New Year, New Terminus: How We Transformed Our Brand in 3 Months

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In less than five years, Terminus has grown from three co-founders to over 150 employees. We’ve acquired a company, expanded to multiple offices, and launched the world’s first end-to-end ABM platform. I guess you could say we’ve grown up.

But one thing that hadn’t changed over the past five years — until today — was the Terminus brand itself. It was like our favorite well-worn pair of jeans: familiar and comfortable, but it didn’t quite fit us, or our lifestyle the way it used to.

So in the fall of 2018, we knew that the time had come to make some changes. This is the story of how Terminus underwent a brand refresh in three months, using only internal resources. No big agencies, no fancy consultants. It’s the story of defining who we are, how we work, and how we help our customers succeed – and capturing it succinctly and simply in our brand.

How We Got Here: From Flipping Funnels to Revolutionizing B2B

Let’s go back to the very beginning. While still working a different  (full-time) job, I started doing some freelance work for Terminus in 2015. Terminus was my introduction to the SaaS industry and startup world, and I was excited to offer visual support to an up-and-coming startup. I keenly remember watching a grainy video of Sangram explaining the flipped funnel on a whiteboard and doing my best to wrap my head around this new concept of account-based marketing. Over the course of the next year, we experimented with new ideas, I designed the #FlipMyFunnel logo and we produced some pretty cool content that helped jumpstart Terminus’ visual identity in the market. In 2016 we made it official, and I became a full-time Terminator.

Getting on the Terminus train was a ride that got faster and faster, as we grew at an astounding pace. Our theming and messaging gravitated around making our customers heroes, and our brand naturally moved in that direction, too. The spirit of our team was a combination of grit, youthful ambition, and risk-taking, so the creation of a superhero-themed brand was an obvious match to our personality. We took it and ran with it.

Well, in true startup fashion, we experienced a rollercoaster of a journey, with glorious wins and daunting challenges. We grew the ABM category with a series of back-to-back #FlipMyFunnel events, launched a ton of initiatives and campaigns, and learned many valuable lessons as our competition emerged. We continued to build our product, grow our services, expand our partnerships and even acquired a company in San Francisco called BrightFunnel.

Of course, with more growth comes a steadily increasing need for more design and more visual problem-solving. Consolidating the brands of two companies, balancing the creative needs of one of Atlanta’s fastest growing companies, maintaining some level of consistency, and keeping up with design requests presented its challenges.  For years, I was Terminus’ only graphic designer. But as we grew, we needed more creative hands on deck, so we hired another graphic designer (stellar, by the way) in 2018 to join the Terminus team. With two full-time creatives, we now had the resources we needed to take a step back and think about the future of Terminus’ brand identity.

Redefining the Terminus Brand: Evolution, Not Revolution

It became very apparent that Terminus was growing in more ways than one — and we were outgrowing our superhero brand as well. Beyond our growth as a company, there were two other big drivers in us needing to make a change.

  1. As the ABM market matured, so had our product. In the summer of 2018 we completed the technology integration from our acquisition and launched our account-based platform. This was a huge shift from a more tactical ad-based product to a robust platform that offered a broad range of capabilities. 
  2. Along with that, we expanded our professional services to provide expertise and guidance as our customers invested more time and effort (and budget) into their account-based initiatives.

Each of these factors provided an opportunity for us to present a better version of ourselves to the market. Along with these changes, and somewhat serendipitously, we had recently brought on a new CMO. So it was a fertile environment for a change at the brand level.

“As I got my feet underneath me in the new role, it became increasingly apparent that Terminus was in a pretty unique position in that our product capabilities, and overall value proposition to our buyer, was way in front of our brand. And as the company and product had grown, we hadn’t really developed the core brand to the same level. It also presented a wonderful opportunity to reorient the entire company on a set of values and a brand promise that embodied who we really are and how we want our customers to feel by partnering with us. When you look at it through the lens of what we are helping our customers do within their businesses, we aren’t a cool MarTech vendor, we’re helping fundamentally change a big part of how they deliver growth. Our brand needed to reflect, and live up to, that.”

–Derek Slayton, CMO

Step 1: Background Research

A brand refresh is a big undertaking, and we knew we had to do our due diligence before diving in. Because we were working on a short timeline to launch our new brand early in the New Year, we needed to take in as much knowledge as possible to prepare for this challenge. Along with an array of online articles, we read The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier and Brand Intervention by David Brier. Also, as we dove into the project, Derek surfaced some work that Asana had produced outlining their incredible rebranding process.

“I was speaking with Ryan Bonnici, CMO over at G2Crowd, about brand work and how and when it was time to drive the change internally. Ryan has a bunch of great experience overall and pointed me in the direction of the blog Asana had written that outlined their process. It was instrumental in giving me some of the key guardrails for how we took our project forward.”

–Derek Slayton, CMO

The Asana piece was really helpful in providing us some structure. We definitely fell back on it a few times throughout the project. A huge thanks to those folks for putting it out in the public space. It was a great story and super helpful. We also researched and discussed other successful brand stories and case studies. But most importantly, I knew that a project of this undertaking would require impeccable planning and organization on our part. Gathering requirements, rallying key stakeholders, defining the scope and timeline, breaking down the workflow and defining deliverables were essential in the planning process.

Once we had done our background research and planning, it was time to take a long, hard look at the Terminus brand.

Step 2: Discovery – What’s in a Brand?

In a sense, 2014 to 2018 were the years of Terminus’ adolescence, where we were figuring out our place in the B2B world – and so was Account-based Marketing. Now, it’s time to solidify it.

So, at the risk of sounding too existential: Who is Terminus?

This is the question we posed to ourselves as we kicked off the rebranding process. But of course, two designers couldn’t figure this out alone. We needed the collective power of the entire organization.

We decided to approach this challenge from a couple of directions. First, we conducted a brand audit and a competitive analysis. Then we organized a set of brand workshops with key stakeholders from every department — from our CEO to our marketing team to the folks who work with our customers day-to-day.

The workshops included engaging activities, including a brand comparison exercise, a brand attributes exercise and defining “who, what and why”. We wanted to get honest feedback and dig deep to uncover what we felt like Terminus represented and what we wanted Terminus to represent moving forward. We also created a brand survey to get the perspectives of other voices from around the company.

Step 3: Messaging & Brand Voice

The brand workshops produced fantastic value because we were able to narrow down key attributes that describe what we represent. We started with many attributes, eliminated some, grouped those that were left into categories and then refined our results. Combining data from the workshops and the survey, we were able to see trends and recurring themes in the responses. This helped us further narrow down and refine our brand attributes from more than 40 to three core words. These attributes describe what our brand should represent and how we always want our customers to perceive us.

And with these brand attributes comes brand voice. How does who we are reflect how we write and talk?

For this, we turned to our content & product marketing team. They own our go-to-market and content strategies, so they’re intimately involved in crafting and activating our brand messaging and voice. We presented them with our proposed brand attributes and asked them to help define how these attributes would translate to the language we use.

Step 4: Design

This is where the magic begins. We followed a traditional but accelerated design process: conception, refinement, finalization, and production. With the foundation of the brand attributes as our guide and the goal to differentiate, we brainstormed visuals that could represent those attributes and developed three mood boards. After getting some consensus from our marketing team, we took feedback from the mood boards to develop the initial design concepts. We had about four weeks slated for design exploration, so we had to move fast. We landed on two solid concepts, both headlined by redesigned logo concepts.

With an astounding “Yes!” from our CEO and key stakeholders, we chose the strongest logo, which paid homage to our old logo, but was more modern and uniform. The new logo’s anatomy is comprised of two pillars—our software platform and our people—that hold up the customer, represented by the upward and forward moving arrow. The negative space of the logo is reminiscent of the old logo, while also offering balance and breathing room to create a more technology forward mark.

“Getting the thumbs up from our CEO after showing initial concepts was definitely very validating that all of our hard work was on the right track.”

–Laura Galante, Graphic Designer

There were supporting elements that they liked in both concepts, so we had to figure out a way to consolidate the graphics and typography in a way that made sense.  It was definitely a challenge to get the creative juices flowing within such a tight window of time, but we were able to pull off a refined concept, with some back and forth between us, our CMO and the marketing team.

The graphic elements we landed on were inspired by the forward moving arrow of the logo, along with the ideas of growth, collaboration, and the authentic boldness of our company. We utilized a combination of bold color gradients, simple shapes, and bold lines to create a unique look and feel. We also incorporated simple icons to contrast with the bolder elements along with isometric illustrations, and photography styles that include a mix of human and surrealist styles.  

Step 5: Bringing It All Together

The combination of our refreshed visual identity and refined messaging resulted in a transformed brand. We finalized on a brand promise (what people should feel when they interact with our brand), brand attributes (core attributes that the brand should represent) and a flexible design with room to grow (intentional, modern and intuitive).

It’s Showtime!

It was finally time to unveil the new brand to the company. On January 15, the day before we introduced the new Terminus brand to the world, we launched it internally. With the brand unveiling saved for the end of our 2019 kickoff meeting, our CMO Derek, our designer Laura and myself had the pleasure of revealing our new brand. With resounding applause and excitement, it was well received. We were sure to set up the obligatory swag shop to hand out newly branded tees, journals, pens, stickers, etc and included some tasty branded treats as well. More importantly, we armed our employees with the education and tools they need to understand, confidently speak about, and implement our new brand.

10 Brand Lessons Learned

  1. Design and messaging should always be anchored in the core principles and attributes that represent the brand. Every visual element should serve a purpose
  2. Nailing down the design is half the battle; implementation is the other half
  3. Get the important people in your organization on board and involved early. Include more stakeholders in the early stages and a small but dedicated steering committee when it gets down to the design. Everyone is going to have different opinions but ultimately the creative team has the expertise.
  4. Make a detailed plan, stay on track, and keep on everyone’s heels.  If you don’t make it a priority, no one else will.
  5. With a short timeline, there’s no time to take your foot off of the pedal. Every week counts and everyday matters, so keep your project schedule at the forefront.
  6. Take inventory of high-value content pieces that will need to be implemented. Strategically prioritize and create a rollout plan for remaining content after the launch date
  7. Differentiate! When you play it too safe, you end up looking just like everyone else
  8. Communicate and communicate often. You cannot transform a brand in a silo.
  9. Educate your internal team about the brand and what It means. Arm them with confidence to speak about new changes with customers/prospects.
  10. Create a visual brand that can live, grow and has enough flexibility to pivot (when necessary). Visual identities should add more freedom to create good design, not create limitations

What Does the Terminus Brand Refresh Mean for You?

At our core, Terminus hasn’t changed, we just grew up. We will continue to provide stellar service to our customers and continue to improve our growing platform, as we maintain the unmatched authenticity, personality, and care that shine through our people. We are invested in the success of our customers and future customers, and our brand refresh aims to solidify our commitment to them.

We look forward to continuing to evolve in 2019 and beyond. And most of all, we can’t wait for you to meet the new Terminus!