The importance of brand for a startup tends to be a polarising issue. Some people say that a quality brand plays a crucial role in the success of a startup, whilst others will argue that it’s completely unimportant and irrelevant. Over the last 6-months as we’ve debated the idea of a rebrand we’ve heard the full spectrum of these views.
The brand advocates tend to point out the importance role that a brand can play in cutting through the noise and establishing the startup as a new, innovative and disruptive player in the market.
The naysayers tend to take the view that branding is purely superficial. They point out that having a snappy name and a new logo does very little to improve the overall service that your company offers.
Both camps make a good argument. It seems that the importance of brand is closely tied to role that marketing plays within a startup. For a startup that is trying to gain attention in an already crowded market, a quality brand may be the difference between success or failure. Where a company that is building software for self-driving cars probably doesn’t need to worry too much about its brand, as it’s product will do the talking.
In the end, it all comes down to purpose. The question you need to ask yourself if you’re thinking of rebranding is this: ‘is your brand helping or hindering you achieve your desired goals as a company?’
What was wrong with Prevyou?
The decision to rebrand certainly didn’t come lightly. We’ve been known as Prevyou since we first launched more than a year ago and all the work we’ve done building awareness for our service has been under that brand. By changing we know that we’ll need to rebuild that awareness from the ground up again.
A rebrand usually coincides with a big change for a company such as entering a new market, launching a new product or targeting a new group of customers. For us there were a number of reasons why we felt we had to move away from Prevyou:
- Our service has evolved: we decided on the name Prevyou when we first launched as a jobs platform for interns. We felt the name spoke to the internship experience. Interns were receiving a preview of the professional world whilst employers were receiving a preview of potential new staff. As our service has evolved this meaning has lost its relevance slightly.
- The meaning of the name was being lost: Prevyou is intended to be pronounced as ‘preview’. Unfortunately, domains that contain preview are difficult to find. So we decided to adjust our name to a domain that we could actually purchase (this is the definition of a rookie mistake when it comes to branding). Prevyou was never intuitive to pronounce. Most people would say Prev-You, which meant the whole meaning of the brand was lost in translation.
- The perception of the logo didn’t make sense: the Prevyou logo was designed when the core feature of our platform was the video interviews that interns uploaded to their profiles. This is why we decided to make the logo look like a play button. However, the perception that people draw from that logo now is that we’re some sort of video edited/ sharing service.
All this meant was that our brand had very little relevance to our service offering, which was a pretty big problem. It meant that we had to do a lot of work explaining who we were rather than talking about the value we could offer. This was having a detrimental effect on all of our marketing activities, which was the crucial reason we decided we had to change.
The Rebranding Process
Once we decided that a rebrand was needed, we wanted to make sure we got it right this time around. We wanted to give ourselves enough time to go through a proper rebranding process and make sure that the new brand addressed all those issues we were facing with the Prevyou brand.
The Minimum Viable Brand
The first step was to get some expert advice from someone with some branding expertise. Luckily, we knew just the person. Liv King is one of our mentors on the Edugrowth program and works for a leading creative agency ForThePeople.
Liv’s advice was to design the most basic brand that would communicate our service offering in an effective way. She referred to this as an MVB, a Minimal Viable Brand. Her advice was to give our brand room to grow alongside our service, rather than trying to design something too complex which might restrict our ability to adapt.
The Focus Group
Next, we decided to gather some insights from some of our potential customers. We arranged a focus group with 12 UNSW students to bounce around some ideas. We wanted to understand the brands that they resonate most closely with and the words that came to mind when we described our service.
We didn’t ask any direct questions in this focus group like what do you think we should call our company? or do you like this logo? Rather, we used it as an information gathering exercise to inform our creative process.
The Rebranding Exercise
Finally, Leo and I came together to digest all the information and create our new brand. We used the steps outlined in this branding exercise to guide us through this process. It became apparent through this process that the elements of a brand e.g the logo, the tone of voice, typography and colour scheme are only the tip of the iceberg of a brand.
A brand is built on values and on the intended perception/ feelings that it’s design to evoke in customers. To create an effective brand as a team you need to be clear on what those values and perceptions are, which is a really valuable exercise for the entire business.
Introducing the Upstart Academy
And as you now already know the brand we chose was the Upstart Academy. I’ll walk through some of the key elements of the brand that came out of that rebranding exercise.
One of the big issues that we had with Prevyou was the mispronunciation of our name, which meant it lost all its meaning. We found it really difficult to communicate what we were doing because of that.
With our new brand we wanted the name to speak for itself. With Upstart, we want to resonate with young, ambitious students – who are our target customers. And the academy makes it clear that we’re a place where people come to learn.
Having a gun graphic designer as a co-founder is certainly useful when it comes to a rebrand. Leo wanted to follow Liv’s advice in developing an MVB, so he didn’t want an overly complex logo.
The slightly step up on the U is meant to visually communicate the value of our service for students, that it’s helping them get ahead of the competition.
The Colour Scheme
One common theme that came out of the branding exercise was the concept of being new, different and disruptive. All startups are trying to achieve those goals but we wanted our brand to embody that.
Leo decided to go for a more striking colour scheme using bright yellow, black and white as the core colour pallet.
Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about the end product. All up the process took about a month to complete. That feels like time well spent as this new brand now forms a solid foundation for the service that we will be marketing for the foreseeable future.
And what is that service? Check out our membership page for more details.