Monkeying with Success: SurveyMonkey’s Brand Shift
- Strategy shift. SurveyMonkey’s rebranding strategy aimed at the enterprise market.
- Brand balance. SurveyMonkey leveraged both “fun” and serious aspects.
- Lessons learned. The rebrand highlights key considerations for business strategy.
Brand. It’s an elusive thing. But you’ll know you’re doing it right when it performs at the critical moment when buyers are shortlisting vendors.
The goal? To be instantly memorable within your category when decision makers are preparing to buy.
It’s a position SurveyMonkey has enjoyed for many years. I say “online surveys” … you think what? Alongside SurveyMonkey, Google Forms might be on your list, you may know another vendor such as Typeform, and probably very little else.
SurveyMonkey has achieved what others are working hard to attain: the lofty status of brand category leader. One where its competitors can only hope to place silver or bronze.
SurveyMonkey’s Fleeting Rebranding Strategy: A Shift to Momentive and Back
A 2021 Forbes interview with SurveyMonkey then-CMO Leela Srinivasan shed some light on what fueled the rebranding strategy — in short, a concerted effort to chase the enterprise market with a wider range of business software than just surveys.
Using its own software to survey more than 21,000 people in seven countries, the company’s personality was found to be: “simple,” “helpful” and “fun.” But the company told Forbes that “fun” wasn’t helping with the enterprise category it was trying to reach.
While the brand’s popularity was on-par with Google and Salesforce, it failed to align with enterprise software. So the SurveyMonkey name was kept for the self-serve business but Momentive would become the enterprise brand.
Related Article: Why ‘X’? What Lessons Does Twitter Rebranding Hold for Marketers?
Leveraging Brand Strength: The Possible Challenges for SurveyMonkey
We can all grasp the rationale. But when moving into a new market or segment, a business with such a powerful brand should be able to leverage its strengths to make it easier to succeed. The ability to expand into new markets more easily is one of the classic arguments for branding after all.
The problem comes when your brand is a hindrance, when it becomes something you have to overcome. We could assume that, when push came to shove, SurveyMonkey felt the strength of the existing brand to small business customers was an unassailable obstacle in making the move into the enterprise.
This could have been because all the positive brand strengths for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) and consumers tarnished it as unsophisticated. And that would make it difficult to offer an enterprise solution at, say, 10 times the price. Here, the SurveyMonkey name may have simply been deemed too much of a liability.
But rebrand strategies are expensive, complex and disruptive. They should always be a last resort.
Related article: Elon Musk Transforms Twitter: Farewell Blue Bird — Hello X
4 Key Reasons to Embark on a Rebranding Strategy
There are only four good reasons a company should ever embark on a rebranding strategy:
- If a significant material change has happened in the market that means your current brand in its current form places you at an inherent disadvantage.
- If you need to consolidate multiple companies into a unified whole, e.g., a company that has grown from acquisitions.
- If you need to signal a clear change of direction to your market that aligns with a new or refreshed vision.
- If your current brand has picked up some toxic associations — though it’s worth being aware that a rebrand alone will not fix this and it may not save the business.
SurveyMonkey’s Shift to Enterprise: A Broader Offering
The SurveyMonkey story fits the mold of number three: the Momentive enterprise offering was significantly broader. In a 2021 interview with Fortune, then CEO Zander Lurie described these new features as tools to help translate employee and customer feedback into product development and business management decisions.
Enterprise software customers are different than small to medium-size enterprises (SMEs), true. Purchases are much higher risk. It’s not the cost per se, it’s the reputational aspects, the time to implement and the social capital that goes with it. There are also more people involved in decision making. Beyond the end user(s), the solution will need to satisfy the likes of IT, procurement, finance, the C-suite and others. For this reason, purchases also take much longer, sometimes into years rather than months.
But that doesn’t mean enterprise customers will only work with stale, corporate-feel brands. These are still people-driven purchases. Shortlisting vendors is often done with far less actual research than you might think, and “fun” doesn’t have toxic associations (e.g., Google’s also a pretty fun brand). In short, the simple mental availability of a brand matters. A lot.
SurveyMonkey’s Rebrand Strategy U-Turn: A Cautionary Tale
Fast forward to today and there’s now a SurveyMonkey Enterprise. It strikes a nice balance between serious and approachable. It boasts of “enterprise grade security” and integrated apps powering “insights-driven actions.” It speaks to key enterprise considerations but it doesn’t bury the brand.
Ultimately, I suspect the rebranding strategy U-turn will work in SurveyMonkey’s favor, and that other brand category leaders will come to view this as a cautionary tale to never look a gift horse in the mouth.
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