We’ve all heard the question: “What’s in a name?” My thesis is that a company name says a lot about the brand. An effective and inspiring name can speak volumes about corporate mission, culture and purpose. A company name that may have legacy over-tones to it can set you back and lead to confusion and misperceptions in the market. That was where we found ourselves at Blue Yonder (formerly JDA Software). We believed that the brand is the strategy and the strategy is the brand.
When I joined JDA Software in 2017, it was a 35-year-old, legacy supply chain software brand that had been recently given new life and purpose by our current CMO, Kevin Iaquinto, who joined four years before me in 2013. Up until Kevin’s arrival, the company had largely built its “brand” through a series of acquisitions, including perhaps better known supply chain players such as i2, Manugistics, Red Prairie—each of whom had their moment in the sun during the tech bubble in the early 2000s.
The question we sought to answer was what did our name and brand stand for and what was its purpose? JDA stood for the founder’s initials who decades earlier had founded the company from nothing and made it very successful. But what did that name “mean” to all of us here and now? Did it articulate a purpose? A clear mission? A reason for being that helped us rally the company into our future horizons?
The answer was simply—no. It did not. And our 5,500 global associates were thirsting for something more.
The Data Was Our Brand Sherpa
I have been guided by data, as well as certain instincts, all my life. Through our extensive brand research, it became very clear to our entire management team and Board that the JDA name no longer ‘matched’ our company mission—namely to be the best provider of SaaS/cloud-based supply chain solutions. Fortunately, we happened to own a fantastic brand name through our acquisition of the original Blue Yonder, a German software company, a few years earlier. We debated other possible names, but Blue Yonder rose to the top. It set the stage for a rebirth of Blue Yonder as our new company name instead of JDA.
Branding from the Inside-Out
When launching the new brand, we unveiled it with our associates at our Global Kickoff event in Las Vegas, as well as virtually, in February 2020. Incidentally, this was one month before the pandemic emerged in the U.S.
We actively engaged our associates in owning the name change. We created a Brand Ambassador program and made it fun for our associates to help activate, engage, educate, amplify and champion the new brand from within, with each other, and externally, with customers and partners as well as publicly, on social media.
The pandemic, in a way, played to our advantage in launching a new name, because we literally had a “captive” audience through which to introduce the new name. Our digital customer conference in April was attended by more than 5,000 people—nearly double what we would get at a face-to-face event—and we amplified the introduction of the new brand at the virtual event.
Along came a guy named Jon Rahm…
To help launch the brand, we tapped Jon Rahm, an emerging PGA superstar, to wear the Blue Yonder logo as he ascended to the status of #1 golfer in the world in July 2020. The number of texts, emails and engagement around Jon wearing our logo while winning golf tournaments and representing the company at customer outings was immeasurable, both for rallying behind the new name inside and outside the company. Jon also appeared in our first-ever television and digital ads for the company that aired on CNBC, Golf Channel and elsewhere to help introduce the new Blue Yonder to a global C-suite audience.
Flipping the Switch
Our name change set us up for an IPO path, which we were on until Panasonic announced its intent to acquire our company in April 2021. Many people during the IPO and acquisition process asked what role the new name played and if it helped or hindered us. In short, the new name emphasized and propelled our efforts by succinctly defining the mission and culture of the company through the wild blue yonder—a land of endless horizons and innovation. In fact, the company was valued around $3 billion as JDA at time of Blackstone’s investment in 2017—but we exited valued at $8.5 billion in 2021, and we owe a lot of this to our new name and renewed mission.
Lesson Learned – Don’t Be Afraid of Disruption
CEO leadership is key in going through a name change process. It can’t be seen as a marketing exercise only. The entire company must own it, and it starts at the top. Don’t underestimate that even long-term employees can be open to change and reinvigorated by it.
Lastly, make no little plans and don’t be afraid of disruption. In our case, it was challenging the name of the company. But that was preceded by many pivots like moving from an on-premise model to SaaS, changing cloud service providers, and completely shifting the company business model. And we needed a name that better matched and articulated all those company disruptions.
After all, a name does count. More than we could’ve possibly imagined.