Rebranding a company is never easy at the best of times. Integrating four existing brands to create a new, industry defining brand is a level of complexity that has repercussions across the entire organization. Alan Brew talks with Rachel Trindade, Chief Marketing Officer of Extensiv, about the development and launch of a mold-breaking new brand and why it’s not just a marketing activity.
Welcome to Expert Opinion, the branding business forum, where leaders share their views, insights, and experiences from the world of B2B branding. And now, here’s your host.
Alan: Our guest today is Rachel Trindade, chief marketing officer of Extensiv. Extensiv is a technology company focused on the new and dynamic world of omnichannel fulfillment. It was launched in May this year, 2022, and it’s a combination of four existing businesses. Rachel, excited to have you with us on Expert Opinion.
Rachel Trindade: Thanks so much, Alan, really excited to be here with you.
Alan: So Rachel, that’s quite a challenge you had on your plate or have on your plate. It’s still happening combining four businesses into one. First of all, can you tell us something on the background of the company. Optimal recently, for example, you were CMO of 3PL Central. One of those four companies rolled up to create Extensiv. So what are they and how do they fit together?
Rachel Trindade: Sure. Thanks, Alan. This is a really interesting story. So we started out as 3PL Central and we work with the private equity firm, Mainsail. They actually reinvested in us in the April timeframe. And at that point, we were looking to see how we could continue to grow and expand in the market based on some of the dynamics that were happening in the market between changing consumer demands, mounting operational challenges for both brands and 3PLs, all of these barriers to adopting enterprise software and a number of disruptive market forces that were happening at the same time.
And so we built out this plan that would allow us to ultimately build this solution of connected software. We started looking for companies in this space, we were looking for organizations that would really compliment the solutions that we have today and allow us to expand the breadth of our product offering. So we started as 3PL Central, which does warehouse management systems for third party logistics, and very focused on that third party logistics provider. We understand that there’s a big part of the warehouse management market that is more focused on brands and in-house fulfillment and that there are other activities that brands need to do to support their logistics process.
Alan: So given the opportunity you’ve just described and the plan to build out a solution of connected software, tell us about the acquisitions, Rachel, which came first?
Rachel Trindade: The first acquisition that we made was a company called Skubana, which does order management and order routing technology, and really helps organizations support their inventory management needs. Skubana was the largest of the acquisitions that we did, and it was the first one. And really the reason why, or one of the reasons why we decided to acquire Skubana was because of the way things are changing in the market today requiring geographically distributed fulfillment operations for a lot of brands and also for 3PLs. So essentially, some of the great technology that they have, it allows organizations to bring in an order into their system and identify which warehouse has the inventory, which one’s closest to the consumer, which one’s going to be able to get it to the consumer the quickest at the lowest cost. And so that really could layer on top of what we already do from a warehouse management perspective.
When we looked at the second acquisition that we were making, especially because Skubana was on the brand side of things, thinking about in-house fulfillment versus third party logistics fulfillment. And so we acquired a company called Scout Software. They have a software solution that is called topShelf, and it is also a warehouse management system, but is more focused on private in-house fulfillment. So there was already a good overlap between Scout and Skubana customers. And so it was a really nice combined solution. And also, as we started to think about the growth journey of a lot of organizations, it started creating this very nice journey from a smaller brand. What technology do they adopt first, something like a topShelf, and then moving up to Skubana layering that on top of their warehouse management system and then layering on top of the work that they have to do with their 3PL partners integrating with 3PL warehouse manager.
The one piece that we were really missing after we put those three together was the integrations piece. And so we acquired an organization called CartRover. It was actually CIO technologies, but the brand that they went to market for all of the integration platforms was CartRover, and CartRover actually attaches all of these. It really connects all of the different platforms that we have to all of the different shopping carts and marketplaces out there. More than 150 different shopping carts in marketplaces that it integrates with as well as more than 50 order destinations. Different warehouse management system platforms also order management systems, and so this is really that connective tissue that connected glue that brings all of the systems together. When we looked at that, it built out a really nice solution. That’s going to help organizations all the way from their inception when they start selling products all the way to when they are a large mature brand.
Alan: Interesting. So four different pieces of the puzzle being brought together to provide this integrated solution in this sort of new world of omnichannel fulfillment, you mentioned those four businesses, specifically, Rachel, 3PL Central, Skubana, Scout, and CartRover. Are they still in operation? And how do you connect the dots to Extensiv between those four businesses and Extensiv itself?
Rachel Trindade: So, Alan, that’s a great question. And when we look at the businesses today, they are not separate and distinct businesses. They’re more like individual product lines for us, but those brand names still exist. And so what we’re in the process of doing right now is obviously working with branding business, we had built out a brand transition process. So starting May 23rd, we introduced Extensiv to the world. We’re now in what we call the endorsement phase, where those four brands that still exist. They now say 3PL Central an Extensiv Company, or Skubana an Extensiv Company. And so we’re taking really the next six months to make that transition so that customers and prospects really get familiar with the new name and so that we can make a seamless transition and then end of life, those names at a later date.
Alan: So Rachel, this was a very carefully thought through transition strategy. Tell us about the considerations in that strategy. Why not just changed all the names all at once to Extensiv?
Rachel Trindade: That’s a great question, Alan. And it’s actually one that we struggled a lot with internally, as we thought through it, there’s so much work that goes into a rebrand that especially internally, when we start communicating it to everyone, everyone starts embracing the new brand and they’re getting really excited, but we also have to remember that we’ve had more time to get used to this brand. And so when you just make the name change and don’t give customers or prospects the time to make those associations and those connections, you really risk losing a lot of the brand equity that you’ve had before. So when I think about some of the brands that we have. 3PL Central, Skubana, CartRover, all of them had a pretty good amount of brand equity that was already built up over the lifetime of those businesses. As we were thinking through the strategy, we had to consider, how do we start making the connection between the current brands and the new brand to give both customers and prospects a chance to really make that connection and understand that those brands were transitioning over?
We also needed to give ourselves time to say, what was Extensiv going to be in the future, because we need to show that there’s an evolution that it’s not just, we’re combining four brands and that’s it, but we needed to talk about what’s going to happen in the future. And what benefit does all of those customers get from actually becoming part of this one organization or working with this one organization. Extensiv. And that’s why we really wanted to do kind of a six to eight month transition period where we’re using the endorsement brands so that people could start one, getting familiar with Extensiv. Two, recognizing or translating some of the equity from the previous brand before. Three, to build up some of the content out there as well. And ultimately, four, is to drive overall recognition in the longer term, we didn’t want it to be a jarring situation for customers and prospects.
Alan: Got it. So you had four very well established brands in the own universe and to give the market and customers time and also employees time to get used to things and get used to the change and make it logically as it wraps up towards a bigger proposition is a very smart piece of thinking there, Rachel, if you don’t mind me saying so. So I’m wondering Rachel, you’re now two months into the whole transition. It must be enormously complicated. Change is always difficult, but here, you have five entities that you are managing in terms of marketing, not to mention the back integration of all these things. What are the learnings so far? What would you pass on?
Rachel Trindade: I’ll probably break this into two areas, the goods and the challenging parts. So when we think about the positive things that have come out of this. One, from a learning perspective, we learned that by making this a real cross-functional effort and also getting people excited and engaged early internally is incredibly helpful. We announced to the team probably about two and a half months beforehand, what the new brand name was going to be, what the brand pillars were going to be, what we were trying to do as an organization. And it created a tremendous amount of excitement and energy. It also really helped as we were starting to think about recruiting team members as well. So that was really great. And that meant that when we led up to the first announcement of the phase one of the brand transition, that we were pretty comfortable with the messaging as we were reaching out to prospects and customers.
The great news, what we heard from prospects and customers was pretty positive feedback. They understood what we were doing. They understood the approach that we were taking. The great thing, working with your team over at branding business, you guys did an amazing job of researching with customers, prospects, market, competitor, competitors, to really help inform some of the decisions that we were making on the strategy here. When we came to market with the new messages, prospects and customers understood it and they were bought into it. So that was really, really great. Now let’s talk a little bit more about the challenging part. Alan, as you mentioned, during this transition period, we have to support five different brands and we have to continue doing marketing for each of them, continue creating content for each of them. And frankly, it’s a lot to manage and it can be incredibly difficult. There’s a tendency to want to get ahead of ourselves and start marketing everything as Extensiv.
We actually decided, “Okay, well, we’re going to try this. We’re going to do a new white paper. We’re going to brand it completely Extensiv. We’re going to send out our emails from Extensiv and run some of our campaigns as Extensiv.” And we didn’t get great open rates because people didn’t fully recognize who we were. We didn’t get the same sort of engagement that we were under some of the existing brands, it made us kind of recalibrate. We had to continue making sure that we had, or that we have programs for each of the individual product lines and brands right now. And also starting to put out the thought leadership there though from an Extensiv standpoint, so that we can build a certain level of awareness and knowledge of the expertise that we bring. So it’s definitely at some highs and lows, but I have to say as a marketer, these are really interesting challenges. And there’s so much to learn along the way.
Alan: A challenge of a lifetime, I should imagine and your will as chief marketing officer, Rachel. You could write a book about it. These things are never easy. There’s no easy way of doing this. You are reinventing a business as it functions. And so caution and sensitivity on the one hand and the need to build awareness in the marketplace for the new proposition is a delicate balancing act. Your experience there is so invaluable. I do hope you share it with the rest of the world at some point in terms of how it was successful and how you might do things differently.
But moving on to the larger picture, we’ve dealt with the nuts and bolts of actually making brand transitions. And again, the delicacy of that can’t be overestimated. It’s such a difficult task to maintain the integrity of a brand relationship at the one hand, and then move people to a larger and different entity in the meantime, but turning to the bigger picture and the bigger opportunity for Extensiv, what’s happening out there in the world of third-party logistics and fulfillment, and what need is Extensiv meeting?
Rachel Trindade: When we think about Extensiv, there’s a huge opportunity in the market, not just for us as an organization, but really for a lot of businesses out there to continue to change and evolve the way that the market is evolving. So when we think about four major things that we’re seeing in the market right now, first, we’re seeing changing consumer demands. Consumers expect products fast and delivered almost for free. It’s kind of the Amazon effect. People want their online ordering experience to be virtually like that. So that’s putting a lot of pressure on brands. It’s putting a lot of pressure on 3PLS, you think about mounting operational challenges. There are so many challenges that are happening in businesses. Things like labor shortages, especially for warehouse workers adding in levels of complexities. So if you’re a brand and you want to connect to five different marketplaces and managing that process and also managing the operational complexity of being able to fulfill for all of the orders that are coming in, it can be really, really challenging for those organizations to think about their fulfillment strategy.
When you think about all of these new disruptive market forces that are happening out there. So you think about, I’ll use food delivery as an example, you think about a Door Dash. People want to be able to order something they want to be able to get it almost in same day. You have a lot of disruption that’s happening, especially in the last mile part of delivery. And so brands are having to figure out how do you deal with that? Then finally, when you look at things like enterprise software, it’s getting harder and harder to purchase and implement enterprise software for organizations. You have so many different brands who think that they need to move to an ERP once they hit a certain revenue size, but then once they implement it, they feel the extreme pain. They feel the lack of flexibility that they get in those sort of situations.
So all of these things have combined to create a really interesting opportunity for Extensiv in the market. And so when we think about what we want to do as Extensiv, we’re really here to create the future of omnichannel fulfillment. And part of the way that we are doing that is through the technology that we are offering and how it can empower both brands and 3PLs. The opportunity that we’re working with customers and prospects is thinking about their overall fulfillment strategies, the distributed geographic fulfillment that they need, and driving the level of efficiency that they need with easy to implement and easy to use software. Extensiv really brings something very unique into the market. And we’re actually developing a number of new products that have never been seen before in our industry. We just released one, the fulfillment marketplace. It helps brands easily and quickly identify 3PLs so that they can expand their geographic fulfillment footprint. And so we’re really trying to make it easier for both brands and 3PLs to grow throughout their life cycle.
Alan: Got it. An amazing new opportunity that’s emerging for organizations as nimble enough as Extensiv to take advantage of and meeting this new need that customers have. They’re educated to expect things now, today, and that is quite a change from how things used to be even two years ago. So a remarkable opportunity then, you are bravely stepping into. To take advantage of that opportunity, Rachel, the executive team yourself and your owners main sale partners decided that a new brand wasn’t necessary. Clearly, this is a new approach to the market, but I’m curious, why not take the name of one of the existing businesses? I think I know the answer, but I’d like to hear your answer to that.
Rachel Trindade: Absolutely. So when you look at the sizes, the business, 3PL Central was the largest in terms of revenue than Skubana. We naturally gravitated towards, “Oh, well, 3PL Central. It’s the largest.” But then at the same time, we looked at our target markets and we said, “Well, 3PL Central makes sense when you’re selling to 3PLs and when you’re working with third party logistics providers,” but if you’re a brand, you may or may not know what a 3PL is. So the name didn’t necessarily make sense. When we looked at Scout and CartRover, we also had some of the same reaction. So Scout, topShelf didn’t necessarily make sense to some of the prospects and customers. And CartRover while it absolutely made sense. It really talked about a small portion of the overall product that we can offer.
Now Skubana was one of the names that we kept on the table for the longest, because it did have application to all of the prospects and customers, but then we really thought about what we want to do long term and the growth that we want to help organizations experience. We wanted to create a name that was maybe a bit more aspirational and one that demonstrated the breadth, the opportunity, the growth. So we made the decision that we wanted to evaluate the brands. We worked with your team at branding business there to do the market research, understand the perceptions of the different brands, and then make the determination, whether we were going to change the name itself or not. And we did decide to move forward with identifying a new name that really encompassed who we want to be as Extensiv.
Alan: So a new brand for a new opportunity that embraces all the businesses, all the people and all the products into one new completely integrated proposition, eventually logical, thank you. Rachel, the Extensiv brand was launched in May. What kind of reaction have you been getting from the marketplace in general and customers in particular?
Rachel Trindade: So far, we’ve had pretty positive responses to Extensiv. When we have the opportunity to talk to customers about it, they understand what we’re trying to do. They understand how the product lines fit together and how they really add together to be one plus one equals three, instead of just layering these products on top of each other. I think that overall, really positive reception. What I will say is I may have underestimated the number of times we have to tell people though, that we’re making the change. So the ones that we’ve had the opportunity to speak to about it absolutely understand it. They embrace it, they see where we’re going, but you have to continue to repeat the message about the brand for people to completely absorb it and to understand the change that’s being made. We still have a bit of work to do there.
Alan: Looking ahead, what are your plans to market the Extensiv brand? What particular initiatives do you have in mind?
Rachel Trindade: So for marketing, the Extensiv brand, frankly, it’s already started and part of it, it starts with the website and making sure that we have a great online presence. It starts with making sure that we have the right content, both from a thought leadership standpoint and information that will help bring people through the entire funnel and understand who we are as a business and how we can actually help their business as well. So I think it starts with the online presence, starting with the website. We’ve also of course, built out all of the social media properties that go along with it. And we’re starting to create the voice that goes along with Extensiv as well. Then from there, we think about all of the integrated marketing activities that we have to do to really get the word out about it. And so that’s everything from your email to your paid programs to the internal activities that we work with our customer success team to share the word with our customers as well.
So there’s a lot that can be done. A lot of it is your typical marketing strategy anytime that you’re cunning a brand, but there’re specific areas where we’ve added more investment, things like PR so that we can share information, especially information like our market insights, as it relates to eCommerce order volumes. We want to make sure that one of the things that we become associated with is sharing really great value added information. We have more than 140 million orders that go through our platform every single year. As a result, we can aggregate and provide some really incredible insights to both brands and 3PLs about what’s happening in the market and the market fluctuations. So we’ve invested more in sharing that information, aggregating some of that information so we can create value added processes. And then of course the PR that goes along with it. So making sure that people actually know that this data exists and that we’re the source of this data.
Alan: Excellent. Thank you, Rachel. What about employees? How have they taken to the new life under an Extensiv banner?
Rachel Trindade: Oh, the team is super excited. I actually think that this is exactly what we needed as a team to bring together the cultures of the different organizations and to really feel like we are one company. Frankly, I was surprised when we rolled this out, just how amazing the reception was and how excited people were. I think it really re-energized the team and re-energized people thinking about what we were going to do in the future. Thinking about overlaying the brand strategy, also with some of the product strategy that we have happening, also along with the integration strategy that we have across the different product lines. It really re-energized the team. I know that everyone’s really excited to do recruiting under the Extensiv name. It’s a really interesting and attractive brand. And I think it demonstrates a lot of potential. So people are pretty excited about it.
Alan: That’s really nice to hear, Rachel, thank you. Final question, you’re in the thick of it. Changing it, rebranding, any company, bringing four brands into one new offering and maintaining business as usual, and growing the business and then evangelizing this new reality is the monster job of all marketing jobs. What one piece of advice would you give to anyone in your position who might be involved in a similar corporate rebranding program?
Rachel Trindade: Branding is not a marketing activity. Branding is an entire cross-functional and company activity and make sure that everyone is bought in across the organization. It’s one thing for the marketing department to have to go through all of the changes that we need to go through to create all the new materials, to create all the new messaging and positioning, to run new campaigns. But this is something that impacts every single person in the organization. So getting the full cross-functional buy-in and bringing people along throughout the entire process is incredibly important. And there’re components of that.
Making sure that you have an incredible project manager that’s helping lead this is super important, especially when it comes to making sure that all parts of the organization understand what their responsibility is and what their role is in the brand transition. And also making sure that early on, helping to get the right people in the room to have the conversations to make the tough decisions about what the brand needs to be. So from that perspective, the one big piece of advice is understand the cross functional impact, plan for it, and make sure that brand is treated as a cross functional initiative and not just a marketing initiative.
Alan: Wow. That’s such an insightful piece of advice, Rachel, I’m sure people will get a lot of value out of that. That’s all we have time for. Thank you, Rachel, for joining us today, we have been talking with Rachel Trindade, CMO of Extensiv, the omnichannel fulfillment leader.