HR & Leadership

How Tough Questions Led to SurveyMonkey’s Rebrand

June 15, 2021

When Ryan and Chris Finley founded SurveyMonkey in 1999, the idea was to give people a simple way to quickly collect feedback. 22 years later and now worth over $3 billion, SurveyMonkey has rebranded as Momentive. I sat down with CMO Leela Srinivasan to talk about the decision to rebrand, how the pandemic has shifted work culture, and the fact that we are all responsible for shaping the future.

Over the last year and half, we’ve seen the pandemic drive so much digital transformation. Did that influence your decision to rebrand the company?

Leela: We’d discussed the possibility of a rebrand before the pandemic, so it wasn’t the reason we made the decision. The entire set of research happened during the pandemic, though. We kept hearing story after story about how our customers were doing incredible things with our platform—driving digital transformation on the customer experience side, arriving at clutch insights quickly to drive big change within organizations, and just figuring out how to navigate the pandemic from an employee experience perspective.

“Our mantra in this next chapter is to shape what’s next. Our mission is to power the curious so they can shape what’s next.”

These stories strengthened our research because it became even more apparent that although the SurveyMonkey brand is well-known and beloved in the space, what SurveyMonkey implies and the value that we deliver were two very separate, diverging things.

Is there a customer story from the past 15 months that sticks out to you?

Carrefour, the big French supermarket chain. The grocery sector had to change their whole model of working with customers overnight, which meant the customer journey itself was completely changing. Customers were suddenly forced to interact with their grocer online, and who knows if that’s what they would have chosen to do.

So you’ve got two entities coming at this from different sides, exploring a new experience. That’s where you need feedback to be flowing. And that use case is not a survey—that’s taking rapid input at digital touchpoints, whether in-app or on a website, and quickly figuring out where flows are breaking, or where you’re not providing information that your consumer needs, and making quick updates. That’s about shifting your customer experience really, really quickly. This was a prime example of where SurveyMonkey was falling short as a brand, even while our products were delivering.

The customer journey went digital thanks to the pandemic, but now people are starting to return to the office and other in-person gatherings. What do you think changes and stays the same going forward?

That’s the all-important question right now. The launch campaign video on our homepage is a series of hard questions that business leaders are having to answer right now. One of them is about the way we work and whether it’s working. I believe we’ll see hybrid situations persist. And I think about it the way that we’re adjusting internally here: We’ve given employees the opportunity to choose. We’ve called it the Choice Model.

“We’re entering this age of flexibility and choice, and the employers and businesses that offer that flexibility and choice are going to be the ones that win.”

By a certain date, every employee will choose whether they’d prefer to be fully back in the office, hybrid, or fully remote. I’m a prime example of somebody who is now choosing to be fully remote. I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, and one of our other executives is in Texas. I think we’ve proven over the last 15 months that we can do incredible things from anywhere. We have the technology. We have the capability.

By the same token, that’s not going to work for everyone. There are others who prefer different scenarios. We’re entering this age of flexibility and choice, and the employers and businesses that offer that flexibility and choice are going to be the ones that win.

That’s what I’m gathering from Momentive’s website—the idea that you shape your own future. And with things changing so quickly, we must keep experimenting and innovating.

This is where data and insights are all important in forging that path ahead. In this new chapter, we’re talking about how we empower decision-makers to act with speed and agility. You have to act quickly, but you have to do the right thing. Because the worst thing is acting quickly and going in the wrong direction. That’s where feedback—from your customers, from your employees, from whichever stakeholders you’re serving—becomes incredibly important.

The pace of change has only accelerated in the last 15 months—and things that were true yesterday might not be true tomorrow. It’s incumbent on businesses to keep the lines of communication open and to be listening. One of the elements of our platform is our ability to instill frictionless listening.

“You have to act quickly, but you have to do the right thing. Because the worst thing is acting quickly and going in the wrong direction.”

You have to be listening through different channels. You have to be pulling that information in, deriving the right insights, and taking action. That’s what it’s all about. And that’s a lot to do without the right technology in place.

It’s a high-octane time to be a leader, but you have to be agile and you have to keep asking the hard questions—even the ones you’d rather not ask.

People are quitting their jobs in record numbers. What should employers be doing?

The last 15 months have given people a chance to reflect on what matters. In recent conversations with other business leaders, we’ve been talking about how this is not the Great Recession—this is the Great Resignation.

Your employees have a choice. Some of them have built up their savings nicely over the last 15 months. And we’re all a little tired. We could all use a little break, and some are being bold and taking that break.

So for organizations everywhere, it only adds more reason that you have to lean in and listen to employees, because we can’t predict how they feel. You’ve got to make sure that your employees feel like they’re doing the best work of their lives—that they’re doing meaningful work that helps them grow, or work that helps them have flexibility at home.

“You’ve got to make sure that your employees feel like they’re doing the best work of their lives—that they’re doing meaningful work that helps them grow, or work that helps them have flexibility at home.”

Every employee is different, so you can’t know until you ask in those situations. We’ve seen this uptick in employee feedback over the last 15 months where organizations are realizing how much is changing about the way we interact with our employees.

We have to keep an ear to the ground. I think the biggest mistake that businesses can make as they come back into the office is thinking that they can relax when it comes to employee engagement and listening. Employees continue to have a choice, and their option set just broadened because some have been able to save up money over the course of the pandemic. They have the option to sit out from the workforce for a while.

So what are you doing to make sure that you’re giving employees a terrific experience, that you have their growth and development in mind, and that you’re thinking about and understanding what motivates them?

I see why the word “listen” is used so frequently in Momentive’s messaging. Everything really starts with listening.

It does. And this is where businesses fall down, right? You have to listen, and you have to understand, or derive the right insight from that. And then acting on what you hear and doing that in an agile way is so important.

I’ve seen companies shy away from listening to employees. Sometimes it’s because they’re fearful of the onus that puts on them to make a change. But, again, if you’re intent on retaining your best people, then you have to listen—and then take action.

How did you avoid getting burned out during this 14-month rebrand project?

I have to give a lot of credit to my team. It takes a very large number of people to pull off something like this, and I’m talking to you today on behalf of about 150 people who worked on this in some shape or form.

The timing of this project was in part due to my hiring of Karen Budell as our VP of Brand Marketing, because I knew I needed a really strong and experienced brand chief in place to help navigate this. We also had a world-class leader in program management, Phuong Trang, who stepped up to basically quarterback a lot of the workstreams. It really takes a village.

You’ve seen the website go live. You’ve seen the press coverage. You’re seeing things pop up across channels, but also internally—changing the company name means changing the ticker symbol to MNTV, changing all of our internal systems, changing the way that we communicate with our customers and everybody else.

So, the long tail of operational things to be tackled in the coming months is just part and parcel of making a change on this scale. It comes back to the team that I feel so privileged to lead and partner with, because this was marketing driven but impacted almost every part of the organization in some shape or form.

You launched the new website with several impressive customer stories front-and-center. Producing this kind of content can be a huge challenge for companies, so do you have any tips for getting customers excited to be part of a case study?

It starts with delivering real value to them. We launched with stories from PUMA, Nasdaq, the Women’s March Global, LG, Allbirds, and Mercari. These are organizations that are seeing tremendous success with our experience management solution. So step one is to deliver value to the customer, and then good things follow.

It’s such an interesting question because there’s a little bit of alchemy involved in finding the customer for whom this is a win-win. Not every customer is excited about being in the spotlight, and I say this from my time at LinkedIn and Lever, and now at SurveyMonkey. If you can find that customer who is eager, or who warms to the notion of being a thought leader and being positioned as a mover and shaker in their space, then I think this is such a win-win for both the customer and company.

The design of the customer story pages is beautiful. They feel like more of a feature in a magazine than a case study.

We organized photo shoots to get those bold, striking images of the protagonists who are doing extraordinary work at their organizations.

We took advantage of the photo shoots to give these customers a very special new brand reveal under NDA. At first they thought they were just being featured on a new corporate website for SurveyMonkey, and then during the shoot we’d say we had a little update on the story, and here’s what’s really happening. Then we’d show them a sneak peek of Momentive.

We just had the opportunity to play some of the reactions in our town hall meeting this morning. It was priceless to see these customers really leaning into our new identity and getting excited about it. They played back to us, in their words, the key reasons why we are doing this. One customer just talked about how, when they think about the application of our technology, to the problems that they solve internally, it’s so much more than surveys.

Do you have any advice for how businesses can make their messaging and design more human?

Look at the new logo for Momentive—it’s about this intersection between humanity and technology. That yellow quarter circle represents this curve of human perspective, and then the blue up and to the right triangle is data and insight and technology. We’re basically at the intersection of those two things.

Momentive logo

We call that green segment “heritage green” as a nod to our SurveyMonkey roots. That’s where the magic happens. But technology by itself, maybe it’s cool, but it’s what people do with it. That really makes a difference. That’s what your buyer wants to understand: What can they do? What difference can they make with your technology?

I’m a huge fan of having that customer protagonist front-and-center. And if you can first deliver value to them, and then you can celebrate and elevate them and work in partnership with them, then amazing things happen.

I like how you’re pushing people to do better and use our power for good. We should shape our future into something we’re all proud of.

Absolutely. Our mantra in this next chapter is to shape what’s next. Our mission is to power the curious so they can shape what’s next.

Look at the leaders using our technology in all of its different formats, whether they’re trying to solve for product experience, or customer or employee experience, or whether they’re trying to find brand or market insights. All of them are shaping or reshaping their industry, their function, their company, their growth trajectory, etc., through the work they do with the assistance of our technology. We’re here to salute those leaders who are shaping what’s next.

We’re kind of the meta story here. We used our own solutions to shape our own identity, and our next step on the journey. And we couldn’t be more excited about it.

More from Leela

Managing Editor<br>OpenView

Kristin joined OpenView after spending over four years at InVision managing their Inside Design publication and helping build brand love as chief storyteller, lead producer and editor. Before InVision, she co-founded the digital strategy agency Four Kitchens, spent several years in the restaurant industry as a chef, and was Editor-in-Chief of the nation’s largest college humor publication, the Texas Travesty, as an undergrad at the University of Texas at Austin.