Sage re-branding: a risky endeavor

Yesterday at Sage Summit, Sage North America announced a major rebranding exercise. Product names will be dropped in favor of Sage and then a number.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

Yesterday at Sage Summit, Sage North America announced a major rebranding exercise. Product names will be dropped in favor of Sage and then a number. The rationale is that the Sage brand is more recognizable in the market than the individual product names. We've seen this kind of thing before in Europe. At the time I didn't get it and still don't get it. I have fond memories of products like Sage Sovereign (now Sage 100 I think) and Financial Controller (now Sage 50) and those brands go back 20 years.

Trying to re-educate people who know Peachtree, Timberline, SalesLogix and ACT! that these are now something else is going to be one heck of an exercise. Even so, some seem to think it's a great idea. Peter Wolf for example says:

In fact, in many ways, shifting the focus to the Sage brand instead of individual products allows the customers, the channel and Sage to develop a clean, consistent image of the brand that allow more of a family feeling to spread for the suite of products – as opposed to loyalty to any specific products. This is a huge advantage for all involved.

Think about Apple for a moment. Apple puts out an iPad and you expect a certain amount of quality and pizzazz from the product before you even speak to a sales person or read a brochure or pick up the device. It helps me as a customer identify what  I should expect and it helps Apple engineers understand that same message.

I get that but for three problems:

1. As Paul Greenberg Tweeted:

#sagesummit @DenisPombriant agree u have relatively weak corp. brand - not sure tho, that if u deemphasize old brand, get new strong brand

2. Rebranding is fine but it doesn't make up for the fact many of the solutions Sage is talking about are old and I mean REALLY old. If the company devoted the same amount of effort (time and money) into developing new, competitive solutions, then I'm betting brand issues would fall away. But that's not the Sage way. It's trying to brand market its way to growth. In an age of improved access to information, I'm not convinced that's going to work.

3. Channel partners will likely bear the brunt of the branding change. They're already under pressure from newer vendors coming onto the scene. Despite Peter Wolf's positive view, they are not going to be happy about taking on fresh costs. According to the VAR Guy:

The most powerful one [question], which received a round of applause, was from a partner who complained that changing the brand in the past had caused a lot of problems for resellers.

Whether rebranding will work for the company remains to be seen. In the meantime, Sage is taking a huge risk at the same time it is under pressure. It opens the door for competitors to come in and offer alternatives, pointing out Sage's weaknesses and making the most of what some might regard as a cynical exercise designed to shore up the foundations of the past rather than looking to the future.

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