Branding Leadership and Management

Brand Refresh During a Pandemic? ibi Says “Sure!”

While most marketing teams in health IT were shutting or slowing their programs because of the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the team at ibi (aka Information Builders) decided to hit the accelerator. They forged ahead with refreshing their brand, completely rebuilding their website and shifted their annual user conference completely online.

I was able to catch up with Carol McNerney, Chief Marketing Officer of ibi, who helped to lead these initiatives for the organization. Together we explored the reasons behind the brand refresh and the challenges they had to overcome in order to get everything done on time.

Rebrand or refresh?

McNerney noted that while ibi now has new messaging and a new look and feel, she viewed the project more as a brand refresh rather than a complete rebrand. When McNerney joined the ibi team in January of 2020, there was already momentum building (excuse the pun) at all levels of the organization for new messaging and a modernized identity.

Information Builders was founded in 1975 with a simple mission – to enable people without formal computer programming skills to work with information systems which were still emerging at that time. Over the years, the company evolved to become a provider of business intelligence, data integration and data analytics. Rather than throw away such a rich legacy, the ibi team decided to embrace a new direction while keeping ties to the recognized brand they had built over 45 years.

Thus, the project was a refresh rather than a do-over.

It begins with mission and vision.

As any good branding exercise should, McNerney and her team put time into their mission and vision and what it meant to their brand. “Our vision is having a world where every organization can easily harvest the power of data to build better insights and ultimately to make better decisions,” she stated. “To achieve that we realized that we had to play off our own words and turn our customers into information builders.”

From there, the team dove into customer research to better understand how their brand and their company was perceived. In particular, they searched for any disconnects between their desired brand direction and customer perception. Thankfully they didn’t find any major gaps, but they did get affirmation that leaning into data was the right course of action.

Through their conversations, McNerney’s team discovered that customers viewed important initiatives like data lakes and data warehouses as “massive projects that take multiple years and millions of dollars”. Often the results of those initiatives were lackluster because in the end they did not have the tools to take action on that data – at least until Information Builders arrived in their organization.

“Our customers kept telling us: ‘We just want to present data to management so they can make decisions’” shared McNerney.

A unique time for a brand refresh

McNerney was quick to point out that the brand refresh was not a decision made during the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was made in January after months of internal discussion and debate.

Frank Vella, who joined Information Builders as COO in 2017 and was named CEO in 2019, felt it was time for the market to see the company more as a data partner rather than as a business intelligence provider. According to McNerney, ibi’s ability to easily gather, normalize, analyze and present data is their “secret sauce” and is what sets them apart from competitors. This focus on data became the core of the brand refresh.

McNerney views the pandemic and the shift to online and virtual events as a net positive. It gave her and her team an opportunity to do things differently and try new things at a time when everyone in the industry was embracing change. For example, because of COVID-19, the ibi annual user conference had to be moved online – which gave McNerney’s team a unique opportunity to launch their refreshed brand. Instead of the 1,000 users that the in-person event brings in, the online user conference attracted over 3,500 attendees – giving them a much bigger audience.

Want a new website with that brand refresh?

Completing a brand refresh in only six months is impressive, but layer on a complete website rebuild and it is downright amazing.

McNerney and her team decided to move away from their Drupal CMS back-end and opted instead for an easier-to-maintain WordPress site which give them more autonomy over the content (which we can all get behind, right?). “I’m so impressed that the team was able to turn on a dime,” she said, noting that product management and product marketing teams had to work very closely together in order to pull off the website revamp.

Not your grandmother’s Information Builders – START HERE

The new ibi logo is interesting and is a significant departure from the emblem+name design that the company has used for decades. I must admit that I didn’t fully appreciate the new logo the first time I saw it, but after watching the company’s new promotional video (1/2 way down their new home page), I began to understand the connect-the-dots/bits-of-data theme.

According to McNerney, the new logo went through several iterations. ibi hired a design firm that came up with an initial version of the logo that had a stronger 0s and 1s motif. It was cool, techy, and like “not your grandmother’s Information Builders.” Everyone liked it right from the start, but in later iterations they softened it and added an homage to ibi’s history, embedding “Information Builders” into the design. “It’s a nod to ‘embedded,’” McNerney explained. “What we do is embed our software into apps and processes for our customers and our customers’ customers.”

Tips for rebranding

Here are 4 things I took away from ibi’s brand refresh:

1. A certain amount of resistance can always be expected.
McNerney noted that change is always hard both internally and for an organization’s customer base. It’s important to remember those who are resisting aren’t privy to what’s happening in the marketplace or why changes need to be made. In other words, their interaction with you is very limited in scope. However, that doesn’t mean you should throw out all the brand equity that’s been built over the years.

2. It’s okay to take a phased approach.
McNerney noted she wished she had a bit more time with re-launching the website. The team decided to launch in phases, as they knew that overhauling the entire thing at once was an unrealistic goal for a team that was already stretched thin. Phase 1 is now complete, and the team is focusing great energy on phases 2 and 3.

3. Find good partners.
McNerney made a good point about partners. “Find people who have done this before and leverage the heck out of them,” she said. It’s important to find the right PR agency, CMS, and other partners to help you go virtual and amplify your message.

4. Finally, if you’re afraid of rebranding, do it anyway.
“Do it,” McNerney emphasized. “Absolutely do it. And do it with tons of energy, get everyone excited.”

Watch the full interview to hear all the details of their brand refresh and how ibi pulled off a virtual event in just a couple of months!

This article is part of the #HealthIT100in100

About the author

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Colin Hung

Colin Hung is an award-winning Marketing Executive with more than 15yrs of healthcare and HealthIT experience. He co-founded one of the most popular healthcare chats on Twitter, #hcldr and he has been recognized as one of the “Top 50 Healthcare IT Influencers”. Colin’s work has been published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, American Society for Healthcare Risk Managers, and Infection Control Today. He writes regularly for Healthcare Scene and here at HITMC.com. Colin is a member of #pinksock #TheWalkingGallery and is proudly HITMC. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

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