Got half-a-million bucks lying around? You could get an impressively useless domain name for that.
Rebranding an entire organisation can be done in a bunch of different ways. There are broadly accepted types of rebrands such as mergers & acquisitions, but most of us will likely go through something more “mainstream” at some point, such as:
Nathan Barry, the dude who owns ConvertKit (an alternative to MailChimp) attempted a name change from ConvertKit to Seva in 2018.
Short version: If you just consider the sunk cost, it was a spectacular fail.
To read the very honest long version, read his article where he explains the whole process from excitement to dejection including the moment he decided to change, negotiating that domain name, trying to snap up all the social media handles, the kick-back from the community, right through to him realising he’d probably never get to use the USD $300k (roughly $430k AUD - ouch) domain name. (Interestingly the article is written in 3 parts - the first part is the announcement of the name change in 2018 which he’s left in original form, then revisits it months later once the storm has ripped through in parts 2 and 3.)
Amazingly, this is not an uncommon story. Organisations dive into rebranding projects hellbent on a quick change, and often find themselves with either an incomplete, a seriously over-budget, or a failed rebrand. Nathan Barry had hoped to get away with only spending $100k on his domain name - that cost alone more than tripled.
Ultimately ConvertKit failed because of a huge oversight, but what’s the lesson we can all take from it?
If you’re a business leader who likes to work in private, especially when it comes to things like changing your entire organisation, there’s a good chance you’ll come to that conclusion alone... perhaps you’ll confide in a few people who have some stake in the organisation, or maybe your board.
The risk is that old echo-chamber effect - when everyone’s too close, you can easily talk yourselves onto the same page. Or as I’ve heard others say, you’re all inside the jar trying to read the label on the front.
Talking to someone external to the organisation, ideally with no bias or incentive around whether you decide to rebrand or not, can serve as your person outside the jar to offer a different perspective.
ConvertKit didn’t receive that perspective until they released their new name to the public, and it came like a brick to the chin.
That’s not to say you should announce your intended rebrand on Twitter - but at least one external, unbiased person might offer that nugget of perspective you’ve overlooked.
While you probably never imagined spending half-a-mill on a domain name, the ConvertKit story has played out in orgs of all sizes all over the world.
The key lesson I see is that while the ConvertKit team did communicate their rebrand with each other, it never left the ConvertKit walls.
If you are considering a rebrand: Find someone you trust, check their incentives, confide in them, and go into it with a clear end in mind.
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