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When the Shade of Blue Matters

Previously in this series, Eric Williamson, Acquia's Vice President of digital marketing, shared how website redesign led to rebranding. Before you read Huge's side of the story, catch up and read Eric's blog, here.

“Which color blue are we going with?” It seemed like a benign question asked during an early design discussion. “Drupal is blue. Acquia is blue…but how close should the blues be?”

As the design agency brought in by Acquia to lead the overhaul and redesign of Acquia.com, we at Huge listened intently as our clients discussed. “Aqua? Navy? Cerulean?” And we listened carefully, because the minute this question came up, we recognized this wasn’t a matter of blue at all. It was a much bigger issue, and a much more important question: Acquia knew who they had been, what made them different, and unique. But, as they continued to grow and compete in newer spaces, they weren’t sure how to talk about themselves in a way that kept their approachable nature, demonstrated their breadth of expertise, and showcased their products. No website design in the world will solve that. They knew they had a bit of an identity crisis, but they needed help in admitting it, in framing the solution, and finding the right path forward.

Enter Huge

While Huge had been brought in to work with Acquia on a beautiful new website, with updated user experiences, new layouts, imagery, etc., little would matter if we didn’t properly articulate who Acquia is, what that means for customers, and how who they are informs the products. We could design the most beautiful website in the world, but if it wasn’t saying the right things, the impact would be meaningless for customers and, as a result, for Acquia.

So, we stopped and had a chat. The Acquia team originally turned to Huge for our passionate approach to user-centric design. But what started as a design project was about to evolve into a collaborative partnership to strategically define a brand.

King Henry

Yes, King Henry. But we’ll get to that.

We called Lynne Capozzi and Eric Williamson. Because that’s what Huge does; we’re transparent about issues that could impede success. We bring solutions and we like to work in small teams in partnership with our clients. So, we had a heart-to-heart with Lynne and Eric about the importance of brand in this process. Explaining how a website design is simply a visual manifestation of an organization’s brand, everyone agreed design can’t (and shouldn’t) inform the Acquia brand. They knew this. They saw the conundrum and the potential blocker, and knew Acquia needed to move out of its normal thinking patterns to find the solution. Having the open and honest conversation was easy because of the trust our two teams had built. Tackling it was the fun part. Our solution was to get all of Acquia’s leaders, lock them in a room for 5 hours in Boston (with snacks), and make them talk about themselves. Huge’s strategy team, led by Jon Judah and Scott Mathews, ran a crash course in the importance of branding, dating back to the Royal Seals of King Henry used to denote quality fit enough for the royal table. We talked about brands, we talked about credibility, brand’s personality, tone, brands, Disney, snacks, the Red Sox, more brands.

We explained branding isn’t advertising and demonstrated how brand is a company’s attributes; its personality, its values, and its benefits. And Huge pushed Acquia to agree on what theirs are. We ran them through multiple exercises, making them take an honest look at who they think they are and who they want to be. What was realistic and achievable, and what made sense? There were disagreements within the group. More “shades of blue” discussions.

Did Acquia want to be a company that leaned more into their process or products, or people? How would they be different from competitors? What voice did they want to have? It all matters, because it’s what people read, how they make decisions, and how they choose partners for their businesses. More importantly, for the sake of the web redesign, it meant, “What are we actually saying on the site?” What is the tone going to be? What do we look and sound like? So, it matters. A lot. No one cares what color blue your font is if it’s saying something irrelevant to the user.

We pressed Acquia a little (okay, a lot) out of its normal lanes, and made them think ahead. Think big. Think aspirational. The workshop was incredibly fruitful for both teams. It yielded consensus and direction, and a foundation upon which Acquia could build. This is work that happens best when we work closely with our clients, and when there is mutual trust. And this was a great example of that.

The North Star

Coming out of that brand workshop, Huge went to work distilling the discussions and from that a fresh brand definition for Acquia was born. This mantra and personality is the foundation for everything Acquia does moving forward. It’s the North Star the organization will point toward when making decisions on everything from web copy to marketing campaigns to product language. Giving Acquia the start of a clear brand definition, a new voice, and defined relatable personality traits brings every customer-facing and internal piece of material into a consistent message. It means clarity for the organization, predictability for customers, and credibility for prospects. And more importantly, it keeps Acquia true to who they are while aligning to the evolved company and product vision. Here at Huge, we’re stoked to see what comes next for Acquia. And because of the great collaboration we’ve established, we’re even more stoked to help them get there.

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