Software company rebrands during pandemic
Covid-19 has accelerated growth in the tech and insurance industries at an unprecedented rate. Open GI, a software provider for insurance brokers, rebranded in the midst of the pandemic to better communicate with its audiences.
Open GI has provided software to the insurance industry for over 50 years. Following its recent internal restructuring and service expansion, the external branding needed a refresh in order to match the brand values. Together with London-based creative communications agency DRPG, Open GI transformed its visual identity and brand positioning to better reflect the company's values, while maintaining its trusted reputation. Working through the pandemic meant the brand was created entirely virtually and at an accelerated pace. The rebrand launched in November 2020.
In late 2019, Open GI conducted an audit to establish what exactly needed to change. Helen Andrews, head of marketing and PR at Open GI says of the internal audience, “They were in parts quite critical, but we wanted this feedback about the brand.” The audit lasted for 12 weeks, using primary and secondary research, customer and employee viewpoints and surveys. It worked to establish existing perceptions of the company, “In the market, people know who we are and what we do, however there is a perception around Open GI as being more of a necessary evil. A comfortable pair of slippers is one of the actual anecdotal quotes that came out of the audit and we wanted to change that,” Andrews adds.
The research confirmed that the name Open GI held a lot of credibility but what needed to change was the brand promise. “We needed to change the perception so that we’re a technology partner, rather than looking like an insurance company,” says Andrews. The first step was to address negative sentiments, ensuring they would eventually become neutral ones. Then as the rebrand progressed, it wanted to turn these perceptions into positives.
Open GI also brought in a series of internal values alongside a shift in tone of voice from very corporate and stiff to become more human and plain speaking. Andrews credits the audit for the positive internal response, as it provided a rationale for the change, “Since it’s gone live people are really energised by it. They love it. They’re really proud of it,” she says.
Rebranding during a pandemic presented challenges but more importantly, it presented an opportunity for accelerated progress, “What we have seen in 2020 is probably about three years worth of fast-tracked growth in the tech space in a three month period,” says Andrews.
In terms of the visual identity, the goal was to position Open GI next to tech players such as Google and Microsoft. DRPG tested the brand to see how it would look on skyscrapers and billboards, “It looked great and that’s the end kind of result really, not to be safe and localised but think bigger and think globally,” says DRPG’s campaign accounts manager, Mitch Perry. DRPG presented a competitor analysis of similar palettes and logos within the industry, which included even the likes of the M6 toll logo. The similarities were stark, “When that visual came on screen, I was really alarmed that we were looking so similar to the M6 toll. It’s definitely time for change, definitely,” says Andrews. To abandon the brand colours totally would have been futile as there was already a valuable heritage behind that brand name and that colour palette, though. Perry says, “From an audience point of view, they wanted a brand that represented a modern software service company alongside that implied trust of the Open GI name.” Instead of using the same imagery and colours, DRPG introduced bright and bold visuals, which have been a huge change for the company. Andrews says, “I’m extremely proud of how it looks. It was not an easy journey to get there.”
Since launching the rebrand, analysis conducted by Open GI found that the brand sentiment has neutralised. The external market has been receptive to the change. “When they see the visual and the look and the feel of Open GI, they are also experiencing a change in the service delivery that we are doing. So the two have gone hand in hand,” says Andrews.
Looking to the future, Open GI is focusing on its digital presence to become a contender for partnerships with the likes of Google or Amazon. “We want to position ourselves to work with more partners to enrich our technology for our consumers,” says Andrews. “Not only do we need to change what we do inside and the service delivery, we needed to change what we do on the outside and be treated as a serious player and a contender.” Big partnerships are on the horizon for the brand following the launch, which were only possible because of the brand’s evolution, according to Andrews.
The response from the rebrand so far has been positive, both internally and externally. The launch, which was originally planned to coincide with a big insurance industry event, went ahead virtually. But, the challenges of Covid-19 did not slow Open GI’s transformation. The company has used this as an opportunity to accelerate its growth and to begin 2021 with a new brand image that better reflects its internal values and corporate aspirations.