Rebranding a technology giant: Key learnings from Rackspace’s brand transformation

by Mark Bunting, CMO, Rackspace

As most technology companies grow, they typically grow in complexity. This growth often influences the way in which people interact with that brand. Indeed, not only does the relationship between customer and technology company alter as new and different types of services and products are offered, but a growing divide between these constant innovations and users’ understanding of them also starts taking effect.

This is also true of IT decision makers. No IT leader can confidently claim a flawless understanding of all technologies, the potential they hold for their business, how to implement them and the positive outcomes they could expect. In fact, with the accelerated rate of development and deployment of new enterprise technologies in business, IT leaders have had to shift their mindset away from the idea that they can be experts in all the different technologies being used in their organisation.

This in turn has changed the customer and vendor relationship. IT leaders increasingly are looking for guidance on the best IT implementations to drive a specific business outcome – rather than going out to purchase a specific solution. As a result, trust plays an even more critical role in this relationship. IT leaders must trust that the vendor or service provider they are working with will provide them with the best guidance in identifying and support in implementing new technologies and practices to deliver upon this business outcome.

Trust has become the critical currency of technology brands and is fundamental to brand success – particularly in the congested, competitive IT market that focuses on delivering service reliability. It is perhaps therefore of little surprise that initiating the trust-building process with our customers was a central pillar of the recent rebrand that I led at Rackspace. Through this brand transformation, we shifted the way that we are communicating to demonstrate the existing trust we have with both our partners and customers, particularly through promoting the great work that we have undertaken for our clients.

For other B2B brands that are looking to further establish trust in their brand, here are some of my key learnings that I have drawn from putting trust at the heart of our brand.

Rich cultures and internal trust

Rebranding an organisation with a rich culture is no mean feat. Regardless of whether this organisation is big or small, rebranding is a significant task – each step must be navigated whilst understanding the impacts and implications of each decision. However, brands must also keep in mind how a new business direction will affect not only the overall company culture, but the people who are at the forefront of undertaking this mission.

For Rackspace, our rebranding was an exercise to promote and celebrate people. At the heart of our operations, our people-focused ethos was not going to change, no matter the ways in which we eventually chose to alter the brand’s image. Indeed, our emphasis on celebrating both our customers and employees naturally led to the reinforcement of our brand’s culture of trust and collaboration.

Rebranding a technology services company in an incredibly competitive market has its own challenges. Decision makers must remember that their marketing efforts, no matter how innovative or revolutionary, can only extend so far if the “groundwork” is not in place. In other words, any efforts to build a culture of trust between business and customer will be meaningless if the same principles of trust and transparency are not reflected within the businesses’ own ethos and working culture. Therefore, marketing leaders must establish internal trust before embarking on an external rebrand to ensure an authentic and successful outcome.

The ‘human side’ of business

As a strong believer in promoting the power of people, showing the human side behind Rackspace’s business operations was incredibly important to set the company apart from the competition. Most significantly, it aids us in developing the signature Rackspace brand and services with the company ethos at heart. Businesses can initiate new ‘trust-based’ relationships by also recognising that the customer is human too.

Rackspace has a fantastic culture, and I can wholeheartedly say that we foster an environment where both our employees and customers are given the freedom to thrive and express their opinions through genuine collaboration, as well as through the recognition that they are all individuals. It’s not by chance that Rackspace was featured in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to work for in 2019 and Great Places to Work list.

Indeed, we recognised that every other vendor talks about the what (product) and the how (process), but not one speaks about the why (i.e. we are here to make you great). Instead, we wanted to make it clear that we are here to deliver purpose to our customers – providing leading services and fanatical customer support 24x7x365.

The most important advice I can offer to any business leader is that a trust culture established internally has the power to build and transform external trust – whether this is with customers, prospective employees, or business partners. Rackspace is an example of how businesses must incorporate a customer-first culture as a definitive business ethos, as it is only when customers know they are at the heart of your business can you truly start to establish trust.

Building trust-based interactions

Building external relationships is easier said than done. At Rackspace, however, one philosophy has been core to our business over the past two decades: Fanatical Support. This has evolved to be Fanatical Experience – delivering a fanatical service to our customers at every touchpoint, whether that’s with a technical expert, our billing team or customer services.

For us, offering an exceptional experience for our customers relates back to showing our human understanding and empathy, which could be as simple as offering a gesture of goodwill. This can go a long way in terms of building an external relationship that is friendly, trusting and transparent.

An excellent example of this was recently shown by a Rackspace employee when conducting updates to a customer’s IT system. This unexpected maintenance meant that the customer would miss their family dinner, so the employee ordered a pizza directly to the customer’s desk whilst they waited. This small and authentic gesture demonstrates how organisations can step away from their corporate ‘front’ to conduct a meaningful, trust-building interaction.

Don’t go it alone

Most importantly, we have realised that telling our brand story – whether this is through placing emphasis on our managed services, our flexibility, or our 24x7x365 customer support – cannot be told by Rackspace alone. We have successfully reinforced this message externally by allowing customers to publicly share their own experiences with Rackspace.

For example, Eagle Eye, a digital loyalty and rewards platform for retailers, and Boozt, one of the fasting-growing online fashion and beauty companies, are just two European customers who have recently flown the flag for Rackspace’s services. Having developed relationships built on trust, we have successfully nurtured a culture that has encouraged these customers to share their story. Not only does this unlock new business opportunities for our company and our customers alike, but it continues to remind us that Rackspace, and indeed all businesses, must not forget the power of case study and ‘word of mouth’ recommendations.

From a wider brand perspective, combining elements of our Fanatical Experience with the notion of trust, as well as allowing customers to promote the successes they’ve achieved in partnership with Rackspace, enables us to celebrate our customers and what we can do together.

Keep the customer in mind

The most important piece of advice I can offer to all business and marketing leaders alike is that re-branding a technology business without the customer in mind is an empty task. More so, it is one that will bring little value to an existing brand image or business operations. I firmly believe that the key to successful trust-building marketing practices is to use a customer-centric approach to highlight your brand’s position in a market that is ever-growing in size and competition.

The 20-year long history of Rackspace is proof that the development of trusting relationships, led by the cultivation of a positive employee culture and nurtured customer base, is key for businesses to survive in competitive industry spaces.