One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen incoming marketing executives make is trying to make a big splash before they really understand the culture and ethos of a company. In marketing, that often means a big rebrand. After all, nothing is as visible as reinventing the ‘skin’ of a company.
But rebrands are tedious, painful, a distraction from other activities and way too often executed upon without a real need nor purpose. When I joined CrowdFlower in December of 2016, a rebrand was the last thing from my mind. I loved the name. I loved the logo. I coveted the blue hoodie our CEO wore throughout my interview process. Besides, I’d run enough rebrands to scratch any proverbial itch.
But as my tenure at CrowdFlower moved from days to weeks to months–as I started to understand about the business we’d built–our name and its perceived market position started to gnaw at me. In multiple interactions with our CEO and executive team, we started a series of conversations putting the name and brand of CrowdFlower into serious question. By the time we were done, there was no longer a ‘decision’ to be made, but an obligation. We were much more than the name CrowdFlower connotes and with that name change came a change in our entire identity.
As the CMO, my charter was to bring the new brand to life. A consummate storyteller and former filmmaker, I am passionate about bringing a story to life through multiple medium. I’ll often tell my team that ‘people hate to read’ (an ironic statement to place in a lengthy blog post, I know) and will scrutinize the message in everything we do by looking at something through literarily lazy eyes. Pictures, shapes, illustrations, colors, layout and even texture are all places to reinforce a story.
Our first order of business was tackling a logo and color palette: the foundation of our visual identity. We engaged the design firm Skona as a partner to help bring our vision to life. During our naming process, my first reaction to Figure Eight was “this name screams ‘design a logo’” so I was especially excited about this part.
Rather than lean on the obvious–designing a logo with an “8” in it–we pushed Skona to visualize the story behind our name; the ongoing, iterative process of AI. The triple components of the “loop” we reference in our Human-in-the-Loop category; train, test, and tune. We resisted the temptation to overload our new logo with too much story. We knew the best logos condense the entire narrative of a company into simple design. We held our collective breath as we waited for a successor to our beloved CrowdFlower fractal to emerge.
The result is a breathtaking rendition of our new name, the triple loop representing the training, testing and tuning of machine learning models integrating into the letters. Subtle squares dotting the ‘i’ and crossing the ‘t’ in Eight represent bits of data and figure prominently into our ongoing visual story.
While the logo starts to bring our name to life and breathe more emotion into our identity, colors take a brand from the monotony of rural Kansas to the technicolor vibrancy of Oz. Personally, I’m a sucker for blue, have my apartment blanketed in it and my wardrobe–in particular–filled with CrowdFlower periwinkle. But every other tech company seems to have a shade of blue as their corporate color. It’s a safe way to fit into the pack, but certainly not to connote ambition, to stick out nor insinuate risk.
When Chris Van Pelt and Lukas Biewald founded CrowdFlower, they were anything but risk-averse. They knew, before others would admit it, that the data would be the key to making algorithms useful. When our CEO Robin Bordoli honed our focus to the market of machine learning before it became a buzzword, he was not fitting into the pack, but ahead and leading.
The calm serenity of a bluish hues would not do justice in telling our story. For our corporate colors, we ultimately chose a deep green and silver to represent nature and machine respectively. Together, this unlikely pair of pigments echoes the very essence of what we do: facilitate the combination of humans and machines to create a whole much larger than the sum of its two parts.
In addition to the representation of nature, our choice of dark green is a nod to academia and the role it plays in birthing the AI industry. Silver is a color choice most sane marketers would steer clear of. Risky, difficult to execute, easy to overkill and exactly why we chose it. It not only represents machines, but the idea of risk, of being unafraid to pioneer and go to unchartered heights. It is the color of two founders staking new territory, of hundreds of customers breaking ground and a team of talented employees unafraid of pushing boundaries.
In the end, becoming Figure Eight is something we owe ourselves, our partners, our customers and the industry. We needed to tell our story in the truest form possible. In fact, what we really needed was a brand that embodied how far we’ve come and where we can go. I think we succeeded.
And we’re thrilled to show you what comes next.