There comes a pivotal point for every company where there’s need for change. Change itself is concept people can be resistant to. It represents disruption, a challenge to the status quo and a future that may be unable to be predicted. Online file sharing service YouSendIt has recently renamed itself Hightail. The new name and new brand coincides with a significant strategic shift towards a broader service offer and growth strategy. The rebrand, while appearing to be strategically sound, has been met with resistance from long-term customers taken by surprise by the change.

YouSendIt was established in 2004. It was a web-based solution to transferring files too larger to email. Its naming strategy was very straight forward. YouSendIt was a descriptive name – in other words, its name ‘did what it said on the tin’.

Today the organisation wishes to offer more. According to their website, the company now aspires to be a service people access to store files, share folders and sign documents – via PC, smartphone or tablet. The challenge it faced was that its aspirations for where it wants to go as a company had grown well beyond just sending large files via the internet. It needed to rebrand, and not only for where the company’s ambitions were heading immediately, but for the potential ongoing evolution of the company’s core function.

As part of its rebrand, YouSendIt announced it was changing its name to Hightail. The new name symbolises its new brand strategic direction. The following video shows Hightail’s Chief Production Manager discussing the strategic objectives behind Hightail’s rebrand and rename.

According to Hightail’s brand partner, Siegel + Gale, Hightail suggests the ideas of speed, energy, motion, accomplishment, satisfaction and fun. By dictionary definition Hightail means ‘to go as fast as possible, especially in fleeing.’ From a naming perspective, the new name moves away from ‘does what it says on the tin’.  Hightail is considered an associative name, meaning it brings attributes or benefits together. It is also slightly abstract, in the sense that it is non-descriptive when compared to the old simple name. Hightail wanted to be distinctive from other cloud-sharing competitors such as DropBox, who tend to be fairly descriptive. The word ‘Hightail’ adds a sense of uniqueness and complements the new brand story. According to Siegel + Gale, using Hightail creates a sense of empowerment and reflects the passion that their customers have for their work.

Ultimately customers are the main indicators of the success of a new name. Among loyal customers there is often feeling and emotion attached to a brand. There is always a risk that change can be emotionally charged, and early feedback suggests that YouSendIt customers aren’t overly happy with the shift. There has been a big uproar to the new name via blogs, Facebook and even on the official site forum itself. The consistent feedback is that people enjoyed the descriptive meaning of the old name and the movement associated with the old paper aeroplane logo. Feedback also focussed on the negative connotations associated with the definition of ‘Hightail’, such as retreat, fear and escape. One of the specific challenges Hightail is facing is that at the same time it launched its new brand, it also launched a new suite of services, and some pricing changes. According to some of the customer feedback, there have been multiple technical glitches with the new software, and difficulty accessing technical support. These negative experiences are now associated with the new name and look and feel. Some customers are threatening to simply walk away to the likes of competitor, DropBox.

Technical difficulties aside, what customers revealed they are most hurt about is the lack of communication on the news of the rebrand. Hightail did send out a communication to each of their subscribers, however it was only sent to the email address associated with the account. In a large office, that email could easily have been received by a generic address, reception or even accounts, and not received by the employees who use Hightail daily. This highlights the importance of taking your customers and stakeholders with you on the rebranding journey. By communicating regularly, customers feel included and valued. They are less likely to be caught unaware by the new brand or name, and more likely to accept the new brand in both the short term and long term.

Although the new logo maybe scrutinised, it emphasises the fresh, modern look Hightail wishes to reflect. Yousendit has the delight of simplicity but was too defining and hence restrictive as a brand; while Hightail allows for plenty of opportunities to grow. The new name can be questioned, but the business concept is sound - the ability to share quick, meaningful, personal messages in an instant. Even if customers have original misgivings about the name, once they understand the reasons and meaning behind Hightail they’ll see it works. Ultimately, the use of the video to launch the brand really captures the tactical and strategic advance the new brand offers, and emotionally tells the Hightail’s story. And that’s why it’s time to say hi to Hightail.

This blog was written by BrandMatters intern Amy Elstow. Amy is currently studying marketing at the University of Lincoln in the UK.