2ndSite is re-branding. So we decided to kill our old brand off in the format of a murder mystery story, released in 8 episodes, which you can read here at www.brandmurder.com. In conjunction with each episode, we will release a podcast that tells you how things are evolving and describes the business case for such an experiment. Sign up and follow along!
2ndSite is an online billing service that is incredibly easy to use for small businesses, freelancers, consultants and their clients. It saves time, helps businesses save money and get paid faster. First released in May 2004, the service now has 40,000 users. Find out more or try it for free (fully functional, nothing held back) at www.2ndSite.biz.
In short, it was a miserable Monday morning. The 2ndSite team is gathering like the storm clouds outside.
The Scene: The Monthly Sales Meeting in the 2ndSite Boardroom
Present: Mike, Joe, Kathy, Daniel, Levi, Jeff and of course, the Brand
Mike, the Co-Founder and CEO of 2ndSite, raises his lean lanky frame from the overstuffed leather boardroom chair. For a moment he is reminiscent of young Donald Trump (without the bad hair) who started corporations and had a mean backswing. The moment passed and suddenly Mike was back to present: overworked, exhausted, yet still passionate about his business. He was all business all the time, yet still kept a six-string Yamaha in the closet of his office.
Mike: Kathy, could you please take minutes?
Detailed-oriented Kathy glares her reply, yet elegantly extracts a Staedtler Mars Lumograph 0.3mm Sky Blue pen (SKU 389754-G) from her writing kit, knowing full well that Mike will never read the minutes. He'll already be onto conjuring the next million-dollar idea that strikes his fancy. Sure sure, he was a brilliant Visionary, but when it came to the day-to-day minutiae of running a profitable business, Kathy knew this would all fall to her once again.
Straggling in is the rest of the team. They take their seats in groups: Kathy, Daniel and Levi on one side of the wide mahogany table. Mike, Joe and Jeff on the other. The Brand is nowhere to be seen.
Mike looks around the room, taking in the scene, noting as he did so that once again his Web Designer and Developer, Daniel, looked as though he'd slept in his clothes. Mike pats the bulge in his jacket pocket. Later , he thought to himself. Not now. Later. No witnesses. This is just between me and….
Levi enters, carrying a large silvery tin.
Levi: My girlfriend made cookies. Anybody want one?
Levi passes the cookies around the table, pleased that the team all took him up on the offer, except, of course, Jeff. Jeff never took anyone's offerings.
The Brand swaggers in late, humming a tuneless ditty. He takes the seat at the head of the table, or rather, stands behind it.
Brand: Good morning all. Mike? A bit early in the morning for the sales meeting, wouldn't you say?
The Brand is cocksure and full of bravado. Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, which is just as well, as it was busy puffing on a clove cigarette. The Brand takes up the coffee Kathy passes him. He places the hot cup directly on the table, using the saucer to ash his cigarette. Mike cringes but refuses to remedy the situation. Perhaps Lemon Pledge will fix the cup mark.
Brand: Mike? <gesturing with the cigarette> Hello? Good morning? What gives? Anyone got anything to say or can I go back to doing what I do best?
Joe: Brand. Why don't you take a seat?
Brand: I'd rather stand, thanks all the same, Joey.
Joe, the co-Founder of 2ndSite, smiles wryly, letting the name pass. There were more important things to focus on , thought the devilishly handsome CTO and Chief Architect. He didn't get this far by chasing butterflies or every mundane little annoyance that came his way. Hard work and commitment to the project at hand were what worked best for Joe.
Mike: Alright, let's get to it. As you can see <distributes copies of a report>, we're down once again this quarter. Anyone care to comment? Daniel, I noticed we're still getting a fair number of sales calls, what's the lay of the land?
Daniel: Well Mike, we had 217 calls last month.
Mike: What seems to be the problem?
Daniel: No problem as such. As you can see, some 188 of the calls are for a psychic hotline: Second Sight .
The team murmurs their assurance that this is so.
Levi: Brand… Mike… I know some of us have been thinking…
Brand: <chuckling and wagging his finger> Now Levi, you've been warned about that. Hasn't he Joe? Daniel, I'm out of smokes. Why don't you be a good guy and go get me some?
Daniel hops up and is out the door, returning not a minute later, tossing Brand an already opened pack.
Brand: They're selling them pre-opened are they?
Daniel: My pack. Take ‘em.
Levi: … anyway, we've been thinking that it's time to change our Brand.
Brand: I don't think I got that Levi. Nice cookies, by the way. Give your honey a squeeze for me. No wait, I'll do it myself <gestures inappropriately>. Sorry, I wasn't really listening to you. Did you say ‘change the brand'?
Kathy: Well Brand, maybe I can step in here. We, that is, the team, no, some of the team think the Brand may have run its course. Mike, can we open this up to discussion?
Mike catches the Brand's eye and shakes his head as if to say humour her , then nods at Kathy.
Kathy: Look Brand, your name is grammatically incorrect with its combination of letters and numerals and, well, you're just no fun anymore. It's not the same. The company has grown. We've changed. You're keeping us back.
Levi: And your URL doesn't match your name. You're not descriptive enough.
Levi: And let's face it, no one really knows what we do. There's a lot of time and money invested in you, Brand; yet our clients just aren't really sure where you're coming from.
Levi sits back and stretches. The CIO and VP of Operations was not known for making such long speeches in front of the team. He was known for his quiet nature, coming to life for Client Relationship Management, generally leaving the team to their own devices. And he liked this distance the team gave him in return. He was a man who needed privacy… more than most.
Brand: Levi, Levi, Levi. Such a long speech. Been saving up a few days, have you? Daniel, do you have something to add to this, or do you maybe need to get back to your computer urgently for whatever it is you do when no one seems to be noticing?
Daniel: Huh? No. I've got nowhere to be but here. But as long as the knives are out, let me just say this one thing …
Brand: Go on. Looks like something's eating you.
Daniel: Fine. Alright. Here it is: I hate your dot-biz.
Brand looks around the table as half the team, unconsciously, is nodding in time.
Brand: Say that again.
Daniel: I … hate…your … dot … biz.
Brand: Jeff? What about you? Still fond of the old Brand?
Jeff, 2ndSite's Web Designer and Developer, was largely responsible for the visual sensibility of the Brand. Back in the earliest days of the Brand's inception, Jeff spent countless midnight hours tweaking pixels without complaint. He loved the Brand.
Jeff: Yeah, I think you're just fine.
Brand: Well thank God there's one of you. Mike, can you believe your ears?
Mike: Well Brand, you know we have an open door policy here at 2ndSite and I think it's worth hearing them out. But you realize, Levi, Kathy, Daniel <visibly agitated, Mike points at each as he says their names>, we've come this far on the Brand. I'm not sure it makes good business sense to throw this all away.
Joe: And confuse our clients.
Mike: Right, confuse our clients. Make the company look unstable. Listen, this is not the time to discuss changing the Brand.
Kathy: We knew you'd say that. But what better time than when the Brand is clearly showing itself to be no longer a viable entity?
Brand: Mike? Joe? Are you hearing this garbage? What do you have to say about it?
Mike: <Going white about the mouth> Alright team. I think that's about enough! <He becomes louder, more vehement> We may have an open door policy here but there's nothing in the book that says ganging up on the Brand is part of it !
Joe: <face growing redder by the moment> Listen, obviously no one appreciates just what this Brand has done for us. No has any understanding of what your proposing would cost us. DANIEL! Sit down!
Daniel, looking guilty, returns to his seat. He reaches for a cookie with a trembling hand then clearly thinks better of it and retreats.
Brand: You know, I'm going to walk out of this boardroom, take a bio break, and when I come back and we'll start again like this didn't happen. Why don't you all listen to Mike, Joe and Jeff and forget this crap that popped into your tiny brains this morning. I don't know what Kathy put in the coffee but it's making you all act like you think you have a clue. Well here's the 411 on that. You don't. I put you where you are today. I am this company. So while I'm gone why don't all of you try to remember that?
The Brand takes a final sip of his coffee, picks up another cookie and grabs the WSJ on the credenza.
Levi: Brand! Come back here. Let's discuss this.
Brand: End. <butts out his cigarette into the table, punctuating each word> Of. Discussion.
And leaves, slamming the door behind him.
Joe pushes his chair away from the table and stands.
Joe: Well I'm not going to sit here waiting for the Brand's standard twenty-minute bio break. I'm going to check my email. Jeff? Come get me when he's back.
Minutes pass and the tension in the room grows thicker than a London fog as Mike continues to wax eloquent about why the Brand should remain the Brand. Finally, even he cannot stand the tension and he sits, looking at his nails for a minute or two before leaping up.
Mike: This is taking too long. I'm going out to check on him. <Mike leaves, looking perturbed>
The team sits looking at each other and tries to fill the room with innocent chat to ease the strain.
Levi: Anyone want a cookie? They're really good. She uses only organic ingredients.
Kathy: Coffee? Tea?
Daniel and Jeff shake their heads no. The minutes build. When out of the blue, a scream ruptures the silence. Running feet are heard and the door swings open. The Brand literally tumbles into the room, clearly distressing, clutching his throat with one hand, a copy of The Young Poisoner's Handbook in the other. Frothing at the mouth, the Brand collapses with a solid THUD! and is entirely motionless. Following close behind is Mike, then Joe.
Mike: Call 911!! Call 911!
Levi bends down to examine the Brand while Daniel, tears already in his eyes, runs to the phone. Levi checks for vital signs but is grim.
Levi: Forget him <standing up>. He's dead.
Joe: Dead? He's been … murdered !