Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Who should rebrand a startup pre-launch?
Short answer: I did.
Long answer: Anyone who has a brand, identity, persona or product that has evolved away from its genesis should consider it.
We created the Grapevine AI brand because we thought we were strictly B2B, selling with the typical Enterprise SaaS top-down approach, a la Salesforce. Target CEOs, CROs, directors of sales, etc., pursue longer sales cycles, but need one client with 3,000 salespeople. Instead of selling to 3,000 salespeople all with different desires of what our product should do next.
After talking with 500-plus salespeople and interviewing over 1,200 people across client-facing positions, we needed the ability to also sell bottom-up to the individual customer. And then scale upwards through product-led growth. Unfortunately, the one thing we heard repeatedly was that Grapevine AI lacked personality and character and instilled little trust or intrigue.
I started to doubt the viability of our brand’s ability to connect with our potential customers
This was shocking, to say the least, as I loved the name Grapevine. The origin story was real, relatable and showcased how I didn’t have the time or ability to ask my wife’s college friend for her new husband’s, aunt’s or second husband’s name. In other words, I had no idea how to tap into the grapevine, nor did I have enough motivation to navigate through it.
So I named it Grapevine AI and set out on a mission to build the first AI that utilizes voice to ensure I never had to go through the grapevine ever again. A personal assistant that would allow me to capture all the details I knew I needed to build better relationships. Technology that would ensure I could recall them anywhere in the world and at a moment’s notice.
Because we were altering our sales approach to go after individual consumers and scaling upwards through organizations, we set out to create a more nuanced brand. A brand we could personify. We needed something that captured the nostalgia of being connected to simpler times. When you knew everyone around you and you knew them well. Something to combat the impending social crisis we’re facing, where we accumulate connections across social media platforms. Where you know everybody but you know nobody. So we came up with Riley, and we’re positioned to prevent this.
Besides standing for Relationship Insights and Language Extraction, Riley is a gender-neutral name that will effectively embody our product’s technology. At the same time, presenting a quirky, personality-filled professional relationship-building experience. Additionally, we envision creating an assistant that will empower our network to live the Life of Riley — an existence marked by luxury and carefree attitudes.
We started the transition by strategically identifying what we wanted the brand to communicate. Our brand platform needed to convey the following humanistic traits: trusting, intelligent, quirky, unique, friendly, minimal, happy and edgy. We created a color palette that conveyed a sleek, high-end, professional yet approachable product.
So, we also needed a new name. And in this day and time with urls and limited open-space of names, it was a huge task to come up with a new name, to say the least. We developed a short list of about 75 names over three dedicated naming sessions. We whittled those 75 down to two dozen by doing some simple trademark searches and constantly asking our team what resonated best with them. We are the brand, and the brand encompasses who we are and what we’re building. So it was important to keep the entire team involved. Before long we were comparing everything to the same five or six names. We decided to conduct a survey among our early supporters. Those on our waitlist, and people who had little to no awareness of our product. If you want a template of the survey, feel free to reach out to me. After 250 responses, we had our name. Riley. And we loved it.
Our logo is multi-purpose yet abstract. People see what they want to see: a friendly robot smiling at you, Tom Cruise wearing aviators, a smiley face, etc. We call our logo the friends, and look at it as a bird’s-eye view of two people embracing each other. The logo is directly connected to our custom treatment of the name Riley. Both illustrate being connected to each other, filling the gaps and a circular, moving forward motion. This implies that relationships are never-ending journeys that you take together with Riley.
I thought rebranding at such an early stage would be a headache and often wondered why startups would ever pivot in such a way. But after our process, landing on a name we love, a brand that has already been described as a potential billion-dollar brand, we are confident this exercise gives us the legs to stand (and run) into our brand’s future. I now see the necessity of the pain we went through. And, I am so happy we had the opportunity to do this pre-launch. I will reiterate something a friend of mine once told me: if there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt. In other words, if you think you need to make a change, a change should be made.