To Rebrand or Not? A Startup Shares it all [Part 1]

[Editorial Note: Foodiebay rebranded to Zomato and one of the main reasons for doing so was the strategy to move beyond the food category. In this two part series, Foodiebay team shares key learning and experience while rebranding one’s startup.]

A big change that happened to our identity was moving away from the name Foodiebay (that one we started with) to Zomato (the one we have ended up with). We wrote a lot about the reason behind the change on our blog post here, but what we’d like to offer are a few things we have learned during the rebranding process. We thought we’d divide it into 2 parts.

Part 1 is the pros and cons of rebranding. A general outlook on what we thought worked for us and what we think you should avoid or be ready for should you want to rebrand. This would be titled the what and why of rebranding.

Part 2 (to be published on Jan 11th) would be the nitty-gritties that need to be attended while rebranding. That concerns what you should do with the URL, how to do redirects, how do you convey the message across etc. This would be the how-to guide for rebranding a startup.

Let’s get started then!

Some of the positives that we derived out of our re-branding were:

1. A new identity
We have been running our business for quite some time now (a few decades in startup time; 3 years chronologically ). It was a business decision to expand into other verticals that go beyond food. So the first thing we needed to do was remove food from the name as it wasn’t to be the core of what we envisioned. Rebranding gave us a perfect excuse to redefine our business objectives for the longer term.

2. A new startup
There are only a couple of founders for any startup (haven’t seen startups with more than 3-4 founders work). All the other people in the company are, for lack of a better word, employees. That’s because they didn’t build the organization from scratch – they weren’t there during the most difficult times. Here, rebranding changed all that. Our team is now 22 member strong and each one of us love Zomato so much (just like a big founding team) because we all transformed into Zomato together by putting in numerous night-outs on a very tight schedule. Suddenly, we had much more energy in the office and had people taking so much more ownership for their work. A positive sign definitely – I can easily say that our productivity has gone up by 3-4 times.

Of course this doesn’t mean that you should rebrand every couple of years when your organization grows (that will be disastrous), but if and when you do, try to involve as many people in the process as possible, because they will all end up becoming ‘founders’ in your team.

3. New hires and layoffs

We also used rebranding as an excuse to let go of some people who were not ideal for a startup environment. We also hired new people who fit in better with our longer term strategy. This was a big change for an organization as well as our people. But fortunately, we handled it well.

4. Reinvigorated customers

I cannot explain this better than this comment that we received from an old customer on the blog post announcing the change in our name:

“Like they say – everything changes except change. I like the new name and the idea behind, it speaks volumes about the plan and vision that you and your team has for foodiebay….errr… zomato! I see the company expanding and being the recommendation engine in the very near future, this is not just a website, it is a movement – best of luck guys” – Mrinalika

5. Excitement and publicity
It is very difficult to stay in the news all the time. You have to keep coming up with disruptive ideas and actions to keep feeding your PR agency regularly. Rebranding, if you are a decently well-known brand, can be a good excuse to get in touch with all your journalist/reporter contacts to write a story on you and the change. It brings in a lot of new customers to your business and could very well make up for a loss of customers due to the change in name. We did exactly that like you see in this post!

Cons of ReBranding

6. Hate mail and losing loyal customers
As a three year old startup, we had our fair share of loyal customers. Some of them didn’t like the change since they could no longer identify themselves with the new name. From some of these, we did get some hate mail. For most of the customers who emailed us, we got back to them promptly and won them back. But I am sure that not everyone emailed us and we lost the love of some customers in the process.

7. Confused Employees

The rebranding put our sales team in utter confusion. It was hard for them to explain the change to their clients. Moreover, since we had been planning this change for around the month, they always questioned if they should talk to new client prospects as Foodiebay or Zomato. It took a lot of perseverance and phone calls to the team to ensure that no one came to know about Zomato before its time.

8. Complicated process

Rebranding has to be done in a single shot. You can’t take too many days to do it. Once you start creating a list of things which would need to change, it easily seems to run into a couple of dozen pages. Paying attention to the smallest details is important. But what is more important is that all of these changes have to made overnight, without breaking down any of your essential services. This means a lot of preparation and testing to make sure everything is right. In this, there is no room for getting anything wrong at all.

This was the marketing side, in a follow up we’ll give you quick tips on taking care of the technology side so that you don’t lose out on that essential traffic and run short of the Google (and other organic) juice.

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