Billy Jones, senior director of brand marketing at Hootsuite, takes us through the platforms bold new rebrand, developed in-house and by design agency Prophet, which aims to rethink the brand without losing its identity.
What was the brief for the rebrand?
Hootsuite created the social media management category 14 years ago, and has been guiding its customers through this ever-changing space ever since. But with social moving at the speed of culture, we felt it was time to rethink our brand to reflect our position as the experts in this space. We had an opportunity to be bigger and bolder, and show the world that we don’t just get social, we are social.
At the same time, we wanted to really cast the new way to be social. Social media rewards bravery and creative courage, but tackling the wild world of social – and taking a stand – can be intimidating. We have acted as advisors and mentors since we created the space, and wanted a new tone of voice that showed our expertise within the wild world of social media, while also having some fun and encouraging our customers to embrace their wild side.
How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?
We have amazing creative talent at Hootsuite, and prior to the rebrand, our teams operated as a creative services function rather than a creative agency. The company rebrand and brand system development was pivotal to reshaping our process and philosophy of internal creative, providing us with an opportunity to operate like a true creative agency.
Our brand lead developed a brief and paired content writers and designers together into teams. For four weeks, three sets of teams developed and iterated brand-defining ideas, which were brought to our Chief Marketing Officer in a formal pitch. From there, one idea was chosen, and brilliant tactics from other ideas were weaved into the process – and then we were off to the races.
Describe the purpose of the brand and its target audience
At Hootsuite we believe in the power of social to uplift people. Social media is a dynamic, polarising, unprecedented force of culture, but when harnessed, it has the power to do amazing things. Through this rebrand, we are helping customers to harness the power of social to ignite their brand and business.
Hootsuite powers social media for brands and organisations around the world, from the smallest businesses to the largest enterprises. Our rebrand aimed to drive awareness and saliency with organisations of all sizes – from solopreneurs that need time-saving tools to run their business, all the way to Fortune 500 enterprises that need sophisticated social media solutions to help manage all of their accounts, channels and social data.
What was your thinking behind the rebranding solution?
We wanted to unveil a new visual identity that reflects the next phase of Hootsuite’s evolution, along with a manifesto that positions our customers at the heart of the Hootsuite story.
Visually, we felt the need to modernise ourselves as a company and brand. Our new colour palette pushes against the expected conventions of B2B and tech, while also paying homage to our heritage with colours like saffron (reflecting our warmth – a feeling many customers used to describe working with Hootsuite) and natural green and mint tones (taking inspiration from the beautiful mountains of our home city, Vancouver).
As well, one of the most important considerations that we factored in from day one was the role that our beloved icon, Owly, would take on. ‘Owly’ is Hootsuite’s most recognisable symbol and mascot, and has seen many trends come and go in the last 14 years.
But Owly (they/them) is a teenager now and has matured and grown wiser over the years. We wanted the new look and feel of Owly to reflect where we are now, as well as where we aim to be in the future – while also putting them to work.
Putting real people at the forefront of our visual identity was also core to the rebrand. We took a social-first approach to our imagery, as we know that when you get people involved that really believe in what you’re doing, you’ll get better results. By hiring influencers instead of actors – those that really get social – and real people from many different walks of life, we felt that we could tap into the essence of social: that it’s for everyone, and is a place where you can feel ‘free to be me’.
Did you learn anything new during the project?
The most significant key learning was that everything can be done in-house. We have incredible talent across Hootsuite that brings so much to the table – from strategic thinking and creative copywriting, to graphic design and video production – and knows our brand and the unique needs of our customers best.
Despite being one of the very first brand campaigns we’ve done on a global scale as a company, our teams took the initial brief and worked tirelessly to bring it to life – and did a flawless job in doing so.
What was the biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
It’s human nature to resist change. And, when you talk about rebranding a company and the need to disrupt thousands of assets, workflows and business-as-usual roles/routines, it can be a lot of change. We knew that this would be an extensive lift for our teams – especially with the emphasis on doing the bulk of the work in-house – and that it would be an intimidating ask upfront.
At the same time, we knew that a brand (and a rebrand) are nothing without commitment from the organisation. With this in mind, from the beginning, we knew that we needed to have a clear case for change, and a focused data and customer-informed POV to truly get buy-in from leadership and the internal teams that would be required to make this project a success. We knew this before we started, and made the process of getting input and commitment across the organisation the most important aspect of the project.
What kit/tools/software were used to create it?
In the early planning phase, we worked with Prophet, an excellent company who helped us to develop our logo, brand colors and overarching manifesto. Their purpose-driven, human connection-based and powered-by-digital approach meshed perfectly with our own ethos, and was very helpful in establishing the preliminary assets.
What details are you most proud of any why?
The brand we built follows the modern best practices of marketing and marketing science. Our intent was to build an iconic brand through distinctive assets and an emotionally resonant consumer positioning of the product, because we know that is what will get us noticed and drive saliency as a brand.
We reverse engineered some of the best brands ever, and found the formula above is what is needed to be iconic. We’re proud that we’re pushing conventions in B2B with this approach to brand and brand storytelling.
What visual influences fuelled your solution?
To get noticed, we challenged ourselves to think outside of our category and SaaS as a whole, and simply look at what it would take to get noticed in a social feed.
We know that in a social feed, you’re not competing with competitive businesses – you’re competing with all of the cool and creative content coming from creators, designers, makers, tinkerers etc. The ethos of this visual identity is to be social and to stand out on social, and that ethos is reflected at all our touchpoints.
What do you hope it achieves for the brand?
Put simply, we hope this rebrand leads to braver, more authentic spaces on social. At Hootsuite, we truly believe that social is the great equaliser – that it levels the playing field and creates space for everyone to be seen.
We recognise that it’s easier said than done to be brave, but also want to show our customers that with Hootsuite’s help, anything is possible. Leveraging our deep expertise in the space, we’re acting as our customers' guide to the wild world of social – helping them to show up authentically, while also leveraging our tools to simplify their social efforts and focus on other areas of their business.
What would you do differently if you could do it over again?
As a company, we have largely relied on world-class content and performance marketing, and word-of-mouth to gain recognition. This was one of the most significant marketing campaigns that we have run, so there were many key learnings that we will take into future campaigns.
In the future, we see an opportunity to be even more integrated and build out our efforts to attract consumers at every touch point (i.e., OOH), however, we’re proud that we built our campaign around the channels that we know best – social.
Credit list for the work?
Creative Agency: The Hootique (Hootsuite's internal agency)
Design Agency: Prophet