How a New Brand Strategy Helped to Align Formstack’s New Acquisitions
Oftentimes, the worst part about going to the doctor isn’t even the check-up itself, but the cumbersome forms that need to be filled out before even going in. In 2019, writing with paper and pen is tedious, and manual workflows make gathering and analyzing data much more difficult.
Thankfully, Formstack was created to address those pains. Initially, Formstack was simply an online form builder that streamlined data collection without the need for complicated code. Now, Formstack is a workplace productivity platform that offers a suite of data products, including online form and survey creation, document generation, and data synchronization. With an easy-to-use digital platform that eliminates slow, paper-based processes, Formstack serves companies throughout every industry, from the NHL to Netflix.
Formstack came to us after a string of acquisitions had expanded their product capabilities significantly. They had serious questions about what the acquisitions meant for their company identity: Should the acquired brands dissolve within Formstack, should they retain their identity under Formstack, or should Formstack introduce an entirely new parent brand? They knew they were at an inflection point and that their brand and brand hierarchy had completely shifted.
They also knew that this brand hierarchy decision had implications for a number of audiences. Existing customers wanted to know what might change for them, while prospective customers and the market at large needed to know what this new and expanded company was and what they offered. Existing employees needed to know and have confidence in the identity of the company they worked for, and employees from the acquired companies needed to buy into the new company they now worked for and feel comfortable that their previous company’s work was valued.
And last, but certainly not least, the leadership of the company needed a scalable brand architecture that aligned with the organization’s vision, giving them flexibility for product growth and/or future acquisitions.
Any brand hierarchy discussions should start with the parent company’s product vision. That needs to be understood and solidified before the outer representation of the brand hierarchy can be established.
Formstack had a vision and product strategy but had not concisely articulated it in a way that the leadership team could socialize for organizational buy-in. So our first step was to bring all of these ideas out and get it documented. This took all the key players coming together and talking out what they wanted for the future of this product and company.
We then guided them through some options for brand hierarchies that could fit their vision and strategy and talked through the consequences of different choices. If Formstack was their parent brand, what would that mean for their products? Their internal culture? The culture of their acquired companies? Having all the key information in front of them helped Formstack define a clear, simple brand hierarchy. By defining this strategy, Formstack could provide logical “homes” for past acquisitions and create space for future ones.
A series of leadership workshops ruled out the following:
- A house-of-brands strategy didn’t align with the vision: “Transforming the way you collect information and put it to work.” It also inhibited the flow of brand equity from product to product.
- The product vision did not meaningfully deviate from Formstack’s original charter. This, combined with Formstack’s strong in-market equity meant they wouldn’t introduce a new parent brand.
After discussions and critical internal decisions, we aligned on the viable solution for Formstack’s new brand hierarchy: Formstack would remain as the parent brand and acquired brands would dissolve over time into the Formstack platform as the technology and marketing efforts coalesced.
With internal alignment and key foundational decisions in place, the Formstack team was equipped to rebrand themselves, align the rest of the company to their decisions and the vision of the future, and start addressing next steps for the marketing and product teams, including positioning, messaging, and vision concepts for the new platform.
- Acquisitions are disruptive both to the market and the internal culture: Carefully consider how your brand hierarchy could help bring clarity externally and inspire excitement for the future internally.
- Brand hierarchy is the external representation of your vision and product strategy: Make sure you have aligned on your vision before tackling key brand decisions that can be expensive and hard to change.
- Internal roll-out of the brand hierarchy is key and can build excitement if you paint the picture of the future with visuals: Consider showcasing product concept screens, even if that future is months or years away.