December 13, 2018

Just Fail And Get It Over With

Already thinking about your new year’s resolutions?

STOP.

In this issue, we explore the concept of major makeovers and self-transformations. We want to understand whether rebrands and pivots are worth it, and, if they are, how to do them well.

While we are primarily focused on business makeovers, we spend a moment first considering the January goal-setting tradition at a personal level. And based on what we learned, you might want to hold off on those resolutions.

Resolve Not To Resolve

If you are one of the very rare people who has kept your new year’s resolutions, please share your secret. If you are like the rest of us, consider more productive alternatives, like setting monthly goals. This post in Psychology Today offers five suggestions for a reset, none of which are resolutions. (Note: one of them is a bucket list, which has received a lot of blowback in recent years. Try a reverse bucket list instead.)

Just Fail and Get It Over With

The venerable Fred Wilson, the Yoda of venture capital, speaks out against the hard pivot for startups. Don’t bother, he says. See why right here.

Ok, No Pivot. But I Feel The Need To Change

So do it.

The other school of thought on pivots is that we are all doing them all  the time—it's simply the natural course of creating something new. We embrace this point of view and recommend dropping the drama and calling this sort of pivot—the soft pivot—what it is: responding to market feedback.



"Kill Your Ego"

We have noticed a pattern in the rebranding of growth companies. A company starts life with a very clear value proposition and clean, if somewhat unsophisticated, brand elements that support the simplicity of its offering. Examples: Dropbox. Airbnb. Mailchimp.

Then success happens and things get more complicated. Revenue skyrockets, the breadth of offerings grows, and all of a sudden the brand elements look kind of wimpy next to the full force of unicorn stature.

Obviously, thinks management, our company needs a rebrand, and this is where things can spin out of control. Increased offerings mean increased organizational complexity, and all parts of the organization want to be represented in the new branding.

The result: rebrands like Dropbox (which we really liked, tbh, from a design point of view). Dropbox’s rebrand, with a hot palette and lots of fonts, attracted a lot of attention; it also clouded the value proposition and, as this post relates, had a negative impact on conversion rates.

There is undoubtedly a right way to rebrand. It involves forced simplicity and feedback from customers and other external stakeholders. This Fast Company piece on how Michael Beirut rebranded the MIT Technology Review is a good primer. As Beirut says, "I see myself more as a chef, going into the pantry to see what ingredients I’ve got, and figuring out how to work with what’s in the kitchen.”


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