February 1, 2011

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Under Cover


Anatomy of a Rebirth

APX Alarm Sheds its Well-known Brand as it Expands

Heather Stewart

February 1, 2011

APX Alarm is no more. Over a months-long process, the company has turned inward, reinvented itself and, just this month, launched a new brand identity along with new product and services offerings. The sturdy, respectable APX Alarm brand has been replaced with a more vibrant, aspirational brand: Vivint. The new name is meant to signify “intelligent living,” according to company leaders, with “viv” coming from the French verb vivre, meaning “to live,” and “int” coming from the word intelligent. Just how did the company get from the APX caterpillar to the Vivint butterfly? The process involved buy-in from management, input from employees and outside legal expertise. Seeds of Change APX Alarm was founded as a residential security company in 1999. Its name was originally APEX Alarm, but the company dropped the E when it ran into trademark issues. With close to 600,000 customers, the company now operates in markets across North America. In mid 2010, APX Alarm added a new service to its home security system—a thermostat for the home that can be controlled remotely through a web portal on a smart phone or computer. But the company’s plans to offer additional energy management products unleashed an identity crisis. “We felt like we had created a great brand in Utah. We’ll be at least the second-largest security company in the United States by the middle of 2011,” says CEO Todd Pedersen. “The problem is we’re pigeon-holed as just a security company.” The company had big plans to expand its products and services to include lighting and small appliance controls, along with security cameras and remote door locks, and the name APX Alarm no longer conveyed the full scope of its services. “We knew we were going to have to address the name,” says Kristi Knight, vice president of corporate communications for the company. The question became whether to hold onto the “APX” portion of the name, or go with something entirely new and fresh. Retaining the APX would help solidify some of the brand recognition already associated with the company. The problem? “It doesn’t stand for anything,” says Knight. “We felt like really it was the best opportunity for us to introduce a new name that gave us a lot more flexibility, that did mean something, and do it at the same time that we introduced our additional new products,” she says. But for Pedersen, who had carefully nurtured and built the company and its brand for more than a decade, the decision to rebrand was, to say the least, painful. “The first day we talked about actually changing the name, I definitely had a knee-jerk reaction to it—a negative reaction to it. But I literally woke up the next morning and knew it was absolutely the right thing to do,” he says. The Nuts and Bolts Knight and her team began the search for a new name with three criteria in mind. First, they had to be able to trademark it. Second, they had to be able to secure the URL for the name. And third, the name needed to carry some meaning. “From a trademark perspective, the strongest names are made-up names, or names that don’t mean anything until you give them some definition, like Starbucks, for example. We had to be able to tell a good story around where the name came from,” says Knight. To launch the search process, company leadership brainstormed words that described the company, its values, its services and its reputation. “We came up with a list of about 30 different phrases or words, and then we started playing with those and putting combinations together—the beginning of this word with the end of that word. We looked at other languages, different ways of saying the exact same thing,” she explains. Some of the concepts they played around with expressed characteristics like ingenious, knowledgeable, trust-worthy, friendly, compassionate, warm, secure, protection, energy, life, living, house and smart. At the end of the session, the list contained an exhaustive 400 names. But that chunk was quickly whittled down to 30 by eliminating names that just did not resonate or that sounded too similar to other companies. From there, the names were initially screened for trademark or URL issues, and the list was pared down further to 15. This list was presented to company leadership, who selected five names to pursue. Those five finalists were then sent through full legal screenings at an outside law firm to rule out any trademark or URL problems. When the list was finally narrowed to two names, the company filed trademark applications for both of them and purchased the two URLs. Building a Brand From the start, Pedersen knew he needed the buy-in of employees to make the rebrand work. “We started reaching out to salespeople, sales managers, people inside of operations, and just floating the idea initially that we were going to change the name,” he says. “It started to roll throughout the company, people talking back and forth. We kind of had a mixed reaction when we started talking about the name change because our employee base is really emotional about the company—they really buy into what we do and what we’re about.” So with two finalist names in hand, Pedersen turned to employees to make the final selection. The names were presented at a corporate manager’s meeting, and the attendees voted on which they preferred. “We didn’t allow them to talk or ask questions about the names. We had PowerPoint slides with the names and the root words, so they could see how we came up with the name. And then we asked people to vote based on their initial gut reaction,” explains Knight. “Overwhelmingly, people choose Vivint,” says Pedersen. “Not only voted for it, but were excited about it. People were ecstatic about the change. A big reason is because they had really bought into the fact that we’re evolving and becoming something different.” The open, democratic process continued as the company developed a logo and selected a new color for the logo. “We narrowed it down to two colors and had big presentation boards that showed the logos on uniforms, products and service vehicles in both colors,” says Knight. The two final color choices were green and orange. Green helped convey the energy management aspect of the company’s new products; orange represented vibrancy and life. In the end, employees voted for orange. “We feel like we can really own that color. There’s a lot of reds and blues and blacks in the home services space, but not orange,” Pedersen says. Maintaining Momentum The trick will be hanging onto the momentum the company has built over the past decade as it re-educates customers and consumers—particularly as nothing is left of the old brand. Everything is new, from the color to the logo to the name, which carries no remnants of APX. “It’s like naming your baby, and then deciding at the age of 16 or 17 to change his name,” says Knight. The new name, at the very least, will take some time to get used to. That education process started first with the company’s own employees. “We have a fair amount of employees who have been with the company for years and are emotionally attached to APX. It’s been a little bit like watching the grieving process, from denial to anger to acceptance,” says Knight. “People are now really excited about it” Pedersen says customers will quickly embrace the new brand as well, especially as it comes hand-in-hand with new products and services. “When people see the vision of where we’re going as a company, we’re going to get that momentum back and then some, because I think people are really going to buy into what we’re trying to accomplish,” he says. And how does Pedersen feel about renaming his baby? “For me the transition is super easy,” he says. “I’m emotionally completely in. I’m 100 percent on board with the change.” He adds, “Vivint is intelligent living. Really, that is what we’re trying to provide to our customer base—through security, through cameras, lighting controls, thermostat controls, sprinkler system controls, home health care services, solar—all of those things are ways to improve the way you live and live more intelligently.”
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