Designing for Maximum Impact
Behind The Scenes of Tapjoy’s Rebrand
Rebranding is a disruptive act for a company. It takes a significant amount of resources, commitment, and trust in the design team and their process.
So when my team was asked to determine who Tapjoy is as a company and translate that into a full suite of brand materials, from the messaging and positioning, to the colors, the brand elements, and our overall design execution, we knew how big of a deal it was.
Luckily, everyone was ready.
And after about 8 months of explorations, revisions, dabbles and departures, we rolled out a fresh new brand, both internally and externally.
It looks wildly different from anything anyone else in our industry is doing — in fact, it looks wildly different from anything anyone is doing in tech at the moment.
So how did we arrive at such an electric departure from the norm?
Where we came from
If the designers here could describe the old branding, we could do it in one word — red.
Everything was red. Need your design to look like our brand? Throw some red in there with the logo!
Because there was no consistency in the design besides the color red, it became the main element that held the brand together. And that kind of bond is extremely flimsy when applied across a wide range of platforms.
And while that, in the larger scheme of design problems, was permissible in some ways, the bigger problem remained:
None of us felt that our brand accurately reflected who we were.
We’re a fun bunch that is passionate about the work we do. How can we not be fun? We work with mobile game publishers and top brands!
Our web site however, and by extension our entire brand, felt stodgy and canned. It was too corporate, too “enterprise-y.” None of the passion or excitement that we felt coming to work every day shined through. It had the “tap”, but not the “joy”.
So we set out to create a framework on which we could build a whole new brand for the company.
We started by checking out our competitors and other tech companies. And what we found was that everyone looked the same — not just in our direct industry, but in the larger tech space. There was a huge opportunity for us to stand out from the crowd and really do something interesting.
We were making waves in the advertising industry and we felt that our branding should reflect that. But we had to start by asking ourselves some complicated questions about who we were — and who we wanted to be.
Discovering Our Values
One of the first steps in creating a messaging framework for the company involved laying out our core values. What is Tapjoy all about? Why do we come to work every day? We realized that while in the day-to-day we were creating positive impact for our clients, in a larger way we were disrupting the larger concept of advertising and what it could, or should, be, for publishers, advertisers, and customers.
For the business, that materialized as revolutionizing mobile monetization.
Eventually, we settled on the following four core values:
Describing Our Platform
After several brainstorming sessions involving people from throughout the company, we realized that what Tapjoy does best is make a meaningful, measurable impact on our clients’ businesses. Whether our clients were app developers or advertisers, our platform drove real results.
Once we came up with the concept of the Maximum Impact Platform™, the rest of the messaging kind of fell into place. We would urge our clients to not just “advertise” their products or “monetize” their apps, but to truly “maximize” the “impact” they had on their businesses.
It was now time to produce a design aesthetic that would complement and enhance our new positioning. How could we take the concept of “impact” and present it visually?
That’s where the fun work began.
Deciding what matters
In order to create successful branding, it is first important to understand what makes branding successful.
Besides the basic logotype, every part of the overall company design was up for review. So the next step was to determine what visual elements evoked our values and communicated what we do.
Each member of our team was asked to come to the table with a unique direction, each based on a particular facet of who we are or what we do — personalize, revolutionize, unique and unrivaled, complete monetization platform, or build value.
After only four weeks, from concept to execution, we each had unique concepts ready to be evaluated.
In the end, after several meetings with key stakeholders and rounds of revisions, it was determined that the concept centered around revolution (#3) best represented how we saw ourselves and how we wanted our clients to see us. So our team took that concept to the next level, bringing in the best elements we liked from the other concepts and refining it further.
So where did we end up?
Building the brand
To truly make an impact, we need to be bold. One of the ways we are bold is through the use of color.
Our brand colors have always been bold, but the red needed to evolve. So with the new palette, we’ve kept the red to leverage our brand history, but evolved it to a more modern hue. We’ve also added an electric teal and blue gradient to cool down the red and energize the overall look and feel.
Next we balanced the bright, contrasting hues with deep, purplish grays to stabilize the design and provide some space for our other colors.
Lastly, we added a neon yellow to electrify the design and make it feel even more energetic.
Touch is all about connection, engagement and personalization.
We create a mutualistic connection between brands, publishers, and players. Players literally engage through their fingertips, with the games they love and the brands that reward them. And we personalize the experience for each player, and personalize the monetization approach for our clients.
We’re manifesting the concepts of connection, engagement, and personalization through the use of a fingerprint pattern.
Visually, it conveys the complexity of our data and how with our sophisticated data science, we’re able to make an impact on our clients.
A prominent feature that appears throughout the brand is a series of paint strokes. They represent creativity and the creative solutions that we implement on behalf of our brand and publishing clients.
Visually it references community art and graffiti (facets of a community in revolution), while reinforcing us as a fresh and innovative company ready to paint our own way.
One way that we decided to break the mold of what is typically done in our industry is through the use of images.
Of course, people are at the heart of what we do — all of our technology, data science, ad units, etc. are designed to have an impact on the lives of real people.
So we are using imagery to really showcase our user base and celebrate our players as engaged, exhilarated individuals who are each unique and ready to experience something new.
In order to maintain consistency with how we showcase our products, we knew that we needed to design a device mock-up to use across all our materials. We took that a step further by branding the devices so it is clear to our clients that anything they see in those devices is a Tapjoy product — and we take pride in our products.
Wrangling the visual elements
It became clear, with the introduction of such strong visual elements, that we needed strong guidelines to keep everything consistent.
For example, because of how powerful the paint is visually, we discovered that in order for the fingerprint pattern to compete it needs structure to contain it and give it contrast. We discovered which color combinations don’t evoke the brand. We discovered which elements seem too weak to stand on their own or so eye-catching that they overpower the content.
Using that knowledge, we built a hefty style guide to keep us in check.
Auditing and transforming our collateral
As you can imagine, there were quite a few designs to update, and it was crucial that the majority of our external facing materials be updated on our chosen launch date — March 1st, timed to coincide with both Game Developers Conference and Mobile World Congress.
- First, we took stock of all the materials that every team was using, taking special note of the things that were external facing.
- Then we prioritized the materials based on their drop dead finish date — or when they needed to be completed in order for the teams to be trained on how to use them and everyone be up to speed by the external rollout.
- From there, we built out a detailed timeline, with dependencies built in. That allowed us to focus on the most important pieces first.
Unifying the company
Once we had all the pieces in place, we put some mock-ups together and started sharing it with other teams throughout the company. We asked them the simple question, “Does this feel right to you?” And by and large, their answer was yes.
We also found that while this design was exciting and new, it was necessary to communicate to the rest of the company — specifically, non-designers — how to use the branding effectively. So we offered training for our internal teams on how to use the collateral we created.
The end result is what you see on the Tapjoy website today, as well as in all of our new pitch decks, product sheets, trade-show exhibits, and elsewhere. It took a lot of work, but in the end we feel that we got it right.
What we learned
So what lessons did we learn along the way? Tons! This was a massive undertaking, and while there were inevitably bumps in the road, we made it through. Here’s what we learned:
- Take a holistic approach. Trying to redesign a website, logo, or other collateral in a silo will never work. Look at the big picture to truly represent a brand.
- Stay organized. Know the dependencies. Don’t start working on illustrations before you nail down a color palette. Make sure you aren’t being held up by one element not being complete or thought through.
- Collaboration is crucial. Design should never be done in a bubble. It requires input from all teams to obtain their knowledge and support. That way you can ensure that you strike the right chord.
- Create authenticity. A company’s brand must be an authentic reflection if who they are. If not, it is much harder to keep the design consistent.
- Build in flexibility. A brand needs room to grow as it evolves over time. Whatever design system you have in place, make sure it is flexible enough to be updated over time without having to scrap the whole thing and start over.
- Maintain consistency. Brands can be diluted quickly. An errant type usage here. The wrong color usage there. Before you know it, people don’t know what the true brand is. Build a robust style guide and make sure you stick to it. ❤
- Simplicity is key. Every element of your design should serve a purpose, even the way in which you are using the visual elements.
- Help your company understand the new brand. It’s easy for designers to get miffed when their non-designer coworkers use the brand elements wrong — but if you don’t train them, how are they to know what’s right?
- Be Joyful. Rebrands require a lot of hard work, but it should be fun work at the same time!
Special thanks to Zach Moore, Timmy Smith, Adam Widener, Cabriah Ross, Emily McInerney, Grace Burns, Alexa Michael, Joan Højberg, Matt McAllister, Katrina Bush, Lauren Baca, Lauren Begleiter, June Lee and our executive team for helping make this possible!