Rebranding a Freight Forwarding Startup
In 2017, our branding, Convargo’s branding, intentions were to create a premium product with clear, delightful and super light interfaces.
With white and dark backgrounds and thin grey fonts, to create an elegant and classy product. Thinking “it is not because you do freight forwarding that you can’t build a delightful product”.
But we discovered then that the consequences of this graphic choices were pretty bad :
- Non memorable: Following the 2017 graphic trends, Convargo had the same kind of interfaces of any new BtoB start up. The branding could be applied to many other companies. White and dark with grey thin font and green/blue buttons. It could work for HR solutions, Recruitment solutions, Fin tech…. any new product. So we didn’t had a strong and recognisable identity.
- Newbie: Also the brand hadn’t any strong correlation with our customer universe (the freight forwarding industry), so Convargo was finally identify by customers as a young and inexperienced company. A young startupers project without knowledge in trucking. Worse: some of our customers didn’t even understood who we were neither what we did when they were on our website.
- Complex: Our customers, shippers as carriers, expect simplicity and efficiency from solutions as ours. But they mostly belong to a 45-year old generation, with their own software codes they have been used to for years. Convargo new interfaces, were done by Y generation designers and engineers. While we were leading by our unconscious bias thinking clear = simple, our customers thought clear = complex interactions and hidden features, sometimes even before testing the product!
- Expensive: It is a common rule in merchandising. The most expensive you are, the lightest your brand is. Just compare Primark to Dior stores. You get the point? Our new Convargo branding was so thin and classy regarding other freight forwarding product interfaces, that it was identify also as potentially expensive by our customers.
- Inaccessible: because our users are mostly males, it means about 10% are color blind. Plus, most of them have low quality screens, which means screens with poor contrasts and luminosity. So our branded interfaces were not accessible at all to many of our customers. Super thin fonts in super light grey in 12px were just unusable by our customers who don’t work on Macbook Pro Retina as we do.
1| Define our DNA
Regarding all these pain points, when Convargo was about to raised a series A, in October 2017, our founder decided to change our entire branding.
Before announcing to the world that we had raised 16M€ and became Everoad with a new name and a new brand, we had :
- 3 weeks
- to build an entire new branding
- with 1 designer (lucky me)
- and no money yet 😱
Looks like a designer nightmare, right?
But fortunately, at Everoad, one of our value (spoil) is : BOLDNESS
“We are unreasonable. We don’t believe in impossible”
Sounds like bullshit? Well if we are super bold, we’re also a bit crazy, so challenge accepted! We needed to be lean, smart & crafty.
The thing is, at this moment, if we knew our weaknesses, we didn’t know who we wanted to be. We didn’t have any values. We didn’t knew what our DNA was, neither our long term goals. And you can’t build a brand without a strategy. Regarding the customers and business goals you target, your brand can have thousand different faces.
But thanks to the Internet, Jake Knapp (Jake Knapp) posted a free framework online. So we 1st ran the Three hours brand sprint, a workshop created by Google Venture to help startups to focus on their DNA when they have no time and no money (yet) to build a consistent and relevant branding.
It was what we needed: lean & crafty. But helpful enough to identify the main essential insights to create the basis of a branding and respect our 3 weeks deadline:
- 20-year vision
Becoming the world reference of the freight forwarding industry
Make the lives of shippers and carriers easier through technology, while protecting our planet.
- Top 3 values
- Top audience:
Shippers and carriers personae
- Expert rather than playful
- Rebel rather than conventional
- Innovative rather than classic
- Authority rather than friendly
- Between elite and mass appeal
2 | Naming
Convargo, our previous name, wasn’t the perfect one. Contraction of convoy and cargo, and coming from our founder’s head during an inspiring night, we discovered the limit of this name when we started working with international customers. It was a not-so-sexy, not-so-memorable and not-so-easy-to-pronounce name.
But finding a name is a full time job. Because you don’t have to find the better one only, it also must be unique in all the markets of all the countries you target. And it has to work in any languages (sometimes bad translations can be a disaster). And it requires advocates and jurists to do it properly.
So we called Nomen, a naming agency, who worked on it until finding the name which is our now: EVEROAD
3 | Logo
Once you have the name, you can work on the logo. I sketched hundreds ideas and variations on paper during a week, focusing on our initial insights :
- Values: bold / trust / simplicity
- Expert: related to freight forwarding and transportation
- Respecting the declinaisons rules of a logo:
- Working in logotype as in logomark
- Working in colors and as in reserve
- Keeping a good lisibility in tiny as giant size
I’ve studied dozens of transportation logotypes from the last century until today, and I made a proposal reusing the graphic codes you can find on many many transportation logotypes.
I wanted our targeted customers identifying us as a transportation company at the first look.
4 | Brand identity system
Having a name and a logo is a good start but it is not a brand at all.
Branding is about building a strong relationship between your company and your customers.
You have to think it as a scalable identity system which includes every kind of touch points with customers: colors, fonts, tone of voice, recurrent graphic codes… Everything you will use on any print element, media or digital interface.
So we opened our eyes and observed. We analyzed the freight forwarding industry. Medias, warehouses, signaletics, environment, roads, trucks, cargos, tools, pallets, fleets, etc. We analysed everything we could regarding the freight forwarding world, until finding a color pallet, fonts, and graphic elements that would fit with our customers vision and our own DNA, freight forwarding and digital.
We also capitalized as much as possible on the existing, working on improving Convargo to Everoad’s identity rather than restart from scratch for 2 reasons:
- It is lean
- It allowed us to improve interfaces without breaking the experience between the old and new interfaces
When you work on branding, studying the psychology of colors is a key. We all are influenced by our own culture, and there is a collective unconscious that strongly impact our colors perceptions.
Once we have understood this point, and identified where your company should be on this rainbow, regarding our own customers perception of colors, then we focused on freight universe.
I didn’t build our brand based on my own tastes. If I had done so, our website would be full of rainbows, strass and unicorns! So our colors were not about looking pretty, classy, sexy or cool.
Each color chosen has a reason to be on the pallet.
We started with our existing pallet colors, capitalizing on the existing, and then made it evolved based on our researches:
- Blue : Trust
Usage: main users actions on platform (buttons, links, interactions, etc.)
As I said earlier, one of our main problem with our ex brand identity was her lack of trust. Many of our customers are not comfortable with the new technologies. So we used the blue as primary color for any interaction design, because the blue, in the collective unconscious, is associated to trust.
- Dark & shades of grey: Simplicity
Usage: reinforce lisibility (information hierarchy, contrasts, texts, backgrounds, etc.)
- Yellow : Highlight
Usage: Guide the customer/user on what they should pay attention for, like signaletics does in warehouses.
Typography is part of the brand personality. For example, if you work on a child video game you won’t use the same font as you would for a government website. As said earlier, our initial use on fonts in thin and light was a fail regarding our targeted customers.
So as for colors we took inspiration in our customers environment. Media, professional press and websites… We identified that all titles were always bold and condensed in Sans Serif fonts.
We also needed a font that worked in both print and digital, easy to read, and declined in all european alphabets (standard ISO Latin 1, Latin CE, Greek, Cyrillic).
So we chose a combo of 2 Google Webfonts both respecting this constraints:
- Roboto Condensed : which perfectly fit to the Freight Forwarding Style and that we would using for heading to give an expert ton.
- Open Sans : which is particularly easy to read, using for common texts and product interfaces.
At this moment of our journey, we hit our goal: having a new brand in 3 weeks.
So we announced to the world, as we wanted to, that Convargo had raised a Series A and became Everoad.
But in reality, the job wasn’t done yet. In fact we just had the basis.
The crash test
If we knew Convargo pain points (perceived as non-memorable, non-reliable, newbie, complexe, expensive, unaccessible, etc.), we didn’t knew if our new choices were better or worse. Good intentions and pragmatism are not enough. You can not skip real customers/users feedbacks.
As we had to build our official website, we took advantage of this project to test our new brand with real users. And guess what?…. we passed the test!
In the trucking industry, people won’t LOVE your interfaces. They sometimes can hate it, if it is painful to use or understand. But they don’t care if it is cute or stylish. All what they want is simplicity and efficiency, business and money.
And here they gave us the best feedback EVER. When we asked them, during test, what they thought about the website interfaces, they answered:
“Well, nothing special… it is quite simple, you are a freight forwarder, you connect shippers with carriers, that’s all.”
Ok so now we had our name, logotype & logomark, colors pallet, typography, all validated by users, we needed to go further : applying it thought any touch points, to build a fluid, strong and reliable relationship with our customers.
We needed to create only one consistent, fluent, Everoad experience.
A branding is a non-ending story
Here is the trick. Branding has no end. As the company grows, it also needs to scale. As our business and services evolve, our branding has to evolve too. And to keep consistency, to preserve the quality of the Everoad experience we are building, we need rules and tools.
This is tomorrow’s chapter. We are currently building:
- Intern values
- Design principles
- Design system
- Brand book
We still have so many things to do. We haven’t clearly defined our tone and voice yet. All documentation is under construction. And when we’ll be bigger, with more people involved in product, design and marketing, preserving the consistency of our brand will become more and more challenging.
And you know what? This is exciting! Cause at Everoad we are unreasonable.
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