Rebranding Sonovate for growth.
To undertake this project required experts. We engaged with Brand Union, because of their people and track record. This is an abridged version of a story played out over 235 days.
Who we are
Sonovate provides finance and back office support to recruitment agencies who make contract placements. Launched in 2012, we positioned Sonovate as a disruptive startup to challenge the status quo. Our short journey has seen us transform the industry, overtaking the banks to become the number one finance provider to recruitment startups.
“The opposite to the banks, we give recruitment agencies simple, stress free finance and support.”
***A quick word on contract placements***
1.2 million contractors go to work every day in the UK, providing their services to a range of businesses and organisations. Many use specialist recruitment agencies to source and negotiate placements on their behalf. For a recruitment business to successfully operate in the contract space, they need to overcome two problems; time and money.
Whereas permanent recruitment is a one time event with a single round of paperwork, contract recruitment is cyclical. This takes up a lot of time. Everything from administering contracts and chasing timsheets, to making payments and invoicing distracts a business owner.
Current industry solutions are not tech oriented.
Contractors are typically paid on a weekly basis by the agency. Unfortunately, the recruitment industry has some of the worst debtor days*, meaning the agency will have to pay the contractor up to eight times before receiving payment from the end client, causing cash flow issues.
Factoring is the most commonly used product to solve cash flow problems, however, no product is 100% tuned for a recruitment agency making a contract placement.
*56 days according to commercial law firm EMW.
Sonovate helps the 30,000+ recruitment agencies in the UK access better funding and support. Competing in the invoice factoring space, we make recruitment agencies more competitive. Our finance creates immediate opportunity and the support provides headspace for business owners to plot their growth.
Why we decided to rebrand
The working world is changing very quickly.
More independent workers than ever. Smartphones changing how people get things done. A growing ‘gig economy’ which lets people of all situations and backgrounds find work to fit their lifestyle.
We started to question this changing landscape. All of this needs support, and this is the world we and other freelance-dedicated platforms play in.
This is the context we set up in, but have never quite defined.
Our present brand model enables us to maximise opportunities at the edge of our success, but not new audiences.
To appeal to new audiences and communicate our offering with clarity, Sonovate would need to be repositioned.
Shift of audience – We are moving past recruitment to capture a wider audience.
One clear story – One, clean simple story to describe who we are and what we do.
Ready to scale – We have huge ambitions for where the business can grow, but we can only achieve this if we know what makes Sonovate great and what are the key parts that will scale.
***Brand Union’s objectives***
- Reposition Sonovate to reflect expanded product offer and new target markets
- Create a unique visual identity and experience guidelines to make it stand out in the sector
How we got here..
Most rebrands follow a standard industry methodology. Ours is not too different. The phases are:
- Research & analysis
- Positioning, architecture, messaging
- Visual identity
- Launch & maintain
Phase one: research & analysis
Brand Union created four questions that would be central to the shift to our next phase of growth
How do we go from…
- An all-in-one package for a start-up recruitment firm to a fast-expanding, segmented offer.
- Functional B2B positioning to an emotive, unifying purpose.
- An Informal ‘Sonovate’ culture to one common culture, grounded in vision and values.
- Small and disruptive to a global challenger brand and community.
Getting to the root of Sonovate…
After eleven interviews, one workshop and a lot of desk research, Brand Union provided some key observations.
- Clients love the service
- Internal culture strong but lacks alignment
- Tech platform is loved for its simplicity
- Some major hurdles to scaling:
– Internal infrastructure & alignment, communication
– Focus of product: what is it & how do we pitch it?
- Playfulness not represented on the outside
Distilling the findings into three core components to build on:
- Great service
- We know our stuff (in recruitment)
- We’re small, sharp, fast and fun to work with (unlike the banks or others)
Phase two: positioning, architecture, messaging
Brand positioning is how we want to appear the mind of our target audience and the relative positioning of a brand to other brands.
For e.g. Positioned as the ‘plucky upstart’ to British Airways, Virgin Atlantic created a first-class service focused on providing passengers with fun, class, and comfort.
It’s crucial to get the positioning right, as we’re excluding certain audiences and standing for one thing.
It is our ‘stake in the ground’.
To build the “why should I care?” story to help us stand out, Brand Union used the four c’s.
- Context – makes it relevant
- Customers – makes it compelling
- Competitors – makes it differentiated
- Company – makes it credible
- Takes what we do best
- Captures it in a compelling, emotive way
- Clearly directs the customer experience
- Is scalable
Research on Sonovate:
- ‘Idiot-proof’ tech
- Fast, friendly service
- Expert knowledge (recruitment)
- Quirky internal culture (supportive, welcoming and fun)
- Simple, on demand experience (takes money / back-office worries off my hands)
Brand Union proposed that we had the opportunity to add a spark to people’s lives whilst doing the basics brilliantly.
Creating an ‘endgame’, we would position ourselves to be at the heart of a community and be relevant to multiple audiences.
However, within all this, we’ve got to be very sensitive to our role within this much wider ecosystem.
We help people get paid.
That seems a very simple way of seeing it, but you can also see it’s very difficult to achieve well in the background.
With so many diverse kinds of people, we need to be smart and fast to keep it simple for people.
And speaking to current customers that is one of the biggest things they love about us:
- They love our service
- They love that the platform is so simple to use.
- They love that at any time of day they can pick up the phone to us – and get advice and specialist help, for free, that they simply couldn’t get anywhere else.
That sort of specialism, and dedication to personal service, is a key part of who we are.
- We make things simple for agencies.
- We help their own clients get paid.
- And we’re there on hand if people need us – to make sure everything flows smoothly.
So Brand Union came up with a very simple story, to describe and focus who we are…
Simpler pay for the new working world
Simpler pay: we’re going to fit into people’s lives by helping them get paid quickly. That’s using everything from our finance process to our tech platform to our service.
For the new working world: we’re going to put ourselves out there as the best platform for the way the market is shifting today. Towards flexible, global, technology-driven careers that help businesses thrive and individuals achieve a satisfying work-life balance.
This is our core promise.
Achieving our endgame…
Achieving our ‘endgame’ would be gradual as our infrastructure is still developing.
Heartland now = recruitment startups, consultancies, gig economy platforms
Heartland end = recruitment startups, consultancies, gig economy platforms, contractors, end client, marketplace
we’re going to help different kinds of people, in different working situations, to get paid – all across the world
we’re making work pay simpler for everyone. We believe flexible working is the future of the industry
we’ve tried to capture the spirit of what we feel is Sonovate – beautifully smart, disruptive and fast-moving on one-side, but down-to-earth, charming and fun on the other
Does what it says on the tin. We’re going to make clear to customers that we’re the ones to choose if you just want to get something done – and go with the smartest, fastest guys in the room to do it.
Phase three: visual identity
With a defined vision, our identity needed refreshing to better reflect our offering. Brand Union distilled all the core elements of what our brand stands for; simplicity, speed, fun to work with, sharp and playful into a new identity.
Our logo is a metaphor for speed and support, reinforcing Sonovate as an enabler of simple, efficient payments for a new working world.
Our colour palette feel vibrant and fresh whilst also using colours that could clearly easily trace back to our heritage.
The most important aspect of Sonovate is to be able access finance and manage your business quickly. Brand Union developed the interactions on the website and in our platform to reflect this speed.
We introduced flat graphic illustrations to help explain parts of the app, and add a sense of playfulness and simplicity into our offering.
Phase Four: launch and maintain
We set out on this journey to bring clarity to our offering and build a platform for growth. We feel confident that our new identity reflects who we are and gives us a foundation to bring Sonovate’s blend of simple, fast finance and support to a host of businesses and individuals.
When measuring the success of a rebrand, we want to move past the qualitative. Some people will like our visual identity, some won’t. The critical measurements are:
- Do we support more businesses?
- Do we make it easier to get paid?
- Do we live ‘simplicity’ – I.e. do we strive to ensure that every action we take makes lives easier for our customers.
We look forward to living the brand.