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Branding In the Business World:

Challenges and Opportunities in Light of the Digital Revolution

By Alon Shen

During the mid-90s, computer scientist, Nicholas Negroponte, called out to the world from the pages of Wired Magazine, urging it to “move bits, not atoms”. In Negroponte’s time, the Internet was still in swaddling clothes, Mark Zuckerberg had not yet sent his college application, and mobile phones still looked like bricks with numbers on them. Yet, in a series of visionary essays, Negroponte predicted technology’s upcoming metamorphosis from physical (atoms) to digital (bits). The American scientist was convinced that the world was heading towards great (mostly technological) changes, which would bring about a revolution of information, as previously separate content worlds would merge together and become digital.

Today, 20 years after Negroponte’s essays first saw light, many would admit that, indeed, most of his ideas have come to be a reality. It seems, however, that while Negroponte spoke mostly of changes in the technological front, what we are witnessing today goes far beyond that. The transition to a digital world, the phenomenal rapid growth of the Internet, the emergence of social networks – all these have brought about changes in more than just technology, but consumption, and the very way we think, perceive and socialize as well. It is not surprising that as a result, the past 30 years have also seen a profound, conceptual change in the world of branding. Brands themselves, being living entities woven into the technological and social tapestry of our world, have been directly affected by these developments. Thus, for instance, the ability of a brand to reinvent itself, innovate and surprise its audience has gone from a good idea to a real necessity.

As in many companies in the consumer sector, where branding conventions have already worked their way into the system and new ideas are being realized at a fast pace, so, too, in the business sector, giant corporations are searching for innovative, groundbreaking branding solutions to help them stand out from the typically gray, conservative business landscape.

Magic Software Enterprises, a company that provides organizations with software development and deployment environments, approached us with a desire to undergo a comprehensive rebranding. After over thirty years in the business, Magic had realized that it was time to get a facelift and get into the spirit of the digital age.

The decision to rebrand had come as part of the proactive steps Magic’s management had taken in an attempt to adapt to the changes in the company and its line of products. The company has been enjoying a healthy growth spurt over the past several years, including an increase in its customer base and international presence. At the same time, the company has expanded its product line to include several new products in the mobile category. In lieu of this, it was decided that the new branding would reflect the new products and be unveiled alongside them.

After long hours of strategic planning and market research, we decided to take the Magic brand in a new direction by giving it a complete makeover. The end goal: constructing a multi-dimensional, dynamic, young and fresh brand. An additional emphasis was placed on achieving high visibility, especially in the online front and social media. And so we found ourselves facing the task of transforming an outdated brand into an upbeat, innovative one that, seized opportunities and met the current and future needs of the market. Below are some of the challenges we encountered along the way:

Uniting the company’s products under one name
As part of the rebranding process, we were faced with a decision concerning the nature of the relationship between the Magic brand, and the company’s products. As we delved deeper into the company’s situation, we learned that many of its past and present customers were quite familiar with the products, but not with whomever stood behind them. In other words, the products were visible, but Magic was not.

Thus, for instance, many customers knew and loved the UniPaas platform, but were often unaware of it being a Magic product. For this reason, it was decided to use the company name as a master brand for all its products, and prepend it to their names. Thus, UniPaas became Magic-xpa Application Platform, and iBOLT became Magic xpi Integration Platform.

The decision to focus the branding effort on the name Magic, rather than on the individual names of the products, created uniformity and consistency the brand had previously lacked. Moreover, the core values of the new brand seeped into the images of the products, turning them into something new and fresh, much like the master brand itself.

The logo as a symbol of change, flexibility and agility
One of the boldest moves Magic has made is, without a doubt, the massive overhaul of its logo. During the strategizing process, it became clear that the customers perceived the company as outdated and anything but innovative. In light of this, we decided that the core values of the new brand should portray an unpredictable, dynamic, flexible company that thinks outside the box, and keeps its nose to the winds of change brought on by the digital information revolution.

As we worked on Magic’s new logo, we aimed for a design that incorporates these values and, more importantly, expresses the unique flexibility of its development platforms. The result was a dynamic logo that comes in six different shapes. When used in traditional marketing means (brochures, business cards, posters etc), the logo randomly changes its shape with each appearance. In its digital version (used on the Web, in digital campaigns, newsletters and so on), it appears to be in a constant state of flux – ever changing, never at rest.

The shape-shifting logo is a loudspeaker for the company’s new message: no longer an aged ‘dinosaur’, but a flexible, agile, surprising organization, able to adapt to the needs of its customers, be they present or future. The final product of our labors is innovative, groundbreaking, and most importantly – exclusive. No other company in Magic’s area of activity has a shifting, multidimensional logo.

Verbal messages
As we have stated repeatedly in this article, one of the challenges that stood before Magic was breaking free of its old image and replacing it with a new, young and fresh one. With this goal in mind, we formulated a number of verbal messages. We began with a differentiating sentence, a single line that summarized the essence of Magic. The final phrasing was: “Magic Accelerates Business Performance with Smarter, Future-proof Technology and Close Costumer Collaboration.”

This sentence enfolds the new brand’s core values and conveys the message that has become Magic’s new motto: out with the old and predictable, in with, cutting edge technology, ingenuity, innovation, flexibility and the ability to adapt the ever-changing needs of the consumer. And indeed, a second glance confirms that the sentence includes all of these concepts.

But there was more work to be done on the verbal front. Alongside the differentiating sentence, we decided we needed a tagline to accompany the brand name. “Outperform the Future” embodies the promise of the Magic brand: to create innovative products that meet the needs of the customer and the rapidly changing requirements of technology. As Magic’s products gain popularity, the company’s promise to its customers, in turn, becomes their promise to their own customers, the users of the products Magic’s platforms helped develop.

Expanding your target audience
Undebatably, most of Magic’s marketing and branding effort focuses on its main target audience: large companies and organizations. However, in recent years, major companies have come to realize that one way or another, marketing efforts must also address the individual. After all, at the end of the day, even the world’s largest corporations are made up of people. Thus, the independent developer was included as part of the target audience, and the new brand had to be adjusted to suit the new clientele.

The decision to approach the private consumer, whose motivations differ greatly from the purely business-oriented interests that drive corporations, had to be reflected in the values of the brand; ingenuity, innovation, determination and open-mindedness were traditionally attributed to the consumer market, rather than the business sector. The choice of color palette and logo (which we discussed at length above) were also unorthodox. Straying from the conservative grays, blues and whites of the business world, Magic’s new look uses shades of blue, purple and white, alongside images that convey innovation, cutting edge technology, flexibility and hyperactivity.

The use of those elements has given the company a completely different look that successfully captured its core values, along with the feeling of something fresh, new and exciting. The aforementioned verbal messages were created in view of the needs of the company’s different target audiences: from giant corporations to individual developers. The information revolution has undoubtedly brought many changes to the technological landscape, but its implications go deeper than that. The rise of social media and smartphones has given way to a new age, where everyone is connected 24/7, creating profound social and conceptual changes. Businesses that fail to realize the importance of keeping up with the pace of the world around them and rising to its new challenges will be swept away by the current and left behind.

*The author was a project manager at Titan BrandWise, an international branding company.