Let’s rewind a bit: Benchmark started back in 2004 as an email marketing service that was easy to use and accessible to anyone hoping to grow their business. Since then, the company has experienced significant changes resulting in the need to reidentify who we are over the years. This has been reflected in cycling through a few different logos and rebrands in an effort to match our shifting identity. Our Challenge The product and design growth that we have experienced often happened out of necessity and somewhat unexpectedly. As a small company, time and resources are minimal and we have had to do our best within the reality of those limitations. We were able to maintain a fairly consistent identity. However, we lacked the opportunity to create a brand that fully embodied who Benchmark is and the direction that we are going. As the design team, this often left us in an awkward and unclear space, making it difficult to have excitement and ownership of our identity as the company continued. It was time for a change. It was the time that as a company we had something that could scale and something that could perform. One of the most fundamental parts of a brand identity has to do with the logo. This presented the first, and greatest, challenge. Our old logo had some major weaknesses. It consisted simply of our name written in a script typeface without a correlating mark. When using our logo in small spaces, we did not have a mark or small version of the logo that functioned well. We often ended up using the ‘B’ of ‘Benchmark’ for those situations, which was less than ideal. Another challenge was our primary brand color. As a dark navy blue, our brand looked far too similar to numerous other corporate enterprise software companies. Along with a generalized name like Benchmark, correlating to the mainstream tech market, there was a need to create a new brand identity that would stand out and demand attention. How Do You Rebrand a Company Anyway? When we began the process of creating a brand identity, we had no idea what we were doing. Identifying the challenges above was only one small step in the task before us, and we realized we had more questions than answers. How do you rebrand a company with offices in nine different countries and nine different languages? Where do you even start? Our small in-house design team sure as hell didn\'t know. We searched for every rebrand we could find on the internet, trying to dissect blog posts looking for any hints of how the process could work. Many companies that shared about their rebrands often mentioned only bits and pieces of the process. It was rare to find anyone that detailed each of the steps, but for those that did, we were extremely grateful. We also found a couple of books including Designing Brand Identity and Design Matters that guided our journey. For companies that willingly shared about their rebrand, it seemed that each one we found had a very different process. Some of the companies with greater resources utilized outside agencies to take on the rebranding task, not surprisingly creating stellar results. It became evident that there are many ways to rebrand, and we had to choose a way that was best for our company. Since our design team knew the uniqueness of Benchmark, understanding its quirks and functions, we felt the creative freedom to choose a path for rebranding that reflected our individualism. Finding Our Company Identity The initial Benchmark identity was conceptualized organically, without much thought or intentionality behind it. As the company shifted and grew, it became clear that having an identity with a purpose was a necessity in order to continue succeeding in a competitive and quickly changing market. 2016 was the year that marked large scale changes for our company and its identity development. As a whole, Benchmark dug deep to figure out exactly who we are, who we want to be and where we fit with the rest of the enterprise software world. This could not have been better timing for our design team as we began to take on the rebrand. Determining how to encompass the complexity of holding to our roots, while also having a better definition, required an assessment of the Benchmark of old and the Benchmark that was to be. This happened in a few different ways and contributed to the creation of our brand brief that we worked on with Curt and Denise Keller, the owners of Benchmark. Our CEO, Curt, chose the word ‘Benchmark’ and a navy blue back in 2004, from a desire to be a company that appeared corporate and professional. Curt has always had big dreams for Benchmark and envisioned it being a standard in the industry. The hope was that the company would be the rock, or benchmark, by which our clients would evaluate email marketing. The dream of Benchmark was still foundational, whereas the colors could use adjustment. Curt and Denise are very down to earth and practical. They have created an incredible company culture that is comfortable, casual and feels like a family. We love extending those same feelings and values to our customers through our products, and knew that this was vital to include in the rebrand. To evaluate our trajectory, including customer base and products, diverse teams were formed within the company. Using books like Traction, Scaling Up, Inside Advantage and 2-Second Lean, people on the teams helped to give input and perspective in defining the new company identity, and guiding the rebranding process. Step 1 - Define the Attributes Based on our conversations with the owners and the strong themes that emerged, we set out to define our brand attributes. The most obvious themes were that Benchmark is powerful and professional while simultaneously being friendly, approachable, and practical. That balance is our sweet spot. To coincide with these themes, we created a list of attributes, which would be a crucial part of the rebranding process. This list of attributes became the foundation for our visual ideas and was the system with which we ranked ideas and made decisions. No matter how great a concept was, if it failed to communicate the attributes of the company to our design team then inevitably it would fail to communicate our brand. To formulate our list of attributes, our design team did a word association exercise. We placed words from the brand brief in the center of giant posters, filling each one with any words that correlated with the one in the middle. We ended up with hundreds of words. We then highlighted all of the words that stuck out as strong attributes and had potential to give us visual ideas for the brand. From all of the highlighted words, we were able to narrow down to a final short list of attributes. Step 2 - Draft Out All Ideas From the list of visual attributes, we did quick sketch sessions of our raw ideas. This was by no means a visually stunning exercise, but it was extremely helpful to start the development of the logo mark. As we did this, we started to see strong visual themes emerge, some of which would end up being in the mix until the very end of the process. After flushing out some broad concepts, we honed in for some smaller sketches on the logo mark. To do this, we did an exercise where we created visual metaphor matrices, which helped us generate ideas by combing words on a matrix. We listed our attributes individually on one axis and then had simple words on the other axis. In trying to compare the combination of two of the words, it pushed us to come up with more ideas. Step 3 - Exercise and Iterate As the process continued, we went through hundreds of concepts. One thing we definitely learned is that we must iterate and be open to new exercises to keep moving and creating. Time after time, we found ourselves feeling as if we had no ideas left, but also recognizing that what we had generated so far was not yet right. Whenever we were stuck, we would try more exercises to keep pushing things further. Step 4 - Deciding on a Direction When we felt confident that all of the ideas had been explored, it was time to make the tough decision on the final direction of the logo mark. This was one of the most difficult moments in the process. We had a handful of logos that felt exciting to take to take to the next level. We also knew that we didn’t want to settle and desired to select something that would leave a lasting impression as a representation of the company. Ultimately, it came down to which one encompassed the most attributes. As a team, we selected our top picks, then did a silent vote and discussed the results. It was a relief to get past that stage and onto the next. Step 5 - Iterate Until It’s Right There was still much more work to do even after selecting the final direction. We continued to draft versions of the logo mark by doing exercises on both paper and in Adobe Illustrator. There reached a point after numerous iterations where we knew that we were close, but for some reason were having trouble finalizing the concept. Our team kept making attempts, creating and doing exercises, but nothing felt quite right. Finally, Kristen, one of our designers, started to see something happening in an old treatment of the logo from a previous exercise. As she had us gather around the mark that we had been adjusting for awhile, she began to explain what she was seeing, and as we listened, everything clicked into place. The center of the mark was where the magic was happening. It was about growth and transformation, about never being the same again and continuous improvement. Lines were moving forward from the left to the right, intersecting and communicating with the negative space. Once the lines pass through the center, they change position and continue to grow. This reflected not only our company story but the story we wished for our customers. Our new logo contained all of our attributes and then even a little bit more. Step 6 - Logotype and Typography For the logotype and typography, we decided to use a sans serif. Whenever we saw ‘Benchmark’ written in serif, it felt too serious and didn’t fit our attributes as well. After trying hundreds of sans serifs, we landed on a beautiful typeface from Luzi Type called Buenos Aires that paired beautifully with our finalized mark. Thinner weight sans serifs felt too weak to hold our company name, and heavier weights were too overpowering. We also wanted a typeface that was solid but still felt approachable and friendly. Interestingly enough, Luzi Type had another sans serif that we loved called Messina, which ended up being our main typeface apart from the logo. Step 7 - Identity System and Continuous Improvement Our design team is still in the beginning stages of creating our identity system and has started exploring ways to incorporate this motif into developing products. The hope is that the new motif translates growth, transformation and communication as it is implemented into the redesign of our application and our new CRM product that Benchmark is currently pre-releasing to a select group of users. You can continue to join us in our rebranding journey by subscribing to these posts and read stories on how we are learning to improve. Our Team A sincere thank you from all of us on the Benchmark brand team for taking the time to read about our labor of love. How About You? This was a really intense, but incredible process for our design team. There were many things that we learned from it, and looking back, we wish that we would have had more resources and guidance to help us not feel so alone on the journey. Our hope in sharing our process through this blog post is that it provides encouragement and offers direction to other designers embarking on a company rebrand. If you have questions, would like more resources, or have stories of your own rebrand, we would love to hear from you in the comments below or on social media! - Are you currently working on a brand or rebrand project? What is it? - Share your process! However simple or complex, it really helps others.
Our history Benchmark started in 2003 as a place for online marketing tools. In 2004, it switched its focus primarily to email marketing. With the name Benchmark Email and a corporate color of navy blue, the brand appeared as a solid standard for email marketing. Over the years, the company has been through a few different brand changes attempting to finding its place in a fast growing industry. In the past, Benchmark was email marketing for the masses, an easy to use service that allowed anyone to improve their business or venture with email marketing. Today Benchmark is still easy to use, but it is not just email marketing and it is not for everyone. Benchmark has become a platform for marketers who desire quality engagement with their customers. With devoted local support teams in 15 countries, Benchmark\'s goal is to empower marketers around the world to engage with their customers using intuitive software and practical strategies. Last year was a time of transition for Benchmark, refining its focus and stepping into a new identity as a company. To fully embrace this transition, it was important to create a visual identity to match the new found focus. Our new symbol This is the new logo mark for Benchmark. It is a symbol holding all of the attributes that make Benchmark the company who it is. The hope is that this will be the symbol of our Benchmark community. It is intended to represent the day-to-day work with marketers helping them transform their businesses by engaging with customers. Looking closely at the symbol, it is made up of 3 different line weights. Six lines made up of two line weights start on the left side of the symbol and grow toward the middle. After they pass through the middle of the symbol the lines are transformed and then continue to grow. This represents what Benchmark to be for marketers, a place to transform their business and be empowered to grow. A new Benchmark With a new identity and attributes Benchmark needed to make some changes. The first change was the original Benchmark blue. The CEO Curt Keller originally chose navy blue for a standard corporation feeling. Benchmark continues to be corporate and professional, however, it has a company culture that is practical and approachable as well. It an effort to reflect the new identity more accurately, the design team adjusted the original blue to better fit the new attributes. Along with the blue, the brand identity includes a much broader color pallet. Since Benchmark participates in events held all over the world throughout the year, limiting design for marketing materials with navy blue and green are no longer accurate for the company. With the addition of more colors, Benchmark will be able to be painted more accurately as the colorful company that it is. The announcement of this change is an exciting new chapter for Benchmark and its users. This was no small undertaking, and the heart of the company was woven throughout the fabric of the new brand. Benchmark is eager to use this new identity to continue building up a community of marketers and helping them reach their goals. Stay tuned for another blog post that gives an in-depth perspective on the re-brand and the design process.
We are excited to present to you the newest feature of our application! As a Benchmark user, you may already be familiar with our current autoresponder feature. This feature allows you to send out a sequence of emails based on three different triggers: When a customer subscribes to a list A recurring date related to a subscriber such as their birthday or anniversary A specific date related to a subscriber If you haven’t tried the feature yet, using the \"When a customer subscribes to a list” trigger from the list above is one of the most basic, yet most powerful automations. It automatically sends a stream of emails that go out to new subscribers after they sign up. The autoresponder is a crucial and powerful type of automation that will remain in the quiver for our users with a new name - “List Based Automation.” This feature has always been and will continue to be free. Understanding the New Feature In an effort to provide users with more options for email automation, we have now moved autoresponders under the umbrella of “Automations.” As you explore the new automation section, you will notice that the first addition is based on email engagement and consists of three triggers: A subscriber opens an email A subscriber clicks any link in an email A subscriber clicks a specific URL in an email Let’s take a look at how we could use some of these triggers to segment subscribers. For example, if I owned a boat company, I might set up an automation to segment my subscribers into two groups for me: One that is interested in wind-powered vessels, and another that is interested in motor-powered vessels. After the feature segments them into the two groups, they can automatically receive curated content based on their interests. To do this, I would first send an email that contains content that includes information related to both types of boats. This could include things such as user manuals, a featured article, some stats based on research, or a discount on a product. Each type of content in the email would be connected to a URL for my subscribers to click. I would use the “A subscriber clicks a specific URL in an email” trigger, to create two automations - one to send emails to the wind vessel subscribers, and another to send emails to the motor powered subscribers. To begin sending tailored content to each of the two groups, I would select the original email that I sent and the URL that pertains to the appropriate group. The feature would then automatically send the curated content to each of the two lists. What about something more simple? Here is another example using the “a subscriber opens an email” trigger. Let’s say I have a customer base and want our highest engaged subscribers to purchase from a promotion. In the dropdown menu, I could select a recent campaign I sent to all of my subscribers. The selected trigger above will then only send the emails I set up to go to subscribers who had opened the previous campaign. It is helpful to note that our Targeted Emailing tool also has the power of segmenting subscribers. The difference is that you save them to lists instead of adding them to an email automation. We are pretty giddy about our other upcoming automations features and can’t wait to share them with you all later this year! Until then, we hope you enjoy our latest addition and look forward to seeing how you all use it.
Up until recently, we have had one design team doing everything at Benchmark. What this means, is that the same design team that was creating the products and the development of new features was also in charge of design for marketing and creating and maintaining branding. I remember one time that our team was designing an email to promote a new feature we were about to release. With no email design system in place and a desire to have some form of consistency, we spent over an hour scouring through past email headlines trying to find the correct hex value for the gray we had used in the past. It was apparent that we had a problem. However, working toward a solution didn’t feel pressing until six months ago when Benchmark decided to split the responsibilities of our single design team with a newly formed marketing design team. In the past as the single design team, creating email templates for our company departments was difficult. With each specific purpose or departmental need, our team would come up with something from scratch. If the marketing department wanted an email last minute, there wouldn’t be enough time to create one for them of any quality. As you can imagine, we wasted time trying to maintain some consistency in our designs without a standardized system in place and found ourselves often frustrated and confused. These same design inconsistencies were multiplied across our international offices with emails sent out in nine different languages from Benchmark offices worldwide. With the move to have a fully dedicated marketing design team that would take ownership of the email design templates, we recognized that a system needed to be put in place. Otherwise our experience of frustrations, lack of timeliness, unclear brand voice and having to return to old emails to find some form of consistent stylization not only would continue but would be amplified. From these problems, we wanted to create a modular design system that would help to solve our problems of inconsistencies and lack of timeliness. We took an inventory of all of the emails that went out this past year from our Benchmark teams, including those from our international offices and organized them all by language and purpose to see what particular needs each office had to account for and what type of emails each region was sending. Some regions were focusing more on education, while others focused more on events and partners. Marketing needs will be different in each region. It\'s important to create solutions that are inclusive to all of our offices and not assume that marketing needs in one region will be the same as elsewhere. We took note of all of the emails that we saw repeating to get an idea of the modular pieces we might need i.e. monthly/weekly newsletters, promotion, webinar invites, product announcements, automated system emails, even personal emails from the company owners. Then, we documented the structure of each of these emails by the content sections that made them up. We then documented all of the styles for each of the sections. We found that we had numerous different styles being used for headers, content blocks, typography, social media buttons, contact info and image styles just to name a few. After we had everything documented, we were able to create unified styles for each use case. Things that we were considering as we did this were our current branding, of course being aware of the other languages and what was applicable for them, mobile styles, readability, aesthetic. It required us to sift through everything we have had before and create a standard for the aesthetic and appeal for our clients. Another thing we had to do was to create and find an image strategy and what we should do for images since they can dramatically change the look of an email. In order to keep consistency, we created a guidebook that we passed on to our other international design teams and to our marketing team. We also collaborated with the marketing team to make sure our goals were aligned and everything meshed. Our final challenge was setting everyone up to be able to use the new system. We accomplished this easily with our email platform. We set up our design system as a master account and made each office a sub account of the master account. Using the ability to send email designs to sub accounts, we were easily able to get everyone up to speed. We used to have everyone doing their own thing in separate accounts. Now being under one account, everyone has access to email design templates and it helps to maintain the consistency that we are looking for while allowing ease of use and maintaining a standard. I learned that it is easier to think of everything as a whole and create and manage a system rather than designing for each individual problem. The key, however, is to not create something and forget about it, but instead using it and revisiting it in order to make adjustments, followed by updating documentation to continue to maintain our standards and consistency. This is not something we have figured out completely yet, but it is a contined process of learning and growing. We used our own email editor to design all of our emails. We did this so that it is easier for local and regional content managers. Ideally. we would have done it all in code to have more control and to update standards more quickly. For now, using our own email designer was simpler and gave us an opportunity to feature our own product and being inclusive of ease of use. This information is helpful and I wish that I had a detailed solution to reference prior to embarking on this journey. It has made such a difference for us. It was a pain point and took a significant amount of time to find a solution. So, if there is a way that this could be of use to our users, it felt important to share our process.