Launched: April 24, 2012
Story in brief:
This is another instance of reputation, in conflict
with vision... the
"everyone knows who we are, and they're wrong" syndrome.
Polycom is a competitor to Cisco in the conferencing hardware,
software and services space. From its founding, in 1990, it has
focused on voice, video and data, considered the three pillars of
its 'unified communications' promise. Indeed the "poly" in its name,
and the design of its symbol (three triangles, on a larger
triangle), were intended to support that three-fold offering.
Then success happened, and distorted this branding intent.
Polycom's triangular "SoundStation" conference phones earned a
central presence in conference rooms worldwide (4 million have been
shipped). This extraordinary logo exposure has nailed the Polycom
image to voice-related hardware. (It didn't help that the logo and
product's sharing of "triangle" reinforced this limiting
In May 2010, Andy Miller assumed leadership as CEO. To
respond to the new world of mobile devices, multiple platforms and
the cloud, he was determined that Polycom must step up its game in
software-based video collaboration and data-intensive solutions. He
sensed the current brand image had become a real barrier to this
vision, internally as well as externally putting a dampener on
employee aspirations as well as on customer and investor
expectations. To help address these issues he recruited a
brand-savvy Chief Marketing Officer, Kate Hutchison, who in turn
engaged John McNeil Studios; "We needed messaging, great
storytelling as well as design" Kate told me, "and they're good
writers." O'Neil confirms that "Kate wanted a different kind of
identity process -- core-values-based, collaborative and
McNeil crafted a new brand promise -- "To create experiences that
push the greatness of collaboration forward," that appealed to the
leadership team as an employee rallying cry. "Our first audience for
this effort is our 4,000 employees, worldwide" said Hutchison.
"Their excitement with how they spend their working lives, for
Polycom's impact on the world, is mission critical."
The design strategies, then (per designer Kim Le Liboux):
- Significant change. Break the speakerphone association, make
people rethink and rediscover "Polycom;"
- Replace the spiky, hard-edged and static symbol with a softer,
more fluid personality;
- Retain a symbol, but give more emphasis to the name;
- Retain elements of equity (e.g. 'three,' and red)
The new brand was previewed early in April for 2,000 sales
leaders and key partners at Polycom's annual TEAM Polycom event, and
then at region-by-region employee meetings, the last (and the Web
launch) timed to coincide with the April 24 opening of new corporate
headquarters in San Jose, California. It has been received,
Hutchison reports, with a mix of enthusiasm and "it's about time."
Hopefully investors, too, are seeing in this rebranding a
game-changing shift of culture and strategy, not just logo.
Zeus Kerravala certainly gets it, having blogged that "the
new logo is nice but I really like the shift to a software
oriented company... I am of the opinion that the company is no
longer content to be an alternative provider and wants to be in
control of its own future."
C.E.O. - Andrew Miller
C.M.O. - Kate Hutchison
Identity design -
John McNeil Studio, Berkeley CA;
John McNeil, Chief Creative Officer; Kim Le Liboux, Executive
Strategy: Clear case of the use of
identity change, by a leader, as a directional and motivational
Design: I'm a sucker, I must admit, for
sharp, hard-edged distinctiveness, for which the old symbol
(while a bit fascist-feeling) was tough to beat. But it became
compromised in association, I must agree. So -- sigh. (The
all-caps wordmark letterforms, however, were a weak match to the
symbol, and no great loss.) I find the new mark to be just
adequately distinctive, and soft and friendly -- perhaps
appropriately, but at some cost to strength and stature. It well
serves, however, the message of change.
what conferencing software can do
Corporate Brand Matrix ratings:
structural, 100% strategic, 0% functional (est.)
CEO Andy Miller