But is that a good thing? What does “revamped” even mean? And why was it necessary in the first place?
In this article, I’ll explain the why and how behind the changes we’ve made to the KaiOS brand. I’ll also give you a glimpse of our new look.
There are different reasons why companies rethink their brands. These were ours:
- We had outgrown our original message. We wanted something more inspirational and aspirational.
- We were starting to lose consistency, coherence, and clarity across our different channels and marketing assets.
- Our look needed a refresh. Essentially, it was too purple. 😁
- With all the different stakeholders we have as a global operating system, we needed more versatility (more on that later).
Our starting point
With our why in mind, we established some limits to guide our work:
- Our priorities would be positioning and messaging.
- We would not change the logo.
- The new brand should be inspiring to all our stakeholders.
- We wanted to create a strong foundation on which to build upon in the next several years.
We opted to work with an external branding agency for the following reasons:
- We needed an outside perspective.
- We lacked the resources and experience in-house to undertake a project of this magnitude.
We ultimately decided to work with Orchid Creation. While most agencies we consulted with came back with standard presentations and ideas, Orchid took a risk by immediately proposing some messaging and concept designs. They showed us they were 1) eager to work with us, and 2) believed that the KaiOS story had the potential to become more inspirational and aspirational.
Once all this was defined, we turned to the fundamental question: why do we exist?
Purpose and mission
We’d spent time on this question before. Everyone at KaiOS is well-aligned on why we get out of bed every morning: to empower all people through technology (purpose) through our mission of advancing digital inclusion and closing the digital divide.
In fact, we arrived at this mission early on and used it in our communications since 2017. But though it still describes what we’re trying to achieve accurately, it didn’t feel right as the foundation of our brand and future.
As we further explored this hunch, we realized that “closing the digital divide” wasn’t too inspiring. It certainly is a meaningful objective, but the phrasing is abstract. And if you’re the person on the other side of the divide, these words mean very little to you.
You could even say the phrase is somewhat condescending: it takes the perspective of the person who is closing the divide and subtly suggests a position of superiority (“Oh, you unfortunate person who’s outside of the digital revolution, I have come here today to save you”).
This insight led us to the viewpoint of those who come online for the first time on a KaiOS-enabled phone and what connectivity means to them.
Internet access means excitement, possibility, and potential. Going online opens up new, unknown, and unexpected opportunities for connection and self-realization.
From this angle, we arrived at a much more compelling concept that still fits our “formal” mission of closing the digital divide. We captured this in a big idea, a manifesto, and, ultimately, a new tagline.
Big idea, manifesto, and tagline
The big idea and the manifesto are not necessarily meant for external communications. Their primary purpose was to guide the internal branding process.
Big idea: unleash unexpected potential
By always competing for bigger and faster
We forget what really matters about technology:
It opens up new possibilities for individuals, organizations, and society
Allowing them to reach their full potential.
At KaiOS we see opportunities where others don’t
We dare to say yes when others say no
We jump in when others jump off.
This is how we, together with our partners,
Empower people to become agents of change
Inspiring each other to do and achieve more.
KaiOS reimagines the possibilities for all
By connecting countries, people, and ideas
One phone at a time.
KaiOS, enable tomorrow
With this big idea and manifesto in hand, we arrived at the new tagline: enable tomorrow.
Enable captures the essence of an operating system: a platform that allows others to build their lives and businesses on top of it. The word can also be used in versatile ways for marketing, for example:
- Enable developers: for marketing related to our developer community
- Enable Africa: for an event in Africa
- Enable mobile operators: for a pitch to carriers.
Tomorrow symbolizes hope, optimism, possibility, and taking a long-term perspective; it signals that we work to build a better future.
Rebranding a rocket ship
The rebranding process I just described was by no means straightforward. When we started thinking about updating the brand, KaiOS had less than 200 employees and around 25 million users. By the time we finished, we were close to 300 employees and over 100 million users. 🚀
Along this trajectory, many new people came in with fresh perspectives and exciting ideas. But it also meant an always-increasing need for marketing assets (e.g., presentations, videos, images, content).
Managing this process was a constant balancing act of:
- Keeping different stakeholders involved while ensuring the project kept moving forward.
- Addressing urgent needs for new marketing assets based on the old brand knowing we were about to launch a new one.
Weighing these decisions was as hard as making choices around the brand itself.
Three is a crowd, four is an ecosystem
Whereas marketplaces like Uber and Airbnb have only two types of users (drivers and riders; hosts and guests), an operating system has many more:
- End-users (people using a phone running on KaiOS)
- Mobile operators
- Chipset makers
- Public sector partners and NGOs
This diversity makes KaiOS a real ecosystem and requires the KaiOS brand to speak to an enormously diverse audience. The receiver of our messages can be a student in Brazil, a small business owner in Nigeria, or a business executive in San Francisco. This means we need to be flexible in how we present ourselves while also staying consistent.
To accomplish this, we worked out an overview of what value KaiOS brings to each of the different parties, what their profiles are, and how we would communicate to them while keeping in line with the big idea, tagline, mission, and manifesto outlined previously. This approach resulted in a messaging guide that can be referenced by the KaiOS team and our external partners.
How this translates visually
With all of this out of the way, we finally turned to the visuals.
Dot and circle
We started looking for a visual concept that could express enable tomorrow. We found this in what we call the dot and circle concept.
The small dot stands for today, whereas the larger circle represents tomorrow. It signals growth, possibility, and a bright future. The shapes originate from a switch, which is used for turning something on, and for going from zero to one. You can see this in the image below, which shows the early exploration and evolution of the concept.
Most importantly, the dot and circle don’t always have to be presented in the same size, composition, or context; they can be used flexibly. The only consistent elements are the small dot and the larger circle; everything else is open. This allows the concept to be applied in different ways for the different target audiences we discussed earlier.
We also played around more with our colors. We didn’t abandon purple but decided to enrich the palette by adding a lot more white. We also designated two secondary colors: green and red, to be used for emphasis and variation.
The actual deliverables
With the strategic and conceptual work out of the way, we finally arrived at the “deliverables:” the assets going to our customers and partners.
Because we have many different stakeholders, we had to create a long list of materials. Below is a selection to help you understand the variety and complexity of our deliverables.
1. Guidelines, guidelines, guidelines
The first output of our work is still somewhat dull: a variety of guidelines and requirements for different parties that work with our brand.
A comprehensive brand book that captures all the details of the revamped brand: which fonts to use, how much spacing should go here or there, and why some compositions are allowed, and others not. It’s a document with over 100 pages, mainly intended for designers and other creative folks, but it forms the basis for everything that follows.
From the Brand Book, we created a whole range of other reference documents, including:
- A partner playbook, describing for higher and middle management at our b2b partners how to work with the KaiOS brand, how to position it in the market, and how to train their retail salespeople.
- A sales toolkit for retail sales staff, with practical and visual explanations on how to sell and use KaiOS-enabled phones.
- A set of implementation requirements, mainly for manufacturing partners, detailing how to use our brand for packaging design, where specific apps can be placed on the home screen, and so on.
- Office guidelines, explaining how to decorate new KaiOS offices.
2. Presentations, presentations, presentations
A lot of our business development work still happens the “old fashioned” way: through presentation decks. With different slides for different stakeholders, the rebrand meant a massive update to a lot of Powerpoint presentations. Below is a selection of our finest slides.
3. Marketing assets for partners
Since we don’t produce nor sell KaiOS-enabled phones ourselves, we need to equip our partners to do so. To aid them with their sales, we provide a lot of different marketing assets they can use in their stores and marketing campaigns.
One of the most important — and labor-intensive — assets of this entire process is no doubt our new product video. It’s based on the new brand, but also on research we did in Nigeria to refine our proposition of KaiOS-enabled phones towards potential buyers.
Our partners use this video in their retail stores and online.
The End: new online presence
For a modern tech company, no rebranding is complete without an overhaul of the website. Today we’ve officially completed this last piece of the rebranding journey with the launch of our new website on http://kaiostech.com. One-click says more than a thousand words, so I suggest you go take a look for yourself:
This brings us to the end of the KaiOS rebranding process. I hope you enjoyed this journey from the old all the way to the new KaiOS.
Special thanks… 🙏🏻
Redoing a brand takes a lot of work from a lot of people, but three teams and people stand out and deserve a special shout-out here:
- Orchid Creation: the agency we worked with to make this happen. Their team did a fantastic job staying motivated and creative, despite all the many detours we took and the complexity of the project.
- UX team: in the busyness of everything else that’s going on at KaiOS, the great folks at our UX team were always happy and available to provide the right advice when everyone else (especially me) got lost.
- Our new in-house designer Donald: Donald joined our Marketing team when I believed the rebranding project was 90% done. In reality, there was still an enormous amount of work to be done. Donald lifted this weight from my shoulders and pulled the entire project to the finish line.
While the official project is finished, a modern brand is never done. So, by all means, leave your thoughts, feedback, and ideas below; they will certainly come in use as we keep evolving the KaiOS brand.