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Mitel Launches New Look and Promise

Today, Mitel is launching a global rebranding, the first time since the company was founded 41 years ago.

Mitel is a very different company today. In terms of acquisitions, over the past 18 months, the company acquired multiple companies and brands including two long-term contact center partners, prairieFyre and Oaisys. When Mitel closed on its acquisition of Aastra earlier this year, it nearly doubled in size, expanded globally, and picked up several brands including Telepo and DeTeWe--Aastra had previously acquired multiple brands including the enterprise division of Ericsson.

The company has also been undergoing transitions from PBX hardware to software-based and cloud-delivered UC solutions. The company's growth and expanded international reach was recently recognized by several analyst firms including Gartner and Wainhouse Research.

Through all the change, the original logo remained. Evidently, Mitel figured it was time to change that too, along with the broader brand image as a whole. To do so, it retained outside assistance in design and launch, and also benchmarked its current brand strength. The company determined the results to be unacceptably low.

To be fair, having a 41-year-old brand doesn't necessarily help when the products and buyers change. Mitel was a voice equipment manufacturer selling to Telecom Managers, and is now a supplier of software and services targeted to CIOs and providers--many of which have with no enterprise PBX experience.

The new brand includes a redesigned two-color logo, new tagline, and new look-and-feel to the website and collateral. A lot has changed in 41 years. The logo today is more likely to be seen in digital media than imprinted on an appliance. The majority of Mitel's ad spend will be on digital placements.

Rebranding is not particularly rare, but is less common when the original brand creator chairs the board. My assumption was that Sir Terry Mathews, co-founder of Mitel, would resist the change. I recall him proudly presenting the history of the logo at an event just a few years ago. However, Mitel CMO Martyn Etherington explained that Mathews was actually very supportive of the rebranding.

"Mitel has a great name and reputation, and there is nothing we are running from," Etherington said. "The timing is right, and our customers want a brand that more appropriately reflects our business and our markets today. By "timing," he is referring to brand consolidation. Mitel's priorities after the acquisitions were product and organizational alignment. The company now intends to consolidate some 40 websites and update over 500 pieces of company literature.

Etherington equates a brand to a promise. "We are the business communications experts that power the success of every customer, every communication, every time."

The new logo will appear on full-page advertisements in major media outlets around the world including the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Handelsblatt, and The Globe and Mail. Also today, Mitel signage is being replaced on major offices, with all 80 locations to be updated by the end of the year. The lists of changes underway includes email addresses, graphics on company trucks, demo room signage, and new graphics and marketing content for partners.

Mitel intends to be very direct with its new messaging. The company will include images of its products and describe its business as solutions for "business communications." Etherington wants to be specific, and avoid generic photos and ambiguous claims. Similarly, the new tagline "Powering Connections" is intended to directly describe the result of Mitel's technology.

Not included in the rebranding scope are changes to the company name or products. Mitel's major product families will remain MiVoice, MiCloud, and MiCollab. Some acquired products are retaining names under the appropriate branch, such as the MiVoice MX-One platform--and some names will disappear. The only exception is that the DeTeWe brand in Germany will stay with the new subheading "A Mitel Company."

Mitel's new website went live this morning, and older sites and brands are forwarding to it. Mitel is also hosting celebration events in all of its major offices including a bash in the Senator's stadium in Ottawa, near Mitel's global headquarters .

The budget of the rebranding effort was not disclosed, but it is clearly pretty large. The launch consists of three separate stages running into 2015, each with specific objectives and measurable goals. Among the objectives are resetting customer expectations, increased brand awareness, and provocative attention-grabbing claims backed with proof points. Mitel also intends to heavily leverage social media during the campaign.

Mitel claims the rebranding process was a highly collaborative team effort, involving Mitel employees, customers, and partners. Etherington stated the voice of the customer shaped decisions such as logo font, colors, and website design.

It is difficult to avoid comparisons with Unify, which undertook a major rebranding effort just last year. Unify performed many of the same activities (such as building signage, business cards, and website). However,, Unify also changed its company name. Etherington said he watched Unify closely and learned a lot, though he feels the motivations for each company's rebranding effort are very different. Presumably, Unify had to change its name due to losing rights to the Siemens brand--now a minority shareholder. Etherington stated Mitel is rebranding as a result of growth and momentum.

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