In April of 2018, I was in Hawaii on business when Joe Burton, my soon-to-be-boss, gave me a call. He was then CEO of Plantronics who had recently announced that they would be acquiring Polycom, where I was CMO. “I’m thinking about the name for our new combined company,” he said, “and I figured you’d probably want to be involved in that.”
Well, YES! That’s a marketer’s dream! Having the opportunity to take two companies with strong brands and strong origin stories and turn them into one new company – you just don’t get that chance very often in a career. So, yes, yes, I would like to be involved in that!
And so began our journey. Two brands, each with its own storied history. The headset that transmitted the famous “One step . . .” of the first moon landing. The conference phone used by leaders of nations and captains of industry. Two companies focused on making connections better with better audio, better video, better quality. In rebranding, we wanted to honor the brand equity, history, and positive associations that Plantronics and Polycom both had, while also working to plant our new marque in a country that hadn’t yet been discovered.
We thought hard about simply taking the name from one of the two companies. We worked on this angle for a long time, reviewing brand tracker research and interviewing a host of stakeholders. Turned out, lots of data showed us that people who knew headsets knew Plantronics, and people who knew meeting rooms knew Polycom. Ultimately, there wasn’t a clear “winner” and we didn’t feel that either existing name was sufficiently expansive. Both names were somewhat dated (the “-tronics” and “-com” markers of bygone eras), and, worse, LONG. Data show that shorter names perform better in our digital world – easier to say, spell, and type. And the brand attributes that we saw all showed that while we scored well on quality and reliability overall, we didn’t have a whole lot of emotional connection in either brand.
We thought about some sort of fusion – lots of brand literature suggests that this is a great way to nod to the past while still moving forward. But “Polytronics” and “PlanCom” and “PolyPlan” and “PlanPoly” … you see the problem there. We didn’t like the alternative of taking one name plus the other logo, either. We weren’t fans of the Polycom logo, and Plantronics didn’t even have a logo, just a wordmark.
We really didn’t want to entertain the notion of a net new name – it seemed far too expensive and, frankly, risky. But our partners at Prophet who worked with us on the new brand asked one day, “Have you thought about Poly?”
Hmmn. Poly. From the Greek: “poly” means “many.” Four letters, two syllables. And what did our new company stand for, if not the many? The many employees who are coming together. The many modes of communications we enable. The many ecosystems we cross with our smart hardware and cloud connections. The many … the list of “manys” got very long, very fast.
Poly clearly also carries forward some of the Polycom equity and associations. But what about Plantronics? How do we honor that part of our history together? That’s where our new logo, the “Propeller,” comes into play.
The propeller brings together the first letters of both company names in the rich “lava” used in the Plantronics world. It shares the use of 60-degree angles that appear dominantly in the Plantronics design language. And it animates beautifully to create an actual propeller – honoring the first of our two origin stories, when two airline pilots came together to make flying safer – as well as our strong history in aviation headsets.
The name and the logo, of course, are just the start of our rebranding story. We’ve also spent a lot of time to work through a new visual identity to bring in more authenticity and emotion. We want to explicitly get away from those stock-photo images of shiny happy people in offices high-fiving the deal they apparently just got, without a trace of wrinkled knee or used coffee cup. We have also developed a new voice to give Poly a tone and a language that draws some DNA from its parents, but with more modernity, simplicity, and yes, even swagger. Joining me in upcoming blogs will be Darrin Caddes, our brilliant VP of Global Brand and Design, to talk more about these other elements of our story—stay tuned!
 Generally speaking, I think “Hawaii” and “on business” are words that should be used together much more often.