Interview – Karoline Gericke
Ubilabs is an internationally operating consultancy for Data & Location Technology and creates new opportunities for visionary companies.
Hi Karoline, thanks for taking the time to talk about our joint re-branding process. Many people often think of a re-brand as just a new visual identity. In your case, the process went much deeper and provided answers for both your future business, and brand strategy as well as your identity internally. We would like to talk to you about how this process changed you as a brand, a company and a team.
But maybe back to the start – how did it all begin at Ubilabs?
We started as a software company in 2007 with the development of interactive maps. The Ubilabs founders Martin Kleppe, Michael Pletziger and Jens Wille all studied at the Bauhaus University in Weimar. Even then, they shared an enthusiasm for the interplay between creativity, technology, design and people. As map specialists, we quickly became known internationally. In 2012, the distribution of Google Maps licenses was added as a new business segment. A few years later, around 2015, we then also added Google Cloud as another service area to our portfolio. Today, we are one of the leading Google Cloud Partners in Germany – and at the same time an independent consulting and development company that develops applications for international companies.
So Ubilabs has grown horizontally?
Yes, we have greatly expanded our range of services. This has boosted business, but over time it has become a challenge for our brand and identity. Our claim was always to approach the market and the Ubilabs team as ONE strong brand with ONE clear story. As a pure map specialist in the early days with the claim “Map up your business” we had a very clear profile. The addition of Google Maps was a good fit for our core competency – and our story. However, the addition of Google Cloud as a third business dimension forced us to evolve our brand and story. A number of things came together. We have grown up as a company and are now thinking bigger, more internationally. At the same time, we felt that we were not presenting a common message to the outside world at all points. With these thoughts in mind, we moved into and designed a new office in May 2019. Here you can experience the “new Ubilabs.” The website and brand design, on the other hand, were at the level of 2015. Neither did justice to what we are today – neither in terms of content, design nor technology.
At that point did you think about rebranding?
We realized that we wanted to present our different capabilities as an overall portfolio that all our customers could understand. Our work, customers and the world around us became and is becoming more and more data-driven. In our appearance, this change was not sufficiently visible. So we came to the conclusion that we need to fundamentally rethink – to get strategically ready for the future and show the market what we can do as mature location & data experts. To be honest, it took us some time and some pain to take this step.
Many brands tell their story to the outside world as an organic, logical sequence without breaks. But if you grow in several areas at the same time under one roof, you automatically have internal dynamics and discussions. These must also be conducted in order to move forward. Who are we? What is our identity? What is our culture? What parts of our history fit with our vision? And, of course, this kind of thing is exhausting. You also have to say goodbye to things you've grown and open yourself up to new things. That's not easy for everyone either.
How did you initiate the rebranding process and what was important to you in the process?
For me, it was important that the process also move us forward internally in terms of identity. It wasn't just a matter of “repainting the house.” I wanted all employees in the company to participate in the evolution of our brand and to feel that it is about the further development of what makes us together. To achieve this, it was important for me to have an agency partner at my side who is capable of going into depth. To look together with us at the core of Ubilabs and from there define a new brand strategy for the future that shows us the way – that's what it was all about for me.
What helped you with that?
It was important and helpful to look both inward and outward. On the way to a new brand strategy, we took a fundamental look at the market and defined three future areas of activity for us. With Smart Cities, New Mobility and Sustainability, we now have clear corridors that give us orientation for the future and help us identify the right projects for us. Through the interviews with customers and partners, we have expanded our inside view to a 360-degree view. It was also important to analyze our target customers and their needs very clearly and to align our brand strategy with them.
On this basis, we played through and evaluated possible developments in our business tomorrow in the form of scenarios. What we must also not forget: The entire process took place in 2020, during the lockdown. We had a decisive breakthrough in a live event when we were able to meet again, protected and within reason. Having all the decision makers concentrated in one place and getting things to the point created such strong momentum. Without such a moderated kick-off, we would not have made any progress in aligning strategy, brand and communication.
What have you achieved through the rebranding process?
We are sending a clear message that we have developed further. Internally, a great deal of momentum has been created, especially because many of the team were involved – and continue to be so after the launch. My impression is that all our employees feel very comfortable with the redesign and see themselves reflected in the Ubilabs brand.
I am very happy with the result, the brand design has proven to be super usable. It is bold and visible, is clearer than before and at the same time more versatile.
I also have the impression that my colleagues are motivated by the clear focus on important future topics – especially our focus topic of sustainability and the prospect of being able to make a positive contribution here for future generations.
Through the process, we also understood what our strengths are and were able to overlay these with our values. Consciously defining focus areas has freed us up and now makes it much easier for us to show what we stand for. This opens doors for us – for example at networking events such as ITS, the World Mobility Congress. We are perceived as experts at eye level. It was extremely helpful that we are now clearly positioned as an international consultancy for data and location technology with an interlinked portfolio of services.
How has the market responded to your brand strategy?
The feedback on the rebranding has been consistently positive. Our website is now visited much more frequently. To be fair, we also stepped up our PR activities and strengthened our team at the same time. A lot has happened since then. It was important that we started in the first place and created momentum. That has made a difference in a lot of places. For companies that didn't know us before, the path to Ubilabs is now shorter. I have the impression that our presence helps us a lot to be perceived as experts in Data & Location Technology. That was one of the most important goals for us. Our story is now coherent and we tell it consistently. That was an additional important learning process.
What success stories do you tell?
For example, our collaboration with Telekom. That's a fantastic partnership that's developing. Together, we are developing solutions for managing parking space in cities more intelligently. Here we are putting a project on the road that is being used and tested in the Hamburg real lab and offers great application potential for other cities and municipalities. Together with Telekom, we presented the project to smart city experts from all over Germany at the ITS World Congress. The project shows us under real environmental conditions how we can help make cities more livable through smart mobility control.
Another project example is our collaboration with ARD. In the form of a mobile-optimized map, anyone can experience the consequences of climate change in Germany there – and look ahead to the year 2100. There we developed the concept, design, UI, prepared the data and selected the appropriate technologies. Or ESA, for whom we developed Climate from Space – a platform that educates about climate change. We also have quite a few prestigious clients that we are not allowed to mention by name. Our collaboration with Google is also becoming increasingly close. On the one hand, we test new features, and on the other, we build demos to present solutions such as Google Maps and Looker in a way that can be understood by a wide range of industries.
How are you continuing your brand strategy?
Since the rebranding, many other internal initiatives, steered by OKRs, have been launched. How can we further expand the positioning? Or: How do we achieve our targeted image on the market? We continue to work consistently on goals like these and on fulfilling our brand promises. The brand strategy provides us with a good orientation framework. It is now much clearer which stories and content will make us heard and seen.