How to Rebrand a Startup: An Interview with Layla Foord
Today we sit down with Layla Foord, the General Manager of Envato Studio, which is a project formerly known as Microlancer. They recently did a major brand overhaul and changed course shortly after crossing their first million in sales—a milestone for this project.
There are interesting lessons here on changing your branding as your startup evolves, discovering where your customer value lies, shifting directions as needed, and planning your company's path forward.
What is Envato Studio and how does it differ from the direction of Microlancer? Is this rebrand part of a larger pivot for this project?
Microlancer was all about small jobs, done fast—so yes it is a pivot. Envato Studio ranges from small jobs like a caricature of yourself that you might want to use for social media right up to a fully animated video or complex development project. Supporting these larger scale projects on Envato Studio is definitely an evolution of the initial Microlancer concept.
It must be a tough decision to consider rebranding. Could you tell us about the reasons for making this change and the behind the scenes discussions that went into it?
When we launched Microlancer, it was with a very specific idea in mind: small jobs done fast.
After a few months, we reached a point where we could see two different opportunities developing. The first was about getting small tweaks done to existing assets—where the provider who does the work doesn’t matter as much as the price they charge and the turnaround time they offer (for example, there’s usually only a couple of ways you can crop a photo and the end result is pretty much the same). We would need a high volume of jobs to turn this model into a sustainable business. It would also be hard for us to differentiate against existing players in the space since here at Envato, we’re all in with our community, it’s our passion. Without a product where people matter, we didn’t feel we could add much value.
The second opportunity was for more meaningful pieces of work where the person doing the job is just as important as the price and turnaround. We began to tweak our model to help these more detailed jobs along and chose to actively fit the product to this market need. It was an early pivot, and we were still learning. That’s when we first realized that the name might not fit.
What new brand story are you telling with Envato Studio, and how does this position you stronger against competitors in this space?
Envato Studio leverages the already well-established and trusted Envato brand. This will help to tell our story to new users more easily. We’ve already been around for seven years and enabled millions of transactions around the world. The Studio brand evokes an idea of higher levels of service and quality, a team of specialists who are available for you and for your project—which is a larger scale mission than an individual freelancer can offer.
How have your service providers reacted to this change? How did you reach out to them and gauge their opinions on the rebrand before making the big announcement?
Providers have been excited about the change and although some liked the old logo, they all want to grow and succeed and can see how the new position and name will help them to do that. Despite the pivot in our way of thinking about the site, we’re still the same team, with the same goal of connecting our community with opportunities and to empower them to achieve their goals. I think the community recognizes that, and overall the feedback has been very positive.
The shift to the name Envato Studio sounds more personal. How does this new name affect your mission?
Envato Studio is a service from Envato—we gather the best people from all around the world, we line up their services and all you have to do is pick one. Having a community of hand-picked talent is a really important differentiator and so we make it really clear in all of our communications.
Were there any lessons learned from Envato’s early rebrand from Eden? Or were there any rebrands elsewhere that helped inform this decision?
As you mention, Envato itself was initially called ‘Eden’, and our first ever product as a company was called ‘FlashFox’ (a marketplace to buy and sell Adobe Flash components). That name later evolved into ‘FlashDen’, and a few years later, following a request from Adobe that we no longer use ‘Flash’ in our branding, became ActiveDen—what it’s known as today.
Over the years, the types of items sold on the site had begun to diversify and sellers began to offer a variety of products unrelated to Flash. So despite the circumstances that kicked off the rebrand to ActiveDen, it worked out well as the new name better reflected the evolving product, and in turn opened it up to new markets.
So yes, as a company we’ve already done some fairly significant rebrands which gave us insight into the process. But every brand is unique—and when we were considering the change to Envato Studio, we approached it with our own situation and circumstances in mind.
Very importantly, we also took a look at some other companies who had chosen not to rebrand early and were stuck with a brand name and equity in a model that was limiting their growth. It was a desire ‘not to be like that’ which drove us to make this decision so early.
What lessons would you share with a startup that is growing fast and feeling their name isn’t a good fit for their evolving direction? Any pitfalls to watch out for?
Change is OK, but not too many times as you’ll lose people. Only change your name if it is limiting your growth potential.
What can we expect from Envato Studio in the coming months?
We’ll be building out some of our backend capabilities so that we can scale our growth more effectively. You might not see all of these backend changes as an end user, but they’re critical to ensuring we can continue to grow our community, whilst giving us a rock-solid foundation to continue building on top of. With those foundations in place, we can focus our attention on continuing to develop the product while spending less time on manual operational tasks like paying providers or processing refunds.
We’ve got so much planned this year, new categories, features and so much more. If you want to stay up to date with what we’re doing, you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook. As a part of the Envato community, we also invite you to visit anytime and let us know what you think of Envato Studio! We love hearing from you, and it’s in no small part due to feedback from our dedicated community that we identified the opportunities in rethinking our model of small jobs, done quickly, into something much, much bigger.
Envato Studio Giveaway
Learn about the Envato Studio celebration giveaway running until May 2nd. You can win a MacBook Pro and Envato swag by participating.