When employees, customers, and key partners of LookBookHQ woke up on May 8th, a lot had changed. LookBookHQ had launched a brand new Content Insight and Activation Engine, a massive undertaking in itself. Additionally, alongside that launch – with the knowledge that the name “LookBookHQ” no longer reflected the value of their platform – the company was completely rebranded as “PathFactory”. The transformation was seamless and all-encompassing – the website was new, PathFactory signage adorned the office walls, employees had new on-brand email signatures and business cards, and a booth at SiriusDecisions Summit made the launch and new name official.
May 8th, however, was just the culmination of a long and exciting process to transform LookBookHQ to PathFactory. The rebrand took months of hard work and execution behind the scenes. We sat down with VP of Marketing Elle Woulfe, who spearheaded the initiative alongside her team, to discuss the main highlights from this successful project.
Before we dive into PathFactory and the successful execution of this rebrand, can you provide a short history of LookBookHQ and the main motivation behind the transformation to PathFactory?
The idea of rebranding was always sort of lurking in the background. We knew that LookBookHQ no longer suited our vision or adequately reflected the value we provide our customers, but it also felt like a huge and daunting task. We had certainly talked about it on the leadership team, but we hadn’t considered it very seriously.
As we went through the process in Q4-2017 of refining our messaging, we started to develop the courage to believe rebranding was not only possible, but important. The rebrand was actually secondary to the launch of our Content Insight and Activation Engine. The new Engine redefines the value we bring to the market so we knew the name “LookBookHQ” and our playful branding just wasn’t going to cut it anymore – it was time to professionalize the brand and the image.
What were the first steps you had to take as a team to start turning this idea into actual execution?
We worked with an amazing agency, Velocity Partners (VP), to help scope what rebranding would look like. We didn’t actually commit to rebranding in the initial stages – we just committed to exploring it.
We kept the initial group involved very small, but after we had explored a short list of possible names and the decision was made to move forward, it became important to keep the rest of the management team and our board in the loop. We were never seeking permission or even consensus on the rebrand but we did want to make sure everyone was really well educated about why we were doing it and how the process was going to work.
The initial list of names was endless and there were only three of us involved in coming up with the short list. I knew it had to be a manageable subset and nothing would be gained by trying to get a large group of people to align on a huge list of names. Once we narrowed it down, a list of about 20 names were pitched to our two co-founders, Mark Opauszky (CEO) and Nick Edouard (CPO).
I had everyone send me their favorite and least favorite names and I plotted them out so we could see where we were aligned. While we weren’t in 100% agreement, there was a lot of overlap in terms of the names we liked. We then did the same exercise with the rest of the Senior Leadership Team. That gave us a lot of confidence that we had selected a name that made sense for us.
Once we were settled on a name, we went through several rounds of identity exploration to make sure we really nailed what the brand would look like and even sound like to some extent. We ended up combining two ideas from the identity work to land on our final creative treatment and logo.
From there, did you develop a timeline for the rebrand? And if so, what did that look like? How long did it take from the initial idea to the day of the announcement?
We knew that to make the launch of the brand successful, we needed to tie it to something big and for us, that meant SiriusDecisions where we were already planning to increase our presence and launch the new Engine. But, by the time we went through the arduous process of deciding on a name and fleshing out the brand identity, we only had about 2.5 months to get everything launched.
The first step toward executing on this new vision was to meet with stakeholders in every area of the company to create a giant masterlist of things that needed to be done. Then, we prioritized everything and created a 3-phased approach based on that. After all, we knew we couldn’t do EVERYTHING in just two months so we had to be very calculated in our approach and fairly ruthless in our prioritization. That master list became our Bible and we met constantly over the next 2 months to review where we were against the timeline. We did much of the execution in-house but we also worked with several outsourced vendors to bring many of the final launch deliverables to life.
Walk us through the announcement day. What made you choose this particular day to announce the rebrand and what was your favorite moment?
SiriusDecisions Summit in Las Vegas was the perfect stage to showcase the new Engine, brand and message since the majority of our audience and B2B ecosystem would be there.
However, there were certain groups of people we wanted to loop in before the “big day”.
The first group to learn about the rebrand was employees. We wanted to get them on board early to give them time to warm up to the change and get excited about it since it would be impacting them significantly. We divulged new aspects of the rebrand at our weekly Friday all-hands meetings: Everything from the logo to reasons behind the name changes (and the names that ended up on the cutting room floor) to the SiriusDecisions Summit booth design to the new swag… this way, by the time launch rolled around, employees had their new branded swag and were pumped about becoming PathFactory.
The next group we communicated the rebrand to was customer advocates and key partners and influencers. For this, we wanted to make a bigger splash than just an email communication. We took a more personalized approach. We turned our events manager, Kristen’s, garage into a PathFactory storage unit for a week and she hand-packaged about 100 swag kits. Each kit had a variety of premium swag and an insert card revealing the upcoming launch (and encouraging them to help keep the secret). Those were emailed to our VIPs and the kits were followed up by an email as well.
Lastly, we let our customers in on the exciting news. We did this in a couple different ways. For those who were at the SiriusDecisions Summit, we held an event the night before launch to share the news. For those who weren’t at the event, we sent an email the night before. We wanted to make sure they heard the announcement directly from us. The timing was perfect because we also hosted a customer event the day before SiriusDecisions so we got the chance to tell several customers in person. That event actually started with LookBookHQ branding and half way through, everything was flipped so customers could see the new PathFactory brand.
Launch day itself was a crazy and exciting time. Members of the product team along with our director of Content Marketing and Content Marketing Manager burned the midnight oil at the office until about 11 pm the night before making sure the change from lookbookhq.com to pathfactory.com went smoothly. We arrived back at the office at 6am the next morning to make sure the press release went off without a hitch, start migrating our social accounts, and prepare employee communications to make sure everyone knew what to do. When people arrived at the office on launch day, the website was up, we had new PathFactory signage on the walls, the announcement was out and staff emails reflected the new brand – including some beautifully branded signatures with help from Sigstr. That signature has still seen more engagement than any other we have ever launched.
There was a lot of exciting energy inside and outside the office. The day kicked off in Toronto with a little celebration and the team on-site at the event event beamed in to say hi and show off the booth. There was a ton of booth traffic at SiriusDecisions Summit with people curious about the colorful new old kid on the block and eager to discuss the new Engine that drove the launch. Social was blowing up with shout-outs, and employees were constantly coming through to congratulate us on the ease and success of the launch.
It mattered a lot to us that employees felt informed and comfortable with the rebrand. Getting social love from customers was also a highlight. You can have the best new brand in the world, but if it’s not communicated properly, your audience won’t digest it and your announcement will fall flat.
Did you have a “checklist” of items to update? If so, what did that look like? What was your biggest challenges (if you had any)? And I’m sure it was a team effort – who was all involved?
Yes, there was a massive checklist of things to do! All the way from big projects like designing a new website, creating a new explainer video and shooting a bunch of new customer testimonials to smaller details like ordering a new nameplate for our office building, getting business cards for everyone at the show and writing new scripts for our BDRs to be prepared to talk about the news… the list goes on… and on…. and on. There were so many moving parts to manage and think about!
On top of that, we also had to build communications plans as to how we’d roll out the news to employees, customers, partners, and of course, the rest of the world. There is a long list of incredibly talented people to credit for all the hard work that went into this. Velocity Partners was instrumental in developing the new brand and vision and developing key pieces of content. Also, the amazing contractors and a stellar team of Pathies (which we now affectionately refer to ourselves as) that owned key tasks in each functional area.
It was also important to us that employees felt their voices were heard throughout the process. We circulated a Google Form so they could submit any suggestions, concerns, or questions anonymously and made sure everything was addressed.
Which technologies or platforms did you use to help with the rebrand and announcement?
For project management we used Asana. It was essential to keep track of tasks, owners, timelines, and have an easy point of communication with everyone involved.
The announcement itself involved a coordinated effort across multiple channels including email, social, live events, direct mail, ads, and sponsored content – and of course email signatures with Sigstr. We assembled the press release and new content (including a blog post, videos, and an eBook) into a Content Track using the PathFactory platform and used the Content Track link anywhere we promoted the launch. This way, we could track visitors and measure how many assets they consumed as well as how long they spent with it.
The social strategy included both an organic and paid element. We used Sprout Social to monitor all the launch buzz and make sure every single message was responded to. We also purchased some third party media to distribute the news via email.
We used Marketo to send tailored emails to our customers, database, and partners and all emails featured a customized Sigstr email signature banner to promote the launch.
Any advice or tips for teams thinking about or currently going through a rebrand?
Find an agency partner who really knows what they’re doing. We were incredibly fortunate to work with Velocity who just “got us” and felt like an extension of our team from the get go.
Don’t get stuck in the weeds. Adopt a “disagree and commit” mentality and make a conscious decision to commit to choices along the way. It’s rare you’ll ever get 100% buy-in and waiting for that will just hold you up and slow the process down.
Have a solid communication plan for employees, customers, advocates, partners, and the world. Make sure key people are brought into the fold early on for buy in and to help build buzz and excitement. You will rely heavily on them to help amplify your message when it’s time to spread the word!
From a content perspective, make sure not only to create net new external content but also internal content. Equip sales to ensure they know how to talk about the new brand and have easy access to talk tracks and new assets (so they can avoid using old ones).
Prepare for the unexpected. Have a back up plan for known ‘risks’ and expect some things to go wrong (they inevitably will and that’s okay). Just be prepared to handle it!
PathFactory continues to stand out as a platform that can have a massive impact for B2B marketers, and their new branding fully encompasses the power and professionalism of their solution. The path to that new branding took a lot of preparation, collaboration, and focus – and Elle and her team absolutely knocked it out of the park. Over at Sigstr, we can’t get enough of the new PathFactory branding, and learning the methodology behind the process only makes us more impressed with this strong example of a well-planned and well-executed rebrand.