CodeWeavers is going through a re-branding process right now. I should clarify. Our Director of Marketing, Ms. Jana Schmid, is going through a re-branding of our company – I’m just riding ‘shotgun’ to her efforts. Actually I’m not even riding ‘shotgun’, I’m just being a pointy-haired executive adding my tidbits into the conversations as that’s what pointy-haired executives tend to do. And while my MBA is in Marketing with emphasis on brand strategy, I was mentally prepared to defer these conversations to the *experts* who LIVE this experience 24/7.
But sitting back got me thinking and made me realize that I LIVE this brand. If much of re-branding is about defining who you are as a company, then I am this brand. Jana is this brand. Our CEO, our developers, our customer service people, our support people, and everyone that puts their sweat equity into CodeWeavers is this brand. Maybe, I’m just a workaholic; but, I define myself (at least part of my existence) based on what I do for my career. If CodeWeavers wasn’t challenging; if it didn’t bring joy to the world; if it wasn’t a company of really smart people solving really hard problems; if it didn’t evoke my passion for technology; or if it wasn’t fun; I would never have stayed for coming up on 13 years. I would NEVER HAVE CARED enough to LIVE THIS BRAND. But, I am here and this is what I do and this (to some extent) is what I am. So, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE????
Really good branding really evokes four key elements. It’s message. It’s communication. It’s engagement. It’s consistency. As simple as the key elements are to the process, branding (especially re-branding) is a challenge. Defining who you are by what you wish to achieve; how you interact with others; how you build relationships; and how you repeat or scale yourself is a series of difficult and ever changing questions. The person you were 20 years ago is likely not the person you are today. The core values may be the same (honesty, integrity, truth, justice), but who you are may be significantly different. Life and / or experiences may have changed you or changed how you interact with the world. Trying to live your life by how you defined yourself as a younger person might be impossible (at least it is for me). Experience may have taught you valuable lessons on how best to interact with others or how to be TRUE to yourself. So you EVOLVE into what you have become and face in the mirror every morning. And that is no less true of a person that it is of a company. For a company like CodeWeavers, there isn't one voice that speaks for itself ; it’s a multitude of voices and interactions and lessons and history and values and evolution that no one person (not even our Founder and CEO) owns outright. We’re all owners in the CodeWeavers’ brand. So, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE????
CodeWeavers is many different things. We’re a software company. We’re a technology company. We’re a bunch of smart people solving really hard problems. We’re a service orientated company. We’re free sparkling water and coffee and occasional meals, drinks, movies and yachts. We’re a Linux company. We’re a macOS company. We’re consultants. We’re a family. We’re heroes to the Open Source community. We’re a rag-tag group of misfits battling against a proprietary ideology. When looking at all of this and more, our messaging is muddled. If who you are defines your message and your message shapes your brand, YOU FIRST HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WHO YOU ARE. What do you stand for? Why do you exist? What is your purpose? These are the very difficult questions to ask, but they are the core of your brand. Even with nearly 13 years of experience at CodeWeavers, I don’t know if I can answer these questions. It’s a bit scary to sit in a room with 10 other people and not really know who you are. Yet, this is what I signed Jana up for - an almost impossible task with an equally improbable outcome. “Hey, good luck on that,” stated the pointy-haired executive.
If you have ever looked at the CodeWeavers’ logo, you’ll notice that it’s a set of blue and orange boomerangs or swooshes wrapped in a
circle. The reason is….. Actually, I have no idea why our logo is a set of boomerangs. It’s a question I get a lot from customers. And yet, I don’t know. I’m not sure if anyone at CodeWeavers REALLY knows why this was picked or what this means. I don’t even know what a boomerang communicates in regards to software? So if I don’t know or understand our logo, me trying to communicate that and what it represents to others in language they understand is almost beyond me. How do you communicate? What do you say? What words to you craft? What pictures, colors, and fonts describe you (personally, COMIC SANS totally describes me – but I’m all about getting laughs*)? The communication of a brand is one part messaging; one part vehicle of communication; and many parts in between. What you say and how you say it and where you say it all matters. Being intentional with your communication in using the right words in the right context with the right images that is consistent with who you are requires high levels of commitment and authenticity. Even more so when that voice is that of a company comprised of tens and tens and tens of individual voices and experiences. These are concerns that an MBA doesn’t address or help figure out.
At CodeWeavers, we intentionally let our ‘goofy’ show. We’re a fun company, and we’re authentic in representing that in our brand. We want to work with people that appreciate the quirky aspects of who we are and what we do. We engage these people naturally (and it's natural because goofy / quirky is just an extension of who we are) which conveys honesty and genuine appreciation. But, how do you scale THAT to a larger audience? And how do you engage a larger market to want to learn enough about your company to realize that CodeWeavers can help resolve their pressing problems. Do gamers care if you’re honest? Do executives want to work with quirky companies? Does quirky even translate to China, Japan, India, and places in between? We’ve always made the assumption that ‘people get us’ and those that don’t never will. But is that fair? If we can’t reach our audience at their level is that on them or on us? So, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE????
Fortunately at CodeWeavers, we OWN consistency. NOTHING ever changes. We have as many (if not more) people who have been with the company for 8 years or more as we do people who are starting their careers with us. Our logo was born in the 1990’s (our current logo is circa 2006); our marketing the 2000’s; our product mix – roughly the same since the beginning; and the mission hasn’t changed. But somewhere along the way, we got old, stale, uninnovative (yes, I made that word up), and yesterday’s news. No one wants to talk about our company because the story is the same as it was in 2004. Consistency cannot mean same thing different day. It can’t be another step in the same endless march forward. It has to be a point of unification that provides a focal point. It has to be a battle cry that resonates throughout CodeWeavers and with our customers and out into the industry. We need help with this, and it’s hard to assess yourself. It’s hard to be vulnerable and brutally honest with yourself and acknowledge that your perception of your company matters little IF no one else shares that same perception.
So as CodeWeavers goes through this re-branding process, LOOK for improvements. Is our communication getting better? Is the messaging consistent on-point and consistent? Is there unification in our marketing and services? Are we more engaging? Do you want to learn more about our company and what we do and why? In the end, that’s how we’ll know that we’re successful.** That all of Jana’s blood, sweat, and tears were worth the improvements to our brand going forward. ‘Of course, it was worth the sacrifice of their tears,’ stated the pointy-haired manager.
*As Jana Schmid proof reads the second draft of this blog post she shudders in despair at this comment made by the president. Make four pear martinis Phil (from Jimmy's)! Or four pairs of martinis?...
**No pressure Jana, no pressure.
About James B. Ramey
James B. Ramey is the CEO of CodeWeavers. His life long love of video gaming started at the tender age of six with an Atari 2600 and evolved over time to include Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Apple Mac IIc, Windows PC, and MacBook Pro. When not fiddling with technology, James enjoys cooking, travel, debating politics in the office, and spending time with his wife, daughter, and their two rescue dogs. For the past 20 years, James has worked with clients around the world in best implementing technology to maximize a return on their investment. He is a graduate of Moorhead State University and earned his MBA from the University of Phoenix. You can find James on Twitter at @jbramey.