It’s well-known that Canada boasts some of the world’s most progressive and innovative mobile businesses, and SOTI is no exception. Founded in Toronto in 1995 by entrepreneur Carl Rodrigues, SOTI has evolved from a one-man operation to a global enterprise, with six global offices and a workforce of 550 employees across 22 countries. With a partner ecosystem of more than 2,000 OEMs, distributors, resellers, systems integrators, and technology integration partners, SOTI is enabling mobility solutions for businesses around the world.
This past December, Rodrigues earned the executive of the year silver award in the medium-sized North American company category for “pushing the boundaries of innovation and for cementing SOTI’s status as a market leader in enterprise mobility management.” It was also just recognized as a visionary in the 2016 Gartner Magic Quadrant for EMM (enterprise mobile management) suites.
Carolyn Ray, Managing Director of Interbrand Canada, talks about SOTI’s evolution as leading global mobile brand with Roula Vrsic, Vice President, Global Marketing, SOTI Inc. about the company’s recent rebranding efforts, and how this has helped it differentiate and grow its business in Canada and around the world.
Carolyn Ray: What has been happening in your business, and why did it feel like time to reposition the SOTI brand?
Roula Vrsic (right): There were many factors at play that helped us realize it was time to consider a repositioning. As SOTI has grown and evolved, the brand was no longer relevant in a dynamic market segment. These include: market evolution, shifts in our target audience as mobility has become a strategic driver in enterprises, new services and solutions, and a lack of clarity as the company has evolved among customers, partners and employees about our competitive positioning. SOTI has undergone tremendous growth, and as we began to expand into new markets, we realized that people across the business all had a different “SOTI Story” to tell. Quite simply, our brand did not accurately reflect our current business any longer, and what SOTI offers customers.
CR: Why is branding so important in the mobile sector and how does this help SOTI grow its business and its brand?
RV: Branding is particularly important in this market, as the landscape has changed significantly. For example, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives were the first foray into mobility for many enterprises. As they have now moved beyond BYOD they are turning to mobility and the Internet of Things (IoT) as strategic business drivers for productivity and enablement gains, as well as differentiation in delivering products, services, and unique customer experiences. The conversation has changed from simply managing mobile devices to one that is focused on the value that can be derived from mobility, connected employees, and connected “things”. Demonstrating differentiation is critical, and while we have mastered it technically, our old brand didn’t align with the unique value our solutions and innovations deliver.
There has been significant consolidation in the market with a flurry of merger and acquisition activity over the past few years. The rebrand sets SOTI apart in that it demonstrates that we deliver more than just mobile device management, enterprise mobility management or software. We enable businesses of all sizes and from all industries to harness the endless possibilities that mobility can offer their business, their employees, and their customers. Aligning the brand and our messaging with this has helped our sales teams have a different level of conversation and expand into new markets. It has had an enormous impact on our business.
CR: How does your new positioning of ‘taking mobility to endless possibilities’ connect to the evolution of the enterprise mobility management market?
RV: The enterprise mobility management market has evolved significantly over the past few years, with three shifts in categorical evolution defined by industry analysts in the last two and a half years alone. As enterprises are on the leading edge of a gravitational shift from an era of desktops and notebooks to one of true mobile computing, the combination of tablets, smartphones and other related technologies are not only changing how we work, but also enabling forward-thinking organizations to create differentiated products and services by leveraging mobility. The connected enterprise has the potential to harness the endless possibilities that mobility has to offer to extend its enterprise with no limits.
But companies are challenged to realize the full potential of mobility, IoT, and the connected enterprise as they are increasingly faced with the need to manage an incongruent array of disparate mobile devices. This is happening for a number of reasons including rapid expansion, mergers and acquisitions, differing mobile workforce needs across departments and geographies, the sudden proliferation of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, and the ongoing consolidation of special-built and consumer devices.
CR: How did this problem of relevancy manifest in your culture?
RV: Our employees across the globe were delivering different messages. Employees who had been with the company for a lengthy period of time delivered different messages than those that were newer and were exposed to a fresh set of messaging with their onboarding. We all needed to have the ability to deliver the same message.
At SOTI, innovation is in our DNA. Our personality is bold, and we like to take on every challenge and opportunity head on. It is built into our culture to be the first to imagine, explore, create, and we work very closely with our customers to turn their insights into actions that differentiate us in the marketplace and fuse strategy and creativity to develop the most intelligent solutions. Our goal is to deliver endless possibilities to our customers. The new brand messaging and positioning has provided a common rallying cry for all of our employees to tout together to create a common voice.
CR: How did you reposition SOTI in a way that leverages its heritage of innovation in this space?
RV: The challenge we faced was preserving our brand’s existing integrity with customers and partners, while infusing new energy into the business. The company’s history, our products and the customer successes we continue to deliver were no longer in-line with the way the brand was being presented.
SOTI has been managing mobility for two decades, with its roots in managing dedicated-purpose mobile devices, well before smartphones were introduced to the market. Over this time, device form factors, operating systems and the way enterprises are leveraging mobility has evolved significantly. The company’s image needed to keep pace with a rapidly changing marketplace and expand our company’s reach to new customers, while creating buzz among existing customers.
With the rebrand, we repositioned SOTI in a way that helps the market understand that in an era where mobility is now quickly becoming the nerve center of their operations, we have the solutions and the expertise to not enable their mobility strategies, but truly transform their business through mobility. And by offering strong proof points that align with the new brand and the value proposition, we are seeing a tremendous impact on our business and how the company is perceived.
CR: What did you discover as you went on this journey about your brand expression?
RV: The company had never fully established a solid brand identity from the start, as it has always been rooted in technology. The existing identity didn’t adequately represent the company, its fabric of innovation, and the transformative ways the company’s solutions were being used in the connected world we live in. Strategic considerations needed to be given to our brand. It was clear it needed to be refreshed. We wanted to stand out, but for the right reasons. And just as importantly, we wanted to make an emotional connection with our buyers. Regardless of the fact that we are in a B2B market, we are still selling to humans.
What was most impactful in defining the brand expression were the insights gained through every step of the process. From engagement of our CEO, participation of employees across all functional areas of our company, through to our customers, our partners and feedback from our OEMs such as Google and others, it was inspirational and enlightening to see how much we had to work with to redefine the brand. The enthusiasm to work together to build the new brand was truly inspirational, and then watching it unfold on digital, in video, in print, and in all communications to our market through the boundless efforts of our first-class marketing team has been an unsurpassed experience. It has reinvigorated our customers, our channels, and just as importantly, our employees.
CR: What impact has the new brand had on your business?
RV: The new brand provides us with the ability to allow our company’s culture and personality to shine through. It is fresh, confident and inspirational, and it humanizes the brand. Our technology is more than just a software solution. It allows enterprises to bring mobility to business, and in turn, bring mobility to our lives via interactive shopping experiences, more effective and efficient patient care, reducing time to market for life-saving remedies and much more.
Actively involved throughout the process, our CEO & Founder, Carl Rodrigues, has been pivotal in the success of the new brand. With the brand aligning with the vision he has for the company and the value we bring not just today, but well into the future, he has become one of our biggest brand champions. Carl not only reinforces it in all of his communications – both internal and external, but he encompasses it into strategies and leadership he provides. Customers, partners, employees and influencers in our market are taking notice. The result has been transformative to SOTI.
CR: How did you engage customers in the new SOTI story?
RV: Redefining a brand cannot be done in a cocoon. Our customers and partners and their input was a critical part of the process early on in the rebrand process. Feedback and insights gathers from focus groups and a survey was heavily factored into how we were going to reposition ourselves. And in large part, what our customers are doing with our solutions is what MAKES our brand differentiated, so it needed to be reflected in the exercise.
We brought the brand to life at our inaugural global user conference, SOTI SYNC, a few months ago. With almost 600 customers and partners in attendance, we shared our new messaging and positioning and unveiled the new visual identity. We also announced an investment of $150 million in Canada over the next three years, including a $50 million investment in research and development, more than 300 new jobs and a new five-acre high-tech campus (in Mississauga, Ontario).
CR: How did customers respond?
RV: The reactions from our customers and partners in response to the new brand validated that the rebrand was welcomed, necessary and transformative of their perception of us. As we shared our vision for the future of the connected enterprise, our planned innovations to propel their mobility strategies and the real-life accounts from our digitally disruptive customers who are trailblazing in their industries with SOTI and the promise mobility brings, we left them with a very different perspective on SOTI. This has created strong relationships with our customers as it reinforced to them that they are working with a company that is future-forward in its technologies, its approach and the value that it can bring to their business.
CR: What’s next for SOTI?
RV: At SOTI, we are a company of innovators, problem-solvers and visionaries. We’re big thinkers with the technical acumen and fabric of innovation to imagine the possibilities today, and make them reality for tomorrow. And what makes us stand out is that we have the proof points to prove it. This boldness is what sets us apart. The new brand provides us with the ability to express this boldness confidently, and in a way that is conversational. With a long history of bringing our clients’ mobile possibilities to life, we are a curious bunch, and this curiosity propels us deep into the details that so many others ignore. As for what’s next — anything is possible!