Our story starts with PRWeb, the go-to service for sending out press releases. It was one of the first web-based PR sites providing direct access to small business owners. Before PRWeb, there were only a few ways to get your news out there, the primary provider being PR Newswire. With the growth of web content publishing, blogging, Google News and SEO, PRWeb took off in the early 2000’s. You could easily, quickly, and cost-effectively create a press release and publicize it online. The brand PRWeb clearly told the customers what they can expect from the product and differentiated it from competition which helped establish a strong identity that was easily relatable.
Here’s what experts have to say on branding and brand strategies:
- Entrepreneur describes branding as “Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customers. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors”.
- Marketing MO lists “What you do, what you say and how you say it may contradict each other and confuse your prospects” as one of the signs of worst brand strategies.
- In his Forbes article, Glenn LLopis suggests establishing an identity that is easily relatable as one of the brand strategies that most CMOs fail to execute.
In 2006, PRWeb was acquired by Vocus.
Enter the explosion of internet marketing, specifically e-mail marketing. In 2012, Vocus acquired e-mail marketing company iContact and began promoting its cloud-based marketing suite. PRWeb and iContact became integrated components of the Vocus Marketing Suite.
Enter the rapid growth of social media marketing and marketing automation software. In 2014, Vocus was acquired by a private equity firm and subsequently organized into two business units: Vocus PR and Vocus Marketing. The press release about the acquisition was titled “The Marketing Automation Unit of Vocus Spins Out as OutMarket. The news announcement read “While Vocus PR is to be combined with Cision, the Vocus Marketing business unit will now function independently as its own company, branded as OutMarket”.
First there was PRWeb. Then, there was Vocus Marketing Suite. Then, OutMarket and then Cision PR software! Which of these brands do you think is the most relatable for a customer of a PR software?
Now, let’s take a look at branding from the customer end-user journey perspective. If you were interested in signing up for PRWeb, you could simply google PRWeb and sign up with PRWeb, you were provided access to what used to be Vocus or OutMarket, which became Cision. The login URL was vocuspr.com. You used the product and its PR functionality (which was still the good old PRWeb), but when you logged out, you saw the OutMarket brand. And for payment, you got an invoice from Cision! Showing four different names and logos to the customer during various interactions with the company and product were confusing.
In December of 2015, Cision acquired PR Newswire – a distributor of press releases.
Clearly, no company would intentionally want to confuse its customers with poor branding. Over time, it just happens! Whether it happens because of mergers and acquisitions or re-branding strategies, changes are undoubtedly confusing to customers.
At Technology Multipliers, we have seen our share of successful and and not-so-successful branding of software products. In our opinion, the three branding mistakes that confuse customers are:
1. Building a brand identity that is relatable.
2. Showing different names and logos to your customer throughout the customer’s journey.
3. Contradicting what you do, what you say and how you say it over time.