Our Big Year: New Products, New Brand, New Perspective

I recently watched “The Big Year,” a 2011 film depicting crazed bird watchers (I didn’t know that was even a thing). Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black embark on an informal race across the globe to see who can set the world’s record for sighting the most obscure birds in one year. Watching the movie reminded me of how 2020 has been Cerkl’s “Big Year” in many ways.

Cerkl’s Big Race

As we close out this fourth quarter, I realize how intense 2020 has been. Our team felt like a pit crew at the Daytona 500. We inhaled the proverbial exhaust fumes as we performed technician magic returning to the raceway over and over. We demonstrated the collective will to get sh@$ done and we learned some valuable lessons along the way. 

Wow, has 2020 delivered (insert expletive here) a ton of changes. As billionaire British mogul, Sir Richard Branson, says, “Every success story is a tale of constant adaptation, revision, and change.”

Like many businesses, this year has been a metaphorical marathon or several grueling sprints. We’ve been extremely fortunate to have flourished through this pandemic and recognize that other companies, small and large, and the greater economy have endured record struggles during these tough times. If you want a lesson on survival, check out my earlier post on how companies are rethinking their relationship with employees.

Adapt or Die

We know that our industry has been part of the fortunate few to have thrived during this pandemic. We realize how lucky we are to be a part of the communications software industry. Our Cerkl team is also grateful to fulfill a niche as companies now must engage a remote workforce. COVID-19 shined a light on the need to find new solutions for internal communication.

Despite being in the IT space, we did have our share of challenges this year. Competing business priorities stretched our team like never before. Cerkl staff moved to 100% remote work in March. During this transition, we had a historic amount of product features work to roll out within a compressed timeline. Amidst all of this, we also launched one of our largest clients to date. And introduced two more intelligent communications channels — a new intranet personalization solution and an employee mobile app

Also, Cerkl’s leadership team knew that we had to rebrand ourselves to reflect our mission and vision better. Our cheerful aquamarine logo wasn’t conveying our innovative mindset. A new product suite— Cerkl Broadcast which launched in July— needed to be central to our brand redux.

Cerkl’s brand needed to exemplify how we transform the way companies communicate with their employees. We believe companies should treat their employees as well as they treat their customers. We want communicators to easily connect previously disparate systems into one organized, multi-channel content distribution solution.

Our goal is to automate some of the work communicators do to be more strategic and accomplish more. And, in turn, better understand what channels and messages their audience enjoys.

The Best Idea Wins

I have an open-door policy that builds trust for employees to bring forth the best ideas. This year, we moved on to ideas for how to work smarter and not harder. Part of that ideation was central to our branding. Setting out to rebrand in tandem with a new product offering and new client launch was no easy feat. Rachel Folz, Director of Product, and our Lead Designer, Sam Huber, focused on a brand that reflected our blueprint: Cerkl’s mission, vision, and values.

One of our big takeaways: Imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery.

When you’re on a sprint, and you think you’ve developed your best idea and implement it, occasionally, Murphy’s Law rains on your celebration. Our Product and Design team learned this lesson. We were only a few days from launching our new brand along with designs for marketing collateral and a redesigned website. By chance, the team discovered a competitor had debuted a new brand just days earlier that looked extremely similar to our brand.

Our team had to return to the drawing board. It was a huge blow. But they quickly pivoted and made the competent decision to stay positive to develop a stronger, more distinctive brand that conveyed our mission to make work easier, enabling our customers to enhance the employee experience.

Remarkably, within a few short weeks, Rachel and Sam had a new Cerkl Broadcast logo. The new design was more original than the previous version. In tandem with the redesign, they presented an updated color palette, supporting design elements, and complete branding guidelines. I’ve been humbled by our team’s work to repeatedly solve challenges for our customers. They have also worked hard to amplify our company’s visibility within the enterprise communications landscape.

Checking Our Egos: Leading with Empathy

While I encourage our team to bring forth big ideas, I believe we need to check our egos at the door.

Teams who operate with emotional intelligence don’t just rest on their past successes. They live in the present, working incredibly hard and at a record pace to develop new solutions, enhance current ones, and develop new, creative approaches to draw new customers and prospects.

Our focus always has to be on our customers. We believe in an open, transparent approach to identify, understand, and feel our customer’s professional and personal needs. 

Even with all that has been accomplished within our Development, Customer Success, Product and Design, and Marketing teams so far this year and taking stock of our setbacks, our customers are always central to all that we do.

This Big Year has brought so many challenges to our customers. Whether they have been external or internal communicators, their experiences gave us new perspectives and possible solutions to support their success. The pandemic has shifted their work and made communication, especially across large multi-divisional enterprises, challenging and time-consuming. 

While I don’t want Cerkl employees to ignore our collective successes altogether; I want them to make sure our company’s mission is always at the core of our work. Big ideas, big work, and big empathy for our customers have undoubtedly shaped this “Big Year.”

Nerd, entrepreneur, A.I. evangelist, and speaker. Passionate about human-centric communication.