The Importance of Branding

Business Intelligence is much bigger than the application itself.  Driving user adoption is critical to it’s success, and the best way that I’ve found to do that is to create a Brand for your system.  Creating an identity and personality is important for increasing user confidence, building an image, and gaining mindshare with your users.  Don’t forget that you’re always competing against the manual analyst who will want to simply extract data down to Excel and do their own work.  While there is a place for this type of self service in complement to your BI environment, you’ll want to achieve true “Single Version of the Truth” by differentiating reports that were hand made versus ones that were generated from the tried and true trusted warehouse.  Today, I’ll share some tips, ideas and experiences on how you can build your BI implementation into a recognizable Brand inside your company.

What’s in a Name?
The very first thing you want to do is name your installation.  “BI” and “MicroStrategy” are generic names and you can do better.

Some naming ideas:

  • Make it a themed acronym for a more descriptive technical name.  For example, say that you work for a Baseball franchise.  Maybe you’d want to call your implementation SWING (System Wide INtelligence Gains).  Don’t be afraid to be pretty liberal with the words you pick.  Ask your marketing department for help if you’re like me and not very creative ;).
  • Name it after a person.  Just google some terms that describe your implementation and find some historical contributors to that field. For example, Beane may be a fun name for a system, after Billy Beane, the inspiration behind the book/movie Moneyball about leveraging analytics to win.  It has the added bonus of being similar to the word “Bean“, such as “Bean Counters“, often affiliated with those of us who are deep into data, analytics and finances.  Have fun with it!
  • Pick whatever you want.  Whatever sounds good, whatever fits the theme for your company, and whatever sets you apart.
Branded Email
MicroStrategy allows you to customize the display name of the sender from Distribution Services and Narrowcast.

In Distribution Services, expand the Administration section in Desktop and go to Delivery Managers, Transmitters and edit the Email transmitter.

From here you can customize the Display name that the user will see the email coming from as well as the Reply-To.

The Display Name should be your branded name.  This lets users know where this email is coming from and it carries that air of quality that we’re trying so hard to create.  Also, give them somewhere to reply to. Sometimes, users simply reply without knowing who or where the email came from.  It also gives them a quick way to contact you with a question about a subscription.  In a small shop, I just put my own email address in both of those locations so that replies come right back to me.  In a larger shop, you hopefully have a dedicated support email box that it can go to.  Don’t assume that subscriptions are sent off into the void.  Sometimes, it’s a good opportunity for contact with your users!

Make a Unique Logo
After you’ve got your name, pick a logo that is themed with your company.  If you’re friendly with the marketing department, they should be able to help you out with this too.  Look at other applications or departments in your organization and see what they do.  Some companies will take their base logo and simply add some basic text underneath it, so see if you can simply do that.  It’s better than just a plain generic logo or no logo.

Once you’ve achieved a unique name and logo, this becomes your “stamp of approval”.  Plaster it on emails, use the name in the footer of subscriptions and exports, and before long it will become very clear when data came from BI and when it came from an analyst’s spreadsheet.  One of the most valuable things we bring to the table is the data integrity process that comes with ETL and Warehousing, so turn all of that into your brand of quality.

Customize the Landing Page
I’ve talked about this one previously, but it’s been so wildly successful in my environment, it’s really hard to imagine going without it.  In fact, I accidentally switched back to the default start page and I had an immediate backlash that the system was suddenly unusable.  It’s super easy to implement, gives you direct control over a theme and layout, and is very simple to support.

They say out of sight is out of mind, so make sure that your platform is is in the news.  If your install base is large enough, consider writing a quick newsletter of appropriate frequency (monthly, quarterly, etc) that just highlights recent events, accomplishments and new reports.  If your company already has a newsletter in circulation, be sure to submit updates with your group’s accomplishments and milestones.  100 users? 10,000 reports run?  Just launched an awesome new Sales Dashboard?  Brag about it!

Remember the Birthday
This is something new I’ve done the last few years, and it’s been very successful.  I sent an email out to all users the day that our BI system first went live, and so I consider that the birthday.  On the first birthday, I put together a really fun email with some awards based on statistics I pulled from Enterprise Manager.

The email looked something like this:

      Bob is the #1 all-time user, clocking in with 1,234 reports run.

The Top 5:
1.       Bob – 1,234 – World Champion
2.       Don – 1,111 – Intercontinental Champion
3.       Jill – 857 – Internet Champion
4.       Sarah – 643 – People’s Choice Champion
5.       Jack – 357 – Honorable Mention (he was high up in the company, so he got a humble title)

     The “Thanks For Using The System” award goes to Don, who has exported to Excel 704 times.
     The “Sorry About That” award goes to Sally, who has experienced 39 report errors.
     The “Night Owl” award goes to Chris, who has run 54 reports between the hours of 10pm and 3am.
     The “Price is Right” award goes to Jake, who ran the longest running report without going over the timeout maximum at 29mins 30sec (the timeout is 30min)

It was a fun email with lots of graphics and some pictures and I think users got a kick out of seeing their names (I tried to include as many as I could).  I think it’s also impressive/reassuring to show off that we can track all of those details.  It shows the user base that we actually care and are looking after them instead of just making sure the lights stay on.
Hold an Annual User Meeting
This one I try to tie in with the Birthday, if I can control it.  In every environment I’ve ever worked, most of my users weren’t physically in my location.  At least once a year, I try to go to them (or if they’re dispersed, whenever they have their own internal meetings that bring everyone into the same physical place) and hold training.  I schedule different sessions for introductory training and advanced training so that there’s something for everybody.  Most people learn from their neighbor (unless you’ve built some awesome training videos of course), so even if you think not many people would be interested in introductory training, a lot usually are.  Then of course, the advanced training is popular with everybody because they want to see how far they can push the tool.  Depending on your size, you can throw in cross training for business reports that each group may find useful but not run into in their day to day operations.
Make a Big Deal About Upgrades
Once again, if I can control it, I like to roll this in with the Birthday as well.  Nothing gets people excited more than new features, so if you can roll a meaningful date (Birthday) with fun (Stats/Awards) in a big group setting (Annual Training) and unveil some new features (Upgrade) then you’ve managed quite a lot of buzz.  Even if the upgrades don’t coincide with the other events, you can always send out a big newsletter or single email if you don’t have a newsletter.  If you have the Landing Page implemented, you can provide direct links to videos or pages highlighting the new features (another good reason you need to do that).
Mostly, these are all very easy things to do that have very big good will impacts.  BI is expensive but brings with it considerable value, so you never stop selling it.  Every conversation in the hallway, every project roll out, every meeting, you’re selling the idea, the tools and the methodology.  Branding your system is a no brainer and being fun and excited about it will excite your users.  When you combine that with things like proactive monitoring and integrating documentation, you can breathe life into your system more so than any other system in your organization.  This will differentiate your product and yourself.

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