Breaking Bad: We Rebranded Our Startup Because We Finally Learned Our Story
In Startupland, good ideas are a dime a dozen, and the technology and skills needed to build those ideas have become cheaper and more accessible.
This shift has seen an acceleration of new startups popping up, which has made most markets way more competitive and — dare I say it — in some cases, saturated.
The most successful tech companies have great branding, marketing and leadership to complement a good product. It’s with this in mind that Tom Tunguz, well-published VC, predicted in 2013 that branding would have to become a core competency for startups.
I learned a decade ago with my last company, WooThemes, that you can cultivate a loyal following by simply staying on top of your branding and by providing amazing customer service. It was our customer interactions that actually influenced our brand image more than anything. Actions speak louder than words (or visuals).
Fast forward to today: we’ve just announced and released a whole new brand for our current company, Conversio, that we founded two years ago.
I’m not just talking about a new logo or new style guide. This is new everything. New name, logo, tagline, messaging and a new website to properly communicate this.
But I hear you saying, “Adii, you just said actions speak louder than words and that visuals or words didn’t matter as much.”
So, why did we rebrand?
Breaking Bad: Evolving from Receiptful to Conversio
Receiptful was officially launched in November 2014 as a product that would allow Ecommerce stores to use their email receipts as a marketing opportunity. Our goal, initially, was to only have a paid option. Within a week of launch, we backtracked on that decision and made our product completely free. We accepted that we needed to find another way to make money in the future.
This decision led us down an unexpected path. In early 2015 we raised a $500,000 seed round that helped us create a product roadmap that eventually helped us make money. We were growing nicely, quickly hitting $30,000 MRR, and soon had soft commitments for the majority of our next round of financing.
In mid-2016, we released our first non-receipt tools as paid products. It was the first step toward our vision of building a suite of marketing tools for Ecommerce stores.
Things were going well, but I soon realized the road we had embarked on wasn’t one that aligned well with the DNA of our team. Raising more money at that stage would have made it difficult for us to stick to our values and find happiness in the way we were building our business.
So we vowed to optimize the business for ourselves and our customers. This meant pursuing profitability and sustainability, while never compromising our customers’ needs or our values. In the last 12 months, we’ve been moving in that direction. We surpassed $100K MRR. We have been profitable for the last couple of months, grown our team and have a maturing product.
What became evident, however, was that our name — our brand — Receiptful wouldn’t allow us to meet our long-term goals. At a base level, we heard from customers who were surprised to find out we offered far more than simple email receipts.
Ouch. That hurt. We had failed to be clear about our product value. It was a gut punch to all of our hard work to build a valuable product that was simple to use. Addressing this was our primary goal with a rebrand. We just needed a new name that didn’t confuse our customers or limit their understanding of what our product offered.
We soon realized, however, that there were many other reasons for us to move on from our beloved Receiptful.
1. Revolution; not evolution
The first thing we did was use the benefit of hindsight to determine where we had come from and where we were today.
The way Receiptful had evolved in our first year was ultimately different from what we expected when we initially settled on “Receiptful” as our name. Our beliefs — around how we wanted to build our business — had also changed. We realized we didn’t like how growth hacking often seems to play out and that we wanted to build a family-first business, where the company would adapt to our individual needs.
A brand refresh wasn’t going to be enough. While the initial steps to get to today might’ve been incremental and evolutionary, our rebrand needed to be bolder in an effort to passionately communicate who we are, what we stand for and what our customers could expect from us in future.
We needed a brand revolution.
2. Doubling down on our way
The other thing that we realized is that there was a difference — in some instances, a contradiction — in the things we were saying we wanted to do and the things we were doing.
The best example is explained in our new tagline for Conversio: “Sell More, Do Less.”
We wanted to build an intelligent, consolidated marketing dashboard for Ecommerce store owners that would allow them to spend less time in the software and more time building their business.
What we found though was that as we kept building more features, we were asking our customers to do more and not less.
The other harsh truth we had to acknowledge was that we said we want to grow the business in a wholesome way, yet we were still transfixed with month-on-month growth.
Rebranding thus gave us a new canvas where we could start the next chapter in our journey our way; a way that best aligns with who we are.
3. We needed a brand behind which we could rally
We formulated a new strategy and gameplan for Conversio: Breaking Bad.
The term Breaking Bad — according to the TV show’s creator Vince Gilligan — means “to raise hell or challenge authority.” To us, this was the perfect way to explain how we felt.
We are passionate about small businesses and didn’t want to follow the generally-accepted SaaS best practice of optimizing one’s product for bigger customers in an effort to go upstream or into the Enterprise.
We want to spend more time building true relationships with our current customers — to help them build more successful businesses — instead of always being on the search for new customers. It’s no coincidence that “Conversio” is a mashup of two words: conversations and conversions.
We want to focus on our revenue-per-employee ratio and want to reinvest profits for the benefit of the current team too, instead of exponentially growing the company and spreading resources as widely (thinly?) as possible.
These were the things that we could rally behind and that ultimately infused everything about our new brand.
Do Things. Tell Others.
Let’s face it: redesigns are fun. I’ve never met a designer that didn’t constantly want to redesign all the things.
And redesigns are about change, and they can be challenging. To that end, I can imagine that there’s both good and not-so-good reasons to go through a rebrand.
For us, our rebrand is just about being who we are and doing a better job at telling that story. Part of who we are is about passionately helping small businesses to be successful and our rebrand will help us do that (by being much clearer about how our product can be helpful, which will then help us reach a bigger audience).
The monetary or marketing success of our rebrand is however very much a byproduct of us doing something very simple: Do Things. Tell Others.
There are many reasons why we could’ve rebranded (or not). Ours is as simple as that.