Why oh why do brands… re-brand?
Why risk confusing existing customers used to the current look and feel? Why chance triggering our natural rejection to all things new?… Why fix what ain’t broken?
There is not much joy involved post-launch when a brand tries a new image for size… Just ask the designers behind the recent change at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or Über just prior… or who can forget the recent re-brands at Airbnb, Gap, JCPenney, Whitney Museum of American Art, Tokyo Olympics or any other major enterprise facing automatic public outcry because they attempted to evolve their mark.
Think about it: Any loyal customer loves the way things are (that is why they are loyal in the first place!). The initial knee-jerk reaction to rebranding is usually a negative one.
So why go through the pain, the expense, the effort, the potential rejection?
Because brand matters. It is a worthy quest to clarify a company’s message, to strengthen the relationship with current AND future customers. It is as strategic a move as it gets!
A rebranding effort is an opportunity to become self-aware, rethink the message, re-structure the company’s offerings, reconsider our position in the market space and in the customer mind-share. It is a vehicle for announcing there is something new and fresh within the enterprise initiatives.
More importantly, it is a chance for both internal introspection and conversation:
Who are we?
What do we offer that is valuable?
What do we need to say to make that offer clear?
How can we differentiate from similar promises elsewhere?
How do we want our customers to perceive us?
“Our mission is to be the world’s commerce operating system, increasing consumer buying power while driving more business to merchants through price and discovery.”
… we display it prominently in big bold letters in our intranet. It plays well both for consumers and merchants alike.
Although Groupon is well-known by cost-conscious consumers for its celebrated namesake daily deals, it has also been serving merchants (the other side of that arrengement) for the past 8 years… Providing tools not only for deal publishing, but also for their redemption, for promotion, marketing, reservation, booking, user reviews, analytics, accounting, insights… Yet, we are still known mostly as a consumer-facing brand. It is about time we dusted off our “back office” and brought it forward to the public eye.
Many of these services and tools have had a diversity of names or variations in multiple shades of green and grey shown depending if customer was new, or existing. From GrouponWorks, to Small Business Resource Center, to Groupon Merchant Center (which lived within a URL and logo spelled “Groupon Merchants” but advertised as “Groupon Merchant”), to Merchant Mobile App (aka Groupon Merchant App, aka Groupon Merchant), etc. It was a party, and everyone was invited.
This is called a “diluted brand”. A big problem if we claim to be the operating system for business… but not an unfamiliar one on any fast-growing large enterprise with multiple enthusiastic teams on parallel efforts working at the same time.
It became clear that we were in need of consolidation, so The Unified Merchant Experience effort was kickstarted in 2014 by then-VP of Product Dan Roarty and carried-on to completion by GM Rudd Davis and merchant marketing lead Sarah Kitson. The design direction for the new brand was architected by David Gómez-Rosado as Creative Director, and the execution throughout was completed by Mat Van Orden as senior designer (many, many others were involved over time and there are too many to list). The decision was made that the fragmented presence of Groupon in the merchant mindshare would best be eliminated by gelling our communications into a single narrative with a clear and succinct value proposition. One that made our merchants feel special, valued… catered to.
Back in Q4 2014, we hired a consulting agency (A Hundred Monkeys, from Berkeley, California) to help us find a new evocative name… We tested dozens of alternatives, from aspirational names that allowed for pivoting and future growth (Groupon Connect, Groupon Guild, Groupon Commons, Groupon Growth, etc) to generic names that were clear and descriptive of what they did and offered (Groupon Small Business, Groupon Retail Marketing Framework, etc.) We ran workshops across all offices and locations (Chicago, Palo Alto, San Francisco) trying to extricate what the internal teams felt our name should evoke and represent, what would make sense for our sales teams, our marketing folks, our account managers, our developers, our product managers, our designers… Everyone involved in building our relationship with merchants had a say!
After many months of experimentation and internal conversations, the mission was clear: Unifying into a single brand for a crisp and aggregated message was far more important than the name itself. We adopted one of the many existing versions, and we moved on to retire the rest.
Groupon Merchant™ was born, again… Sometimes it takes a long journey to discover that the point of departure was the destination itself! Yes, the name might sound more like a Shakespearean play or an archaic term from back in the Hanseatic League days more than a moniker many of our customers would readily relate to… but neither did Storekeeper, Artisan, Business Owner, or a dozen other alternatives. Merchant is generic enough not to open controversy (or legal expectations, like Partner would), it relates to some of our competitors’ own terminology (common in tech and financial services), and it is after all, part of our legacy. The goal of unification and consolidation is what became imperative.
Then came time to design the mark.
Early explorations involved a sequence of small meetings with leadership where each iteration was the visualization of a main value we sought to highlight that week (i.e trustworthiness, local-centric, partnership, technology, innovation, etc). We derived inspiration from street merchant signage (think restaurant chalkboards), from financial UI, from trendy technological advances (beacons, POS, geolocation, etc.), from cultural archetypes, from our own heritage branding. There were expressions that ranged from the whimsical to the most stoic and business-like. In those early firehose days of throwaway concepts, only a few stakeholders were involved, but as we narrowed down the options, more folks were involved in the process… A strategy to be both decisive and inclusive (a hard balance to strike within large corporations with multiple interests).
Throughout this process, we realized that we wanted an upgraded experience, without going so far that it felt elitist and exclusive. While the consumer side of Groupon has a history of being fun, the merchant’s had to be perceived as dependable. Whereas the consumer experience had to be simple, the merchant has to be fully-featured.
The M mark was deemed more important than the many times favored geolocation pin (although it communicated our “local-centric” strategy nicely, it was a rather generic shape, nowadays mostly associated with Google products) … so we settled on a mark that felt conventional enough on its foundational archetypes, yet stood-out as something new and fresh in its application.
The following weeks involved round-after-round of slaving on the minutia, from the right angle on its form, the right distance between elements, the right hues on the foreground vs. background planes, etc.
The final symbol resembles the aspirational archetype of a chart depicting financial growth, but also the inmediate reality of sales at the counter (paper receipt). It resonated well with the “merchant’s operating system” tenet in our mission statement, and of course it is also the “M” to represent the name “Merchant” powered by Groupon (both supported by prefix and color alignment)… After an internal vote, we decided to fondly call it The Mpetus.
In summary, we want it to evoke:
- Profit & Customer Growth
- Sales at the Counter
- Forward Optimism
- Trustworthy & Dependable
We also think is approachable AND aspirational, don’t you?
“The details are not the details. They make the design”
~ Charles and Ray Eames
Although we have been pre-releasing it earlier on limited collateral samples and a soft release the week prior, March 7th represents the first public exposure of our “refreshed” name and new mark in the form of a brand spanking new responsive website… to be extrapolated later into a new look and behavior for all mobile tools and online initiatives (expect some dust and alignment issues as we upgrade all products over time). The main theme is “Look Forward. We’ve Got Your Back™” and it is reflected in the custom photography (done all in-house by Ella Swenson and Jeremy Hayes in Chicago, and with the help of Paige Green in the Bay Area) plus the messaging throughout, penned by Eric Knox. The delightful animated iconography is by Raza Durrani, and all the behind-the-scenes code magic is by fellow Spaniard Ivan Garcia Maya. We were fully supported by the larger Merchant Experience team within the even larger Design Union accross global Groupon.
We adopted of course the same color as in the consumer experience (PMS 369C aka CMYK: 126.96.36.199 aka RGB: 83.163.24 aka HEX: 53a318) in a quest to protect the continuity of our relationship with the main brand (our success with consumers provides great equity, useful towards engaging potential customers in the merchant space).
Instead of a prominent green experience with touches of white as you would have in the consumer side, we adopted a more spartan, elegant and upscale alternative by using predominant white with accents of green.
The Groupon logo has already an immutable font (Avant Garde) as part of its intrinsic design… but the second part of our name deserved, well, a second look.
The company already has an established branding norm for channel names or service offerings (Goods, Getaways, Coupons, Grassroots, etc), simply by using our official font Open Sans.
Unlike the name of Groupon Works™ that it substitutes (which followed the above convention) Groupon Merchant™ had a different executive requirement: that of having its own distinct, memorable visual identity.
After comparing several fonts, (including Breadcrumb, a custom font we own) we went for Gotham. We felt its spherical letter form was open and approachable, yet precise and well-matched to the similar shape of the Groupon logo in Avant Gard. Not happy yet with the final result, we modified its letter M to avoid a narrow wall facing the primary logotype… and to better resonate with the tilted form of our new symbol.
A logo needs a couple of alternatives for working well in different media, different devices, and layout configurations. Besides the primary “stacked” version (symbol atop logotype) we designed a horizontal version for narrow situations (like our web header). Of course, we also created a negative version (white) to be placed on color backgrounds and different custom sizes for app icons, browser icons (i.e. favicon) and a long etc.
A brand is not just a logo… It is a two-way interaction, an ongoing dialogue. A conversation that happens in the web, in the software UI, in the UX patterns, in the hardware feel, in the retail experience, in the illustrations’ attitude, in the collateral language, in all our social channels… in the sales phone calls! Half the effort is to deploy the visual cues of the new mark, colors, voice, the language, the photography, the full-blown personality of our brand. Taking care of trademarks, of localizations and international adaptation. Caring about each infrastructure detail — like unifying under the new URL groupon.com/merchant that cleans the previous diversity, aligns with brand, and scales with each new initiative (i.e. groupon.com/merchant/pages).
We call it “Brand Experience”, and its deployment shall be accomplished through years of company-wide effort. The resulting visual UI and UX patterns guidelines will be worth a second blog post.
The outcome will be decided by you, our future customer.
How do you like us now?
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Groupon