The case for connectedness and influence – our view on the European referendum

First published on the ClearScore blog on 1st June 2016

I’ve thought long and hard about whether to publish this blog. It represents my personal view of the upcoming EU Referendum. However, and this is the aspect that gave me pause for thought, it also represents the view of the corporate body that is ClearScore.

I think it is incredibly important that employees and users understand both sides of the argument and have clarity on the views of the people and businesses that they rely on. To this end, the ClearScore position on the EU referendum is that on balance, an exit vote would cause significant cost increases and risk to our business and its future. This mirrors my own personal view.

Free movement of talent

The ClearScore business and team is a great reflection of the advantages of being in Europe with the free movement of talent, lowering of barriers to entry and harmonising of regulation.

Klaus Thorup our CTO is half Danish, Frank Sedivy who works with me to create our product is Czech. Matt our lead designer is a Pole. One of our front end developers is from the south of France. Our marketing executive is Polish, but grew up in Wales. We have a Hungarian tester, and a Spanish devops engineer. We even have a member of the team from Luxembourg.

These Europeans are combined with many talented Brits plus representation from India and New Zealand. And these are just people who weren’t born in Britain. I was born in London but my Mum is from Poland and my Dad was Welsh-Italian. In fact most of the team have some European connection.

The point here is that Britain has always had, and massively benefited from, an attitude that welcomed people from all over the world to contribute to our nation both economically and culturally. I am English, British and European. This connected attitude has created the 4th biggest economy in the world and a place where people of all backgrounds can use their talent and hard work to get on and build a good life. If barriers were established to this free movement of talent then the ClearScore business, our economy and our nation would be damaged.

Access to European markets

We want ClearScore to be a global company and we are looking at how we can serve users across Europe and the world. As we look at the global opportunities the fact that regulation is largely harmonised across Europe results in a significant lowering in the barriers to entry and this means that moving into Europe is cheaper and easier. Out of Europe we would lose these advantages.

That’s not to say that more doesn’t need to be done to improve access to other European markets – it does. The massive advantage US tech companies have is the size of their home market. Technology ideas from start ups across Europe should have easy and free access to the whole of the European Union -and its 500m consumers -as easily as the US.

The fact that this doesn’t exist is a major reason why companies like Facebook or Google did not come out of Europe. However does anyone really think that enabling the next major technology goliath to come out of the UK is better achieved by leaving the European Union?

A global signal

I don’t believe a vote to leave would result in the sky falling in on our heads. We are a resilient nation and resourceful people, immigrants to our country as much as anyone. We would survive but something would die. And that would be the perception of Britain as a nation that is proud of our long and glorious history, of taking our values, people and products into the world and welcoming people from around the world to our country.

Leaving the EU would be a signal, in a troubled and dangerous world, that we are less willing to engage, influence and connect with other nations. Once done this can’t be undone – it will irretrievably damage our global reputation, our economy and our ability to be a significant player in a globally connected world.

Everything going on in the world at the moment, from climate change to conflict and terrorism, to technological developments, require interconnected and multi-country systemic change. This is not a time, despite frustrations and difficulties, to become a nation who signals that unity is the wrong course for the world.

Therefore I will be voting, and I would urge anyone connected to ClearScore, employee or user, to vote on the 23rd June to stay in the European Union.

Google to Alphabet: smart move but not radical at all

First published in Marketing Magazine 11th August 2015

The move from Google to Alphabet is far from radical; it’s well trodden as a business model by FMCG giants like P&G and Unilever, argues Justin Basini, co-founder and CEO at ClearScore.

With the creation of a holding company called Alphabet they are starting to look more like a Procter & Gamble or Unilever

The blog post announcing the rebranding of the Google into Alphabet this morning has taken everyone a bit by surprise. The markets have generally reacted positively with a 5% rise in the stock with the normal commentary both good and bad. We should admire Larry, Sergey and Eric that for once, in our world of obsessive management of investor expectations they have actually managed to steal a march on the millions of eyes watching Google.

Tradtional and well proven model

Many commentators have hailed this as a “radical” restructure adopting a model akin to Berkshire Hathaway. However, from a brand management perspective the move is treading a traditional and well proven model. With the creation of a holding company called Alphabet they are starting to look more like a Procter & Gamble or Unilever: that is a holding company with a wide portfolio of businesses and brand assets. The manifest benefits of this approach that has served the packaged good behemoths for over 100 years will deliver undoubted benefit to Google going forward.

Nobody likes companies that are too powerful, witness the fall of Tesco as it sought to become ubiquitous and got out of control

There are consumer benefits. Nobody likes companies that are too powerful. Witness the fall of Tesco as it sought to become ubiquitous and got out of control. Imagine if the brands we buy from P&G were not Ariel, Fairy, Pantene, Pampers, Gilette, Max Factor, Oral-B, Duracell, Lenor, Clearblue, Vicks but all of them called Procter & Gamble? We would start to freak out that one company could be so pervasive and dominant in our lives. As Google has broadened their offerings from search to email, to office apps, to mobile phones, to laptops, to household control, to cars; all of these being linked very clearly to the Google name creates the same concerns and worries. Moving to a house of brands under Alphabet will help manage some of these risks and drive growth.

Privacy concerns will manifest at Alphabet

The establishment of lots of different brands potentially may make it considerably harder for us to all understand where our data and information is going

Next, whilst taking the brand benefit, the establishment of a central infrastructure for Alphabet with central management and resources will allow assets to be shared across the different businesses. It is in this sharing that I think the most concerns may arise. Collection and manipulation of data, often playing close to privacy concerns, is hard-wired into Google and will therefore manifest itself at Alphabet. The establishment of lots of different brands potentially may make it considerably harder for us to all understand where our data and information is going. If I use Google search is this going to be shared with my separately branded self-driving car or my central home control unit?

Google has struggled with transparency

I’d also bet that Twitter will be an Alphabet company in the next 12 months

Brand trust is built through transparency and openness. Google has struggled with this in the past and many people don’t trust the brand. This potentially becomes much more complex in a holding company structure. For perspective, the consumer packaged goods companies have wrestled with this as well. They know a huge amount about their consumers across different brands and have experimented with cross promotion by using this understanding at a holding brand level, exploring whether consumers want a direct relationship with the P&G or Unilever brand. Results have been very patchy – people tend to be more suspicious and wary, rather than welcoming. In our hearts we like products and brands that do one thing well, rather than interacting with huge mega-corporations that know rather too much about our habits for comfort.

Alphabet is an engineering company, not an ad business

The last reason why this strategic change shouldn’t surprise is that it is a natural fulfilment of the vision that Sergey Brin and Larry Page outlined 11 years ago when they founded the Google. They have always wanted Google to be an engineering company in the broadest sense. Google is now an information and advertising business. The move to establishing Alphabet allows them to build different competencies and leverage different structures to solve a broader set of problems. Given the astonishing rise of Google and the undoubted benefit that it has brought to the world and all of us in such a short space of time this could be really exciting.

I predict that the move to Alphabet will be successful and create value for shareholders, and hopefully the world. I’d also bet that Twitter will be an Alphabet company in the next 12 months!

The fight for the future of the Labour Party is obsessed with the past

For nearly two decades I was a card carrying member of the Labour Party. I was attracted by the values and intent of a political party that could challenge the status quo and seek to balance benefit for all sides of society. A party with a caring, empowering and not paternalistic attitude to those less able and more vulnerable in society. I was inspired by the humble, kind and strong vision of John Smith and found Tony Blair’s New Labour electability seducing.

“What’s happening in the Labour Party at the moment is a disgrace and disastrous for our country.” 
What’s happening in the Labour Party at the moment is a disgrace and disastrous for our country. The over characterisation, the lack of debate, the absence of any real clarity of thinking or new ideas and so little belief being displayed is – all playing out on embarrassing public display. The choice between the different candidates is presented, even by themselves, in the most puerile of ways: back to a pre-free market economy with Jeremy Corbyn or back to “Blair-lite”. Why is there no forward just back?
“The Labour Party has over decades delivered a huge contribution to our nation. Much of what is best in our nation has been achieved by The Labour Party and its leadership over the years.” 
The Labour Party has over decades delivered a huge contribution to our nation. Much of what is best in our nation has been achieved by The Labour Party and its leadership over the years.  They achieved it by doing something which almost no current politician, and none of the current Labour leadership candidates do, which is lead us on a truly new path. Pensions, mass house building, the NHS, minimum wages, better working conditions, first female cabinet minister, creating the conditions for female MPs to succeed, gender equality, greater rights for gay couples, greater regulation, and free public schooling are all significant achievements of the Labour Party. When at its best the Labour Party brings new ideas and concepts to the table and wins the national argument. For example the concept of an “ethical commonwealth” powered the progress of the socially radical post war Attlee government and gave hope to the nation.
“What is needed now, desperately, both for the survival of the Labour Party and the good of our democracy, is a compelling vision of how both sides of our society can be reconciled and enjoy growth equally and together.”
What is needed now, desperately, both for the survival of the Labour Party and the good of our democracy, is a compelling vision of how both sides of our society can be reconciled and enjoy growth equally and together. The British people are inherently fair and they want a government that balances outcomes for all. The only route to this is radical leadership.
Those supporting Jeremy Corbyn are on a mission to reclaim what they see as their party. They are being successful because their position comes, not from a compelling new vision, but from guilt and fear: guilt because they feel they sold out to Blair’s electability in a desperate grab for power, and fear because they don’t have the experience or insight to understand and work with a radically changed world order and disrupted working world. At least Corbyn has a deep passion, although misguided, for his proposed policies. The fact that they are out of date and won’t work in today’s interconnected and market driven world is tragic, but at least he is going for it.

The others – Kendall, Burnham, Cooper – are again seemingly devoid of new ideas and the ability to argue for anything. Their lack of ability and passion are a major reason Corbyn is doing so well. They can’t even argue against a set of policies which would take our economy back 30 years. Perhaps, despite their many years in politics, they haven’t thought about the arguments for and against ideas like nationalisation or uncontrolled public sector investment through printing money. If that’s true its rather disappointing given that none, yes none, of them have any ‘real world’ experience having been in politics almost all their working lives.

“How ironic and shameful that the only brake on austerity at the moment is George Osborne?”
Finally the lack of leadership and belief in the Labour Party goes deeper than just these four candidates and is profoundly disappointing and disheartening. Chuka Umunna and Dan Jarvis who perhaps could have provided the required leadership are surely positioning – cynically betting that this next leader will be a “transition” guy with no chance of election success. They conclude therefore better to stand back and let party division play out using failure to drive necessary cohesiveness rather than radical ideas and passionate argument. This leaves the country, and the millions who are desperately struggling with austerity and inequality, alone and without an effective voice representing them. How ironic and shameful that the only brake on austerity at the moment is George Osborne?

It’s been said that The Labour Party is facing an existential crisis. But that’s not true: no one is fighting for the future just the past.

Why the Ashley Madison hack has done amazing things for the brand

First published in Marketing Magazine 21st July 2015

The Ashley Madison hack is fascinating, says Justin Basini, co-founder and CEO at ClearScore, as it raises interesting questions about morality, marketing and privacy.

The Ashley Madison attack is the juiciest of all hacks so far perpetrated. This is not millions of dry boring credit card details only interesting to fraudsters. No, this is the details of 37m people who have, or want to have, affairs. Their details, including names, photos and even sexual fantasies could soon be up for public consumption.The group responsible for the hacking, the so-called ‘ImpactTeam’, have pitched this as a moral battle with them in the role of hero and Ashley Madison as the villains. The next few weeks will be fascinating to watch as the moral battle ebbs and flows.

Following the boost in brand awareness, the next test will be whether the consumer proposition is powerful enough to overcome brand distrust

As the morality play progresses, there is also a marketing war going on and it is being fought over three main fields of battle: brand awareness, consumer proposition and trust.

Every cheating cloud

The hack has done amazing things for the Ashley Madison brand. Previously a slightly illicit brand, now millions more people have heard of it and even better understand its offer.

If the hacked data is exposed to all there will also be millions of current users, lapsed users and suspicious spouses desperate to find out whether they or their partner has been exposed as a cheater. The publicity means Ashley Madison the brand gets an awareness boost and first interaction for “free”.

Following the boost in brand awareness, the next test will be whether the consumer proposition is powerful enough to overcome brand distrust.

What’s clear, whether you approve or not, is a platform which makes cheating more accessible is an attractive consumer proposition for some. But can it overcome the fact that any right-minded individual will now distrust the brand to keep their secrets?

Acceptable risk

In our world now of ubiquitous Tweeting, Facebooking and data in the cloud, I reckon for many the hack won’t make a jot of difference. They will continue to sign up in their millions and take their chances.

Once the acute coverage has died down, consumer irrationality will take over and they will conclude that Ashley Madison must have learnt its lesson and now be more secure and less hack prone. For lots of people, the power of the proposition will trump any brand distrust.

Of course, there is also the possibility that this could tank the brand

Of course, there is also the possibility that this could tank the brand. So I bet in the back rooms of Avid Media, the owners of Ashley Madison, they are already hatching a plan to rebrand and use the power of increased awareness of the proposition to launch afresh. Surely this contingency planning would only be sensible?

Criminal conscience

And finally what of the hackers? If you believe in their moral cause, then you should hope that they are pausing and thinking again about breaching the privacy of millions of not-so-innocent consumers. They may have the data but they don’t need to expose it.

You might hope if you want to see the end of a platform for cheating that they should be planning a denial of service attack to stop the Ashley Madison service from actually working.

This would be a much better way to achieve their aims but I suspect that really they don’t give a crap and just want to prove, yet again, that almost no IT system is hack-proof even those with the most salacious of personal information on them.

Whatever side you take, moral or marketing, and I hope you’ll share them here, there is no doubt that how you handle the worst of disaster situations, both looking for threat and opportunity, is in our hyper-connected world a must-do rather than a should-do activity for all marketers.

Unicorns and wizards: #LDNTechWeek

This week has been #LDNTechWeek and London has been buzzing with conferences, talks, events and exhibitions.

The week started with the announcement that London has produced 13 tech unicorns which are Tech companies that have reached a >£1bn valuation. They include Farfetch (clothing marketplace), JustEat (online food ordering), Skrill (payments) and Zoopla (property search). These companies prove that finally we are creating a sustainable and world class technology sector in the UK. These companies also prove that we are creating an environment in the UK where finally entrepreneurial ventures aren’t something the mad or American do but it’s a mainstream choice in the UK. The media has a lot to do with this: Dragons Den, The Apprentice and more generalised positive coverage of entrepreneurs for over a decade now means being an entrepreneur is cool. If I look at my kids they are always talking and thinking about setting up new businesses.

I shared the stage with a wizard of tech in Dan Cobley, CEO of BrightBridge Ventures one of my investors at ClearScore  at the LDNTechWeek conference on Tuesday. Dan was talking about his venture building approach which has really helped to turbo charge the speed to market of ClearScore and is a model of investment which is certainly worth considering if you are looking for investment that also comes with added value.

On Wednesday I took part in a fascinating session at @TechUK with the newly established National College for Digital Skills. This college is launching next September and hopes to bridge the digital skills gap in the UK. They are now in business outreach mode and wanted the views of startup/scale up community as they put together their curriculum and engagement strategy. The most shocking stat shared was the collapse in sixth form students taking ICT / Computing since 2001 to 2013 the numbers have halved. This at a time over which computers and technology have become entirely ubiquitous and all consuming for the same age group. This is a problem.

IMG_0782
It was great to see so many companies attend and share their views. It was also interesting that many of the companies around the table had successfully used apprenticeship schemes. At ClearScore we have a Level 4 apprentice on the team and it’s proving a valuable programme both to her and our company.

Finally yesterday afternoon I took part in a webinar (recording here) organised by Fospha on creating personalised digital experiences. The Fospha technology allows site owners to tailor content and experiences to a specific users mindset in real time. For example if someone is in wish-listing mode then showing them lots of options is great, if someone has take the time to choose items and are about to check out offering that pair of shoes in green could give them a moment to reconsider and you might lose the sale. I was talking about trust and how important it is to create trust and rapport if you are to drive conversion based on my book “Why should anyone buy from you?” which is available on Why Should Anyone Buy From You? on Amazon.

The key point was that technologies exist today that allow you to “de-average” the digital customer experience and the process of de-averaging almost always creates value but I’m going to blog about that next week.

Thanks for reading, leave comments if you liked this blog.

Justin

Apple Rumors: The iPhone 6, the iWatch and the Apple innovation engine

What and when will the next iPhone appear and will it be the iPhone 6? I blogged back in October 2011 at the disappointing launch of the iPhone 4S which was Apple's first major product launch post Steve Jobs that I thought that there were signs that the world's greatest industrial innovation engine was slowing. This has undoubtedly turned out to be true and Apple are now under serious pressure with their stock falling consistently. I am an avid watcher of Apple rumors mostly because I think they are a fascinating organisation that is going through huge change right now.

What is going on at Apple (I think)…

The press and markets are in a frenzy at the moment as hedge funds and investors drop Apple. They say that Apple are losing the war against Samsung in the high end mobile phone market, have no cheap iPhone option for developing markets and haven't released a breakthrough innovation in years. Here is what I think is going on……

The truth is that Apple have only started to come to grips with the loss of Steve Jobs in the past few months and what's more we shouldn't be surprised.

Steve Jobs was the tech-genius of his generation – a unique and irreplaceable leader. His loss will be felt in Apple and the world for many, many years. From the many people who I have talked to who have worked at Apple – it is an egotistical, difficult and political place to work. Remove the king pin from this type of corporate culture and a power vacuum results. This creates in-fighting and a land grab. Tim Cook has only recently started to come to terms with this with his sacking of Scott Forstall in October after the maps debacle and the appointment of Jonny Ive as a Steve Jobs replacement responsible for both hardware and software.

I think the top team at Apple are only now coming to terms with the absence of Jobs and in a place where they can get back to the tough process of innovation. They have some key challenges which they need to overcome in order to deliver a series of launches and products which will either underline Apple's dominance as an innovator or start the Microsoft style slow steady decline to mediocrity. With the up and coming changes to the iPhone franchise, the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 or iWatch Apple need to prove their innovation capability in a post Jobs world. 

The most pressing problem for i-devices is software not hardware

iOS which spans iPhone, iPad is increasingly becoming THE operating system for Apple but it is not just looking old and tired but is behind on key usability features. The core strengths of iOS were always its functionality, usability, ease, consistency and reliability. It is still easy to use, consistent and reliable but it is now lagging in core features to make life and communications more functional. Android and Blackberry 10, even Windows 8 Phone, now have a significant advantage in really useful features that bring information, communication and organisation to my day. For example Blackberry with it's Personal and Office modes, or Windows 8 Phone with live tiles that tell me the weather, or Android with it's more integrated message centre. All these developments have left iOS lagging. Witness the wild success of the Evasion Jailbreak on iOS devices: 8,000,000 downloads so far to see how much demand there is for more functionality and flexibility. 

Here I am hopeful that the integration of software under Jonny Ive will deliver major benefit and improvements in functionality.

I think iOS 7 is going to be a big deal and it needs to be.

It needs to take the elegance and robustness of iOS and combine it with a more integrated and seamless communication feature set. Email needs to be overhauled, messaging needs to become integrated, communications from contacts integrated across channels, there are many improvements that can be made. It will also have a facelift I think. All this needs to be delivered in the next iPhone device which leads me onto my next thought on Apple rumors….

iPhone 5S will be next around April 2013, then the iPhone 6 in late November

Apple iphone 6 iphone 5SWhen is the next iPhone due? There is no doubt in my mind that Apple are convinced that the iPhone 5 is a good product and a worthy competitor to the Samsung SIII – Apple still believes in high end design principles based on consumer usability rather than fancy feature packing. And shipments back them up! The iPhone 5 continues to sell in huge numbers it was the No. 1 selling smartphone in Q4 2012. Yes the momentum in the market is for bigger smart phones. Samsung will reportedly launch their SiV in March and are manufacturing 100 million units. However I think that the next iPhone release that Apple will launch is a iPhone 5S with better specs, new iOS 7, a better camera, fingerprint reader (based on their acquisition of Authentec) and possibly NFC in April 2013. This next-generation iPhone would constitute a really good package that would sell on a par with the Samsung SiV. Pundits need to remember that there are millions of people locked into iOS, apps and music that can't easily change to Android or another system. This lock in keeps them loyal – with new hardware they stop being frustrated. 

However I do think that Apple will launch a larger screened (up to 5 inches) iPhone by late in the year. I think it will be longer not wider but will contain an IGZO screen that are stunning, thinner and better on battery life. This would represent a very strong new iPhone 6. It could be thinner, higher resolution, with longer battery life and with continued improvements in iOS 7 would again represent or be on parity with the best hardware in the market.

I also think that the cutting edge latest iPhones will continue to be premium priced. I cannot see any logic in Apple starting to launch cheaper products made out of worse materials. The only substantive difference between Apple hardware and others is it's feel, durability and premium quality. A Google Nexus 4 or a Samsung SIII just feel cheap compared to an iPhone. That's not to say that Apple won't refresh the iPhone 3 or 4 with updated specs and possibly cheaper, easier to manufacture changes that would mean the price point can drop to suit Chinese and developing market consumers.

The big test of the Apple innovation engine is coming 

With Google Glass, various start ups pushing wearable technology and the continued copying of Apple ideas and design ethos – Apple face a stern test. The strength of Apple as a company is that they take ideas which are breaking through and design them brilliantly so that they stand the test of time, and are so far ahead of the market that they retain a price premium for years. That's what the iPhone and MacBook Air have done. 

Let's be clear Google Glass is still a concept – they cost $1500 for goodness sake – hardly a mass consumer price point. What Apple are working on, from what I hear are technologies that create new mass markets. Wearable technologies are undoubtedly the next big battle ground. Whether it is an iWatch or an arm based iPad or indeed glasses Apple need to deliver a product which is truly functional, useful, elegant and able to capture the imagination and wallet of the mass consumer market. My personal take is that Apple will launch an iWatch either towards the end of this year or in Q1 2014. I doubt it will be before then because they will need to overcome the significant manufacturing, durability and functionality issues that will come with wearing the hardware on the wrist so close to the skin.

But let me underline that Apple needs to do something big.

They are a secretive company, they don't show off early stage products like Google have done with Glass. Jonny Ive says that the iPhone took nearly a decade of pushing and development to get to launch. Apple don't have a decade but given they are still the only fully integrated hardware and software company in the world they have some time to get their next big innovation ready – but, as they know, the clock is ticking not just on them creating an innovation but underlining that they have finally moved into a post-Steve Jobs innovation engine. 

What's your view on Apple rumors, the iPhone 6, the iWatch and Apple's innovation capability – why not leave a commnent?

Experiential marketing from British Airways

British Airways – engagement and media coming together for a great example of experiential marketing

Last week I came across this great experiential marketing example from British Airways in Victoria Station, London, UK. British Airways had created an installation where people could play a flight simulator game and win tickets to a destination. It was very popular with long queues (probably not what they intended!).  From a marketing perspective it was magnified by the clever use of the digital media across the station from the main digital display boards to the smaller digital boards which were all part of the brand experience.

It would be interesting to see the ROI on this activity but it was very engaging and opportunities to view must have been high in the experiential marketing case study. It was in partnership with Orlando so I would imagine that some of the costs were shared which would have improved it's cost effectiveness. 

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ALL WE CAN SEE IS THE DARK

This morning as I was waking up my 3 year old daughter Jemima came into bed for a cuddle. It was cold and she snuggled under the covers putting her head under the duvet. I heard a little voice coming up from beside me, "Dad come under the covers with me." So I dutifully dived my head down under. 

I said to her, "we can't see anything in here," and she replied, "all we can see is the dark."

This reply struck me. How many times do we encounter situations where we dismiss a situation and don't try to see in the dark? How often do we shut down lines of exploration or thinking because we feel we are in the dark and deprived of sensory input or data?

What about trying to understand how people are responding to your website, landing page or proposition? How many times do we just default to, "we need another tool and more data." Sure this is sometimes the right answer but most often it's an excuse not to really think and use our intuition to determine through the darkness an answer to the problem. You'll probably get it mostly right by seeing through the dark and even if you don't pushing yourself will help you develop new ideas of hyptheses to test with your new tools.

What about a difficult relationship issue with a colleague or peer? How often do we make assumptions and not take the time to see through the darkness and really understand what is being said. One of the values that I was taught by Procter & Gamble was; Seek to understand, then be understood. High emotions can create darkness, clouding issues and hiding true feelings, being able to sense effectively through this darkness is not just a work skill but a life skill.   

Even in the dark there are always things to see.

Justin

Rebranding lessons of hibu / yell.com

Over the last couple of weeks yell.com has been rebranding as hibu. This is the latest example, in a very undistinguished line, of such rebranding failures.

When the best a CEO can muster about his companies' latest rebranding is this quote below you know the company is in deep, deep trouble. 

'don't read anything into it….It doesn't have any pure meaning behind it. It needed to be short, easy to pronounce and to sound edgy and innovative. It doesn't mean a lot by itself, but if you turn the clock back, neither did Apple and Google or Yahoo!' 

Mike Pocock is the CEO of hibu which in the latest example of rebranding has became the new name for Yell.com. Yell.com has been through at least a couple of major rebrands as it struggles to make any sense of it's Yellow Pages listing business model in the internet age. They recently acquired Moonfruit.com as a way of trying to help SMEs and their internet presence. hibu or as the company might have us write: hibü is the latest work from Landor – that purveyor of snake oil to companies with more shareholder money than sense. I am sure that the Landor team are seething as they read the quotes from the CEO on their beautiful retina displays. 

The rebranding of hibu illustrates some of the key mistakes that are made far too often as a company makes the decision to rebrand and change name: 

1. The new name doesn't mean anything to anyone:

This is most likely to have been dressed up as a benefit by the inventors of the brand hibu. It isn't. Given the companies massive financial issues they are not going to be able to afford a huge marketing budget to vest this meaningless word with brand associations. They may think that it is a positive move dropping all references and equity built up in Yell.com or indeed Yellow Pages but to eschew these assets is foolhardy. The fact that they have gone for the immediate rebrand, rather than a phased approach, again make the journey to establishing the new brand very hard. The rebrand has very little logic – this taken from the hibu website exemplifies the problem: 

To meet the ever changing needs of our merchants and our consumers, we are transforming our business to be more digitally led. We are making it possible for our consumers to connect with our merchants how they want, whenever they want. We are developing innovative new products and a dynamic new brand signals that we are a digital business of the future. When people connect, communities thrive, and we are a vital connection in an ever changing world. That's why we have changed from Yell to hibu.

Now I may be missing something but this paragraph makes no sense as a logic for the rebranding. There is no reason why the move of the business into digital has delivered the name hibu, argubly Yell.com is a more digitally led name. 

2. A brand optimised for the internet age and search?

I bet this was a big part of the pitch for rebranding. I'm sure Landor will have rolled out a 28 year old 'internet and search expert' to bamboozle the board with promises about how this name because of it's construction and newness was going to deliver exceptional power in ranking on Google. This is of course generally an absolute load of old tosh but is so common to hear now – it's the reason for the rash of names with a double "o" in them for example. There was an idea floating around that Google somehow favoured certain combination of letters because they were less competitive to rank on hence Ooyala and the like. The secret to ranking on Google is to deliver high quality content and make your pages search friendly – if anything non descriptive names make it harder to rank not easier. 

3. Lack of engagement from the top down?

From the comments from top management in the press they don't seem that committed to the rebranding and this makes me suspect that the organisation hasn't been engaged in the hibu rebranding process. This is the most common mistake that is made when trying to change a culture, a name, or a business model. It's the people within the organisation that should feel vested in the new name and making it's promises come alive. However most engagement processes start with the brand book or internal roll out campaign once all the decisions have been made. Rebranding and brand renaming needs to come from within and this requires engagement in the process from the very beginning. 

4. A brand name just trying too hard… 

Like Consignia or Monday, hibu is a name that is just trying too hard. I know that's a very difficult thing to substantiate but there is something in these names that come from a process that is vested in focusgrouping and whiteboarding – they lack authenticity. They are artificial creations rather than really coming from a place of organisational difference. Apple as a brand name works for that organisation (or it used to) because it encapsulates the "think different" logic that was Steve Jobs' brilliance. Google works because it somehow embodies the geekiness of that organisation based on algorithms, advanced maths and technology. hibu is just trying to be cool and doesn't embody any of the attributes of that organisation.

Given their latest results are flatlining I think rebranding yell.com is very unlikely to be the knight in shining armour coming along to rescue and somehow give meaning to the company. Yell.com was a smart way of attempting to link the past with the future – it had a logic and could have had a personality. hibu doesn't mean anything to anyone and because of this it is facing an uphill struggle. 

What do you think of this rebranding and renaming? Do you like the name hibu? Leave a comment below and get involved. 

Justin