Building a Valuable Brand That Stands the Test of Time


FirstRound wrote an excellent story this week about how to design a brand that lasts. They looked at a little accounting startup called ZenPayroll to make the point.

Before ZenPayroll rebranded, they looked like any other SaaS business. When they changed, they weren’t content simply to change their name and the logo.

Those basic changes aren’t what rebranding is about. It’s about holistic identity. It’s about recognizing competencies and putting them at the very forefront of who you are and marketing those qualities in a quality way. If done right, there’s incredible value in that proposition.  

That’s what ZenPayroll did and it should be the goal for any business that wants to sell itself to customers, clients, and investors.

ZenPayroll’s version of rebranding had two parts: internal and external. They changed their culture from the inside and out and it all started with structure and a plan. They recognized the most important part of their business, their project timeline, and made everything revolve around it. May that be employee effort, marketing, and internal discussion, it was all going towards that one end goal.

This structure not only made them way more efficient, but it changed who they were as a company fundamentally.

The second piece of the game was to change things externally with the way they chose to share the product that they had centered their entire business around. They turned to storytelling to get the job done.


Instead of simply trying to push their accounting software on customers, they told stories about how they wanted to help people. The marketing was consumer-oriented with their audience cast as the hero of their own individual stories.

This is branding taken seriously. It’s not an easy thing to do and it takes more thinking than a simple visual rework. Good branding breaks down your company to the atomic level and rebuilds it. This kind of branding works extremely well. Some of the best companies succeed in no small part because they built a brand that was so strong that it entered public consciousness.

Businesses don’t always recognize the power brand can have and they make the mistake of underselling it as a consequence.

As Shawn Parr of Fast Company puts it, brands are both rational and emotional. Like ZenPayroll, that means a change in structure and also a change in marketing and culture.

They started by reimagining their company and identifying the most efficient strategies and means to do the best kind of job in the best way that they knew how. This is the rational piece. This is the piece you sell when you want to convince your audience that you can back up your promises. 

That’s when you convince their brains, but first you have to convince their hearts. That’s the emotional piece. That’s where story comes in and a unified and meaningful visual identity.

If your story convinces people that they matter to you. If your visual identity shows them that you are doing something truly special for their sake. If you take all those pieces and they form a unified puzzle that makes work exciting and effective and makes your product engaging and useful, your brand will take you far.

— ZK


Ed Lynes13p5Comment