Behind the scenes of SurveyMonkey’s rebrand with Karen Budell, VP of Brand Marketing at Momentive

SurveyMonkey recently went through a full-blown rebrand, as it turned into Momentive to better represent their modern organisation. 

On this episode of the FINITE Podcast, you’ll hear all about this transformation, including why it occurred, how it was performed and what happened before, during and after the launch. 

Alex spoke with Karen Budell, VP of Marketing at Momentive, who led the transition from SurveyMonkey and has spent her career telling brand stories. 

This episode covers: 

Listen to the full episode here:


And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here


Full Transcript

Alex (00:06):

Hello everyone and welcome back to the FINITE Podcast. On today’s episode, we’re joined by a fantastic guest Karen Budell, who is VP of Brand Marketing at Momentive. You might know Momentive as the maker of SurveyMonkey, as well as GetFeedback.

And today we’re going to be talking about why SurveyMonkey was relaunched and rebranded as Momentive, the new parent brand to SurveyMonkey and Momentive’s other research feedback and experience tools. I’m excited to be talking to Karen who has a wealth of experience in B2B tech companies, including some time at Google as an expert brand storyteller. I hope you enjoy.


FINITE (00:39):

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Alex (01:00):

Hey Karen, welcome to the FINITE Podcast and thank you for joining me.


Karen (01:03):

Hi, thanks for having me, Alex, really excited to be talking with you today.


Alex (01:07):

We are talking about all things brand. You’ve been on an interesting journey, I think, which we’re going to talk all about in terms of a rebranding. Which I think for any marketer is a pretty intensive and high pressure thing to go through and get right and all those things, which I’m sure you’ll be able to share some more on. Before we go there I’ll let you just tell us a bit about yourself, your background, your previous roles and how you’ve ended up in the current role that you’re in now.


About Karen’s background in B2B tech marketing 

Karen (01:33):

Wonderful. Well, I really like to talk about my journey and describe my career path as an integrated marketing storyteller. I started my career in journalism as a reporter covering the police beat in Chicago, which had a ton of activity to cover for a 24/7 365 news wire service. 

Moved into covering the entertainment scene in Chicago. And really just started to get curious about the way that digital reporting and content creation was evolving. Especially within the newspaper industry. 

I went back to grad school, got my MBA while I was working full time and sort of fell into content marketing as it was becoming a thing as it was starting to get a name. Working at a newspaper industry when advertisers were trying to push the boundaries of church and state. And we started finding our way into sponsored content and more of those partnerships was a really exciting time to be in journalism. 

And that then moved me into working at a small agency in Chicago that focused on content marketing and custom publishing. And about seven years ago, I had an opportunity to move to the bay area. And since then I’ve been working in B2B tech, enterprise marketing. 

And it’s been quite a journey, I’ve really enjoyed watching the evolution of storytelling within marketing. And it’s been an exciting part of how I’ve been thinking about the journey here at Momentive. How do we tell rich stories, especially given the transformation journey that we’ve just been on.


Alex (03:12):

Awesome. Yeah, we’ll dive into that. I’m fascinated by the journalism start and covering the Chicago crime beat. It sounds like an interesting experience and I guess that’s more factual reporting rather than maybe storytelling. But I guess you’ve taken things from, well we all take things from everywhere, but I’m sure there’s stuff that you picked up doing that role that you’ve carried with you.


Karen (03:38):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, my job entailed waiting for a call to go to the scene of a big fire, a big event. Unfortunately some type of disaster and I would go to the scene and have to interview everyone to get all sides of the story. So while I was there to report and get news alerts out, get the breaking news, that was my primary objective. 

My editor wouldn’t let me finish the story unless I had all the details from all the relevant sources. And so that really taught me the importance of asking questions and being curious and probing for more of that story. That’s lying below the surface and it helped me to be quick on my feet, because you were always against the clock. You wanted to get the scoop or get that breaking news. 

And I do think that that journalism foundation of knowing how to ask questions, being curious has really fuelled the way that I’ve navigated my career and the way that I approach marketing.


Alex (04:36):

I saw on your LinkedIn you did an MBA with a marketing focus. When did you do that? And how do you think that more formal side of marketing education, because it’s something that comes up a lot through the FINITE community. I mean, how much value would you say has come from that educational pathway?


The value of formal marketing education 

Karen (04:57):

I think for me, it was really important for my career advancement and development. It’s not for everyone, but my undergraduate degree was in comparative arts and literature with an architecture minor. So very, very specific, I loved it. But after interning for a few years, I realised being an architect wasn’t for me.

And so I got into journalism and reporting and content production and felt like there was something else for me to explore, but I didn’t feel like I had all the tools in my toolbox to feel comfortable having a seat at the table. I didn’t know a lot about marketing or what it was. And so it was good for me to have that experience, to get my MBA while working full time so that I could learn the theories, the concepts in the classroom and figure out how to apply them to my job. 

So it was a great move for me, but I know it’s not for everyone. It depends if you have the work experience, that’s sometimes just as valuable. But for me, I needed to really supplement my background in storytelling and literature and journalism with something a little bit more grounded and business theory and case studies and statistics and accounting.


Alex (06:13):

Yeah, it makes sense. Well, we’ll come to that. I’m conscious that I want to talk too much about this, but we’ll come on to the brand stuff, but just quickly on that, I guess something that we hear a lot is, particularly at the VP marketing/CMO level is being able to talk the language of the C-suite and being able to talk to the CFO, to any other role in the business. 

And I guess elevate marketing from tactics and doing, and I think talking the language is something that comes up a lot, really being able to put it into words that others that are not deep within the marketing world really understand. I guess an MBA of that nature really helps support that kind of thing.


Karen (06:52):

Yeah. I would say more than anything, it’s given me confidence. If I am in a room talking to the C-suite or executives, I feel like I do have more of that broader business knowledge so that I can figure out how to communicate what’s happening in my world of brands and translate it to the business. 

Which is always a challenge if you’re working in brand, numbers and performance marketing. And so having to make that case, especially to the CFO and why we need to invest in it, but it’s good to have that broader business knowledge.


Alex (07:28):

Yep. That makes sense. And tell us quickly a little bit about the current role and what you’re doing with Momentive, team, that kind of stuff.


Why SurveyMonkey was rebranded to Momentive 

Karen (07:36):

Sure. So I joined the company in January of 2020 when it was SurveyMonkey and was excited to be able to work on such a beloved brand. I joined to lead the brand marketing team, which includes a brand research group, our brand strategy and operations, and our in-house creative team. So that’s content marketing, video and visual design.

And it’s really exciting because the team not only works on our SurveyMonkey product. We did keep the brand as our product, but we also work on our GetFeedback product, which is our customer experience solution. And now we work on our corporate brand and a new brand for the enterprise Momentive. So I’m leading a team that’s working across all of the brands in our portfolio and now really focused on bringing it all together under our new company brands, named Momentive.


Alex (08:34):

Cool. And I think that leads us nicely into starting to dive into what Momentive is, because obviously I was very familiar with the SurveyMonkey brand, and I think most listeners probably would have come across it. I guess, why don’t we set the scene and you can tell us a bit about what Momentive is and how it sits around the various brands and how it differs from some of them.


Karen (08:57):

Sure. It’s probably best if I start with a little bit of the background on why we got there, it will help connect the dots with the story because when I joined and learned that we were even exploring this question of, should we rename and rebrand? That was a big question to figure out the answer to, and to feel confident making a decision. 

But what we found through research over the last year plus was that despite the incredible aided and unaided brand awareness that we had with SurveyMonkey, as we’ve been pushing further up market and really leaning into our enterprise strategy, the name became limiting. Surveys were very functional and limited to that category. And we found through research that monkey was bringing up perceptions of silly and cute or funny, which when trying to sell software to enterprise buyers, is a hurdle to overcome as you’re making a case for that sale. 

So we had done a lot of research. The brand was beloved and we knew we had a lot of awareness, but our strategy was in enterprise and we wanted to grow in that area. So we did a ton of research to feel confident in making the decision. Qualitative and quantitative studies in seven countries, over 22,000 respondents in total 10 different types of studies that we did to feel confident with the direction and the decision we were making to, yes, move forward to figure out what our brand architecture strategy and what our model for our portfolio brands would be. 

And then we also used the studies to make decisions on the name itself and in different creative directions. And what we ended up determining through that research was let’s keep the best parts of SurveyMonkey with us as we reposition and rebrand ourselves. So we had just gone through an exercise to articulate our mission, vision, and values right before I joined and in January, 2020 or so we rolled it out. 

And we realised this is still core to who we are. Our mission is to empower the curious, so they can shape what’s next. Our vision is to raise the bar for human experiences by amplifying individual voices. And we thought that vision in particular was so key to articulate in Momentive, in this new brand identity that we were building. And so what you’ll see if you go to our website and what we hope to come through, and the stories we tell, the culture that we have with our employees is a real emphasis on individual voices, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and making sure that we tell unique stories. 

We’re looking at redefining AI. And what that means is making sure that we are thoughtful about the models that we use with our artificial intelligence or our algorithms, focusing on how do we remove bias, how do we make sure that we’re amplifying those individual voices that might not otherwise be heard. And then we also want to focus on speed and agility, which is so critical. 

And I think we’ve all learned that lesson in 2020, in particular being able to move fast, but with confidence, right? Because sometimes fast is too fast. And then that agility being able to pivot and using feedback to help guide you. I mean, we experienced it ourselves and used our own solutions in technology. And so we felt that it was really core to communicate as we built this new brand Momentive.


Alex (12:35):

Awesome. I’m really interested in the surveys that you ran and I guess the measurement and the data. You mentioned the quantitative and qualitative different approaches that you used. Maybe you can touch a little bit on some of those, or just examples of how you approach certain things? I think as we talked about just before, in terms of that particular on the brand side, trying to measure brand is a challenge in itself and therefore trying to make decisions off the back of more brand focused data can be challenging. 

I guess sometimes, SurveyMonkey still is a pretty well-known product and has a well-known brand, which I guess as you get bigger, maybe it becomes easier. There’s more data out there you can measure sentiment and social and all these different things. Maybe for smaller startup/scale-up B2B SaaS/tech companies, it’s sometimes a little bit trickier because there’s just less data out there. Maybe tell us about some of the techniques that you used. 


How Momentive made their rebranding decisions using data 

Karen (13:28):

Sure. Well, as a 20 something year old company, SurveyMonkey certainly has that broad reach and awareness. So we’ve run brand health trackers, both for a general population audience, as well as for an enterprise audience. And we have multiple waves of data for the SurveyMonkey brand. And as we’ve expanded our portfolio, we’ve included our other brands. So that brand health tracker or BHT was one of the core pieces of research that we used in making this decision. 

As a sidebar, we now continue to obviously track our brand health, but we’re using our brand tracker solution that allows us to get weekly insights. So we are getting insights from respondents on a weekly basis, which is even more helpful than the twice a year waves that we’d been doing previously. So the brand health tracker was key. 

We conducted interviews with all of our executive stakeholders and one of the questions or exercises that was part of that interview process was really, really helpful in telling the story internally and getting buy-in and communicating some of the challenges that we were seeing show up in other quantitative data and other studies. And that is we put a series of image cards in front of each of our executives. It was pictures of books, pictures of telephone wires, just a supernova, a whole mix of organic and inorganic images. 

And we asked them to select three cards that best represent our brand today. And they picked three images. And then we said, now pick three images that represent who we want to be in future. And we tallied up who chose what image and it was remarkable how we saw a shift in the type and tone and style of images from where we are today and where we want to be. And so that was really helpful to layer onto some of the quantitative data that we collected.

But I would say the early days, those were key studies. We also did a lot of interviewing and quantitative studies with prospective customers that fit our profile there, especially when it came down to determining what name to choose. We did a study to get 200 respondents for the top 10 names that we were considering, and we plotted them out on a scale of attributes. Is this more B2C or B2B? Is it more consumer enterprise, is it approachable or… I don’t have the list in front of me, but just two different ends of the spectrum. 

And that was really helpful to feel more confident in which direction we chose, but the amount of data that we had in front of us through all of those studies was just what we needed to support some of the feelings that a lot of our executives had in their gut. It’s that whole, you need a little bit of the gut and the data to make a decision. So one of our board members said during the process, if you make a decision with your gut, check the data, if you make a decision with your data, check your gut, you need both of them in today’s day and age.


Alex (16:39):

Yeah. Well, I’m impressed that it sounds like there’s some serious science and serious measurement going on there. You’ve obviously gone to levels of detail that I didn’t even know existed in the brand marketing world, which is cool.


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How to structure different products, brands and solutions in one organisation 

Alex (17:11):

I guess I was going to ask you about zooming out the structure of different brands and products and solutions. I think a common challenge for many B2B tech and SaaS businesses is do they go down the multiple brand approach? Do they have one platform that has multiple products within it? Do they have different names? 

Is it one name encompassing everything? It sounds like some of this was driven by some of the more consumer versus B2C, smaller business focused versus enterprise, was the driver of the split. But what was your thinking around that? And I guess any thoughts or advice for businesses struggling with that proposition platform/brands struggle that sometimes comes up?


Karen (17:57):

Sure. Well off the bat, it’s expensive to maintain multiple brands, right? So that was one of the things that we needed to consider, because over the years we’ve made a number of acquisitions. Right before I joined, we had acquired two companies: GetFeedback, which was based in San Francisco, and Usabilla, based in Amsterdam. And that was really to improve our offering in the customer experience space. So we had to consider that as part of that. 

We had SurveyMonkey with that rich 20 plus year old legacy that started in the consumer space, but had grown and evolved to offer really robust offerings for enterprise buyers, with improved data security and governance. And so we had all that and some other solutions within our portfolio and we really needed to figure out where are we going to invest in the long term and which brand fits the buyers and the offerings that we have today? 

So I should note right before we had announced our new company named Momentive, we rebranded our CX solution, GetFeedback. So we did that rebrand fully in-house with our creative team to really bring together the value of the get feedback and Usabilla products and lean into the GetFeedback brand and name. So that was one thing that we had done. 

All the while we had this side project going on with a highly confidential group of teams working on the corporate rebrand, but it was really intentional because the CX space and our relationship within the Salesforce ecosystem knew GetFeedback. And we knew from our brand tracker that that had value and brand awareness there. 

And as I mentioned from our other studies, we knew the value and the place that SurveyMonkey held in our buyers’ mindset. And it really was clear that it’s a fantastic brand and product, and we wanted to continue to keep that alive, but make it clear that that brand and product was for individuals and small teams. And it’s really easy to get up and running, to send your surveys, to get the feedback, analyse the insights and collaborate with your teammates. 

So that’s part of our value proposition, but we wanted to make sure that it was so clear the breadth of solutions that we offer to enterprises is more than surveys. We have really rich products and brand and market insights, our concept testing solution. 

For me as a brand leader, I can run studies on three different creative types or three different message types, and literally get results back within hours and know which message resonates with a particular demographic or audience segment more than the other. So we wanted to communicate that product, offer our product experience, our employee experience and customer experience solutions. And that’s where Momentive really gave us the bigger landscape and canvas to paint on.


How a rebrand impacts SEO and domain authority 

Alex (20:55):

Cool. Makes sense. I guess, with any rebranding there’s an element of obviously the different brand pieces. But there’s knock on impacts across everything. You mentioned that maintaining multiple brands can be expensive. There’s many times to work multiple websites, multiple sets of brand guidelines. It duplicates the workload for sure. 

What about things like, does it knock on impact potentially to things like SEO and websites changing and all these kinds of things? I assume you’re working pretty closely with other teams across the business and maybe, I don’t know, third parties or agencies or consultants to help with that too. But maybe you can talk a little bit about some of that stuff and some of those challenges.


Karen (21:35):

Yeah, absolutely. When we rebranded and relaunched as Momentive in June, we’ve always said that was just the beginning. That’s the beginning of a chapter and we’re still on that transformation journey. So the work is not done. There’s a lot to be done. As you mentioned, across websites, has been around for over 20 years and has really rich domain authority, a ton of content. And it had been housing content for both our self-serve and our sales assistant business. 

So how do you disentangle some of the content you need to tell your enterprise story without impacting SEO, the business or the performance of that website? That’s something that we’re working on very closely, cross-functionally with our web marketing team, SEO, growth marketing, and constantly monitoring those metrics. As we make changes and evolve, we also have get feedback where we really tell that really rich CX story, but customer experience is also one of the top use cases of our SurveyMonkey product. 

So you can see there’s a lot of synergies and opportunities for our teams to work really closely and monitor those key metrics. We’re looking at traffic, we’re looking at SEO impressions, looking at keywords and figuring out how do we carve out that unique niche?

And so taking the brand architecture and the strategy that we’ve put in place, now it’s about how do we pull that through into all the different brand touch points, web being one of them. That’s part of what happens after you introduce yourself with a new look and a new logo. There’s all of the hard work that continues beyond behind the scenes to really smooth out that transition.


What happens during the launch of a rebrand 

Alex (23:17):

I assume once something like this relaunches and goes live, there’s some relief initially, but then as you alluded to, you’re almost at the start of the journey from that too. Because you’re just getting started with taking a little bit to market and people getting used to and getting feedback and how you’re still in that phase now. Is that a fair summary of where you’re at currently? When did this all go live?


Karen (23:44):

In June, in early June we made the announcement and this was a massive change because we changed the company name, we changed our ticker symbol on the NASDAQ. It’s about explaining to employees the new identity that they’ll have. So we have new corporate email addresses and all of that. There’s a lot of change management involved with a rebrand at this scale. 

And so we’re absolutely still seeing that transformation through and working through what that means. We did this in the middle of a pandemic as well. I mean, that’s worth noting because it meant that traditionally when you do a brand overhaul, a rebrand or repositioning, you have that opportunity to bring your agency partners and your creative team and your execs together, whether a day in the office or an offsite. You can’t put brand touch points and tactile experiences in a room and immerse yourself in that. 

And we had to do it across Zoom screens and fully remotely. And so there was this opportunity for us to build a lot of trust and collaboration and then figure out how to generate the excitement and get buy-in for people to be part of the journey, be excited and bring this work and transformation over the finish line. 

So I feel like I’ve gone off in a new direction here, but it’s worth noting because it’s not like rebrands I’ve done in the past. It was at a whole new level and we were all really learning how to adapt and do something like this without being able to see each other or be in the room together and feel that extra kind of sense of bonding.


Tips for marketing a rebrand internally

Alex (25:32):

It makes sense. It’s something that I think a lot of marketing teams are reflecting on. Any tips or things that you did to really make that work? I know Miro dashboards have been one of those things I’ve just seen everywhere. I didn’t know whether they came up for you too, but any tips or tools that you use to make that process easier?


Karen (25:48):

Yeah, we did definitely do some Miro collaboration and virtual white boarding. I would say though, the thing that I would recommend to other leaders listening is don’t underestimate the value of internal communications and buy-in when you’re doing some level of marketing or rebranding at this scale. 

We invested in creating what we called our sizzle reel. And it was a script that we wrote in partnership with some of our agency partners that were helping us on the brand strategy side. We wrote a script and we figured out how we can show people the new logo and the new identity, the different elements, the shapes, the colors, the photography style, how do we get them excited about that versus just putting a slide on a screen? 

So we created this sizzle reel video so that they could hear the storytelling behind the brand. They could hear the new language we were using for Momentive. They could be introduced to the name with the magic of sight, sound and motion, and a music track that really created that emotional journey, right? You know change is coming and it brought people along. 

And we used that to introduce the new brand identity internally first to our executives, and then to each group of employees that we brought into this confidential project, when we needed their assistance. And that helped create a connection with them. It helped them understand why, it helped them see the possibility of where we were going, and it got everyone aligned to a vision. 

And I think that helped bring everyone together or feel like they knew the north star. We were all chasing this in a distributed, virtual environment. So whether it’s a video, a sizzle reel or whatnot, I would say, don’t forget about the importance of internal communications in marketing, as you’re working on an external marketing project of a scale like this.


What happens after the launch of a rebrand 

Alex (27:48):

Yeah. Good tips. I guess, to wrap up, I’m interested in what you see the next steps on the journey being that momentum has been born as such. And I’m sure you’re doing all of the same measuring and I assume KPIs and targets sat around elements of the brand that you’re monitoring. Maybe you can touch on them and talk a little bit about the future journey.


Karen (28:10):

Sure. I think the next phase for us is continuing to monitor our brand health, which we now are able to do on a weekly basis as we measure our funnel metrics. So we’re looking at, have we moved the needle on brand awareness familiarity? Most importantly for us, are we in the consideration set as enterprise buyers are looking for a feedback platform or an agile experience management platform? 

And so we’re tracking that we are continuing to make investments and expansions on our website, putting more content out there, trying to surface more of the stories from our customers or our reshapers as we like to call them, the people shaping what’s next for their products and industries. So we’ll continue to monitor engagement with our website and we’ll also continue to monitor what this looks like in concert with our SurveyMonkey website and business? 

We want to make sure that we have a clear path carved out for both of them. There’s value in both. And so it’s about really paying off on communicating the value prop of SurveyMonkey for those customers, as well as our enterprise solutions under Momentive. 

And we are also experiencing a lot of the talent and conversations that the world is facing right now, we hear a lot about the great resignation. We know that there’s so much more employee choice in today’s world with remote or hybrid working arrangements. And so it’s really important for us to continue to get employee feedback and to find a way for our Momentive brands to be in the hearts and minds of our prospective employees, our current employees, and even our alumni. 

So I will say today, I did just finally see our new swag. It took a little bit longer to get with today’s distribution channels, but it was really exciting to have the brand in more tactile applications. And I think that’s part of what we’ll figure out next. How do we then bring that magic to our customers and hopefully find ways to come together in person sometime soon and build more of that community.


Alex (30:16):

Cool. Well, congratulations. It must be a nice feeling having the brand in your hands and something to touch and feel. So it’s an exciting milestone, but we’re pretty much out of time. It’s been great running through the story. I think you’ve obviously been on quite the journey, but as we’ve discovered, I think it’s still almost, well you’re at the early stages of it still and there’s lots more to do. But in what sounds like a very exciting way. So thank you for sharing everything and hopefully keep in touch.


Karen (30:42):

Thanks so much for having me, Alex.


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