, right? Those people really need to feel like they had a voice and feel bought in. And they also, by the way, are the people that will help you uncover things that you'd otherwise miss. When you're talking perhaps about the finance team, you may have less need for them to be brand evangelists per se. So I'd almost go how bought in do I need them to be for this to be successful, and give them sufficient collaboration to enable that to happen?
Brandi Starr 26:35
Okay, and that makes sense, because your sales team you need all in, but like finance, just may need to change the logo on the invoices, like they, you know, may not have and I know I'm oversimplifying it, I don't want to demean the role of finance, but in terms of rebranding, their role is a bit smaller, and their interaction directly with customers is going to be a lot less as well.
Russ Somers 26:59
Exactly. So although even that you still want to map that touch point and go what's true at that touch point, because the thing I didn't think about on this round, was, I hadn't done a rebrand that change the company's name before. If companies get in, if your customers get an invoice with a different color logo, they're going to be cool with it, they'll pay it, if they get an invoice with a different company name in this day and age, they say, Are we being phished, and payments slows. So every touchpoint matters, but the essence of what you said is accurate. Finance needs a lot less input into it.
Brandi Starr 27:33
Okay, and that, that, you know, there are so many I mean, every brand project I've gone through, whether it be a rebrand or just you know, helping to build an unknown brand. There are so many of those things that, you know, it's like gotchas, like something pops up, like Where'd that come from? You know, now we got to fix that. It got to like your your preference center. I think, you know, we changed our logo two years ago, and I still pull up stuff and I'm like, How does this still have the old logo on it? And it's crazy. It's like, okay, here's the next batch of things two years later that you know, we need to update but so talking about our challenges is just kind of the first step and I always say nothing changes, if nothing changes. So we've got to do the work. And in traditional therapy, the therapist gives the client the homework, but here at revenue rehab, I like to flip things on its head and I always say when you know better you do better. So we all as marketers want to do better. So can you summarize for us your key takeaways and give us your one thing what is the one thing that you want our listeners to do in order to help to strengthen their brand, or if it's advice on you know, the one thing to do if going through a rebrand, I'll leave it to you.
Russ Somers 28:59
I think there are four things I always get in trouble when I enumerate now I'll only be able to remember three things one is start with the objective. Thing Two is map all of the touch points. thing three is bring everybody along on the ride with you. And thing for is give yourself some grace because you will miss something. And you will feel like how did I miss that those would be the four if I said there are four things that would be them.
Brandi Starr 29:31
Perfect. And if we so we have said if we are getting started with a brand refresh our number one, start with a purpose. What is our purpose for making this change? And I think that is Sound Advice no matter what the change is that it's being made, whether it's rebranding or anything else in our businesses, starting with why are we doing this? What is you know, what's what are we trying to achieve with this is a great place to start And is there anything else that I have not? Because I know you are full of a lot of wisdom around branding? Is there anything that I have not thought to ask you about that you want to make sure that our listeners take away from this discussion?
Russ Somers 30:15
Yes, one more thing. Remember that, especially for the creative and content team, the brand is a new car, you've worked with an agency to get them that new car, it's shiny, it's on the lot. Now let's go drive it around and get some mud on it and make it our own. Because you cannot say the brand book we were handed is now that the brand book that we execute for the rest of our lives, it's only a starting place, you should continue evolving that brand as you go.
Brandi Starr 30:45
That is that that is a great point. And I know, I've seen some companies call their brand book, the brand Bible. And I've always disliked that name. I mean, one because it can be an, you know, a non inclusive reference. But beyond that, if you think about the Bible itself, it is never changing. Like that book is that book. And there is no evolution to that. And to your point, your brand guide, or I like to call it the brand playbook is something that is going to evolve over time, even if it's just small nuances from what was first defined. So I think that is another great takeaway is that has to be a living and breathing document. And you think about you know, I'm a football fan, you think about a football playbook. There's a play that you know, is no longer work and they take it out, rip it up, throw it away, and I'm using that, you know, as if the book is still physically a bloke now I'm sure it's a tablet. But you know, and then they come up with oh, we've got these new players, we do this new play. And that is a great way to think about that. So I appreciate that extra takeaway. So Russ, I have enjoyed our discussion, but that is our time for today. Thank you so much for joining me.
Russ Somers 32:14
Randy. This has been so fun. Thank you. It is so great to catch up.
Brandi Starr 32:18
Awesome. And thank you everyone for joining today. I hope that you have enjoyed my conversation with Russ. I can't believe we are at the end already. So thanks, everyone for joining and we will see you next time.
Outro VO 32:34
You've been listening to revenue rehab with your host Brandi Starr. Your session is now over but the learning is just begun. join our mailing list and catch up on all our shows at revenue we have dot live. We're also on Twitter and Instagram at revenue rehab. This concludes this week's session. We'll see you next week.
As CMO of Lytho, Russ is focused on helping power the creative and marketing teams that power major brands, and on having an awesome time while doing so.
Russ has led marketing for B2B companies including TrustRadius, TrendKite (acquired by Cision), and Invodo (acquired by Industrial Color Labs). His early roles include product marketing roles for Dell and Dun and Bradstreet.
Russ lives near Austin, Texas with his wife, two children, dogs and cats, and too many guitars.