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The SaaS project I work on was acquired by a new company back in 2009. We are finally preparing to do a branding/logo change. We are split in-house between whether to do a cold-turkey change, or a gradual change.

The change entails:

  • New logo
  • New brand name
  • New CSS theme

The change will be seen by our direct customers (partners), as well as the customers of our customers (end-users). In any case, we will be notifying our partners of the upcoming changes, but the our partners' ability/willingness to relay the info to the end-users is unreliable. So inevitably, regardless of what we do, some end-users will notice the changes without warning. On the up side, those end users won't be calling us, they'll be calling our partners :)

The two options being bounced around are:

  1. A cold-turkey switch. BrandA becomes BrandB immediately, with the new name, and new CSS theme. No mention of BrandA is ever seen again once the switch is made.

  2. Gradual "phasing in" of BrandB. Probably done in three steps, with probably 3-6 months between phases:

    1. BrandA brought to you by BrandB - Retains BrandA CSS theme and brand name, except for the banner logo across the top of every page in the UI, where BrandB is mentioned in a "brought to you by BrandB" tagline.

    2. BrandB, formerly BrandA - Here we switch to BrandB's CSS theme, the entire product refers to BrandB now, except the banner logo across the top, where BrandA is mentioned in a "formerly BrandA" tagline.

    3. BrandB Now the transition is complete.

Is either method known to provide a better or worse customer experience? Are there mitigating factors that effect which one ought to be preferred?

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3  
Read It Later went the "Pocket (Formerly Read It Later)" route, not sure if there's any good info out there on when to pick each. Will be interested to see. –  Ben Brocka Jun 27 '12 at 18:10
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Option 2 sounds the best (users won't question whether they've reached the right site), however, you could combine the two using a 15sec fade effect to do the stages in one go during page load for a transition period (at least a month) and for users that have already seen the effect (have a cookie) shorten the effect time gradually by 3sec with each login until it reaches 0. –  Danny Varod Jun 27 '12 at 19:03
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Purely empirical analysis would prefer the gradual approach. A "Big-Bang" change would leave some users wondering why they are getting Brand B instead of Brand A. You may not want any adverse publicity they might generate. –  Andrew Leach Jun 27 '12 at 19:04
    
And don't forget the Netflix/Quickster thing. If you've somehow ended up with a Quickster, you'll want time to back out. Unlikely, but just another reason pulling a quick change is risky. Side note, "Pulling a Quickster" should be official slang for a massive rebranding disaster. –  Ben Brocka Jun 27 '12 at 21:54
    
@BenBrocka: Good thoughts re: Quickster, but in this case we're contractually required to change names, so going back won't be an option, even in the case of disaster :) –  Flimzy Jun 28 '12 at 0:08
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2 Answers 2

Use Joyride, and a one time change. Let the user know things have changed a bit. Inform them the website has changed its look and feel, but assure them they are in the right place. Give them a guided tour of the new features, and how the site was modified.

enter image description here

Incremental Changes would be annoying!

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Oh man, that font rendering. –  Nic Jun 28 '12 at 16:57
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This might not answer the very specific (thank you) question you asked but:

Also consider focusing efforts on giving your clients the tools to communicate the change out to your end users. It will affect you even if you are not in-touch with them directly.

  • Messaging (copy) templates in different sizes and for different mediums
  • Video of brand changes
  • Email templates
  • Customer Service reps scripts
  • Benefits list

I'm just throwing out ideas but there are probably many more and better ones. In the end it is all about communicating clearly and positively what the change entails.

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