Transforming the global UST brand: A conversation with Leslie Schultz, CMO
Leslie Schultz, Chief Marketing Officer |
Leslie Schultz, Chief Marketing Officer
What does it take to transform and relaunch a prestigious global brand with 26,000 employees around the world? We talked with Leslie Schultz, Chief Marketing Officer at UST, to get a behind-the-scenes look into the process of transforming UST Global to UST.
Tell me a bit about your background and why you decided to join UST?
I’ve always been a tech, digital and analytics-first marketer. I started my career at Apple, so you could say that marketing innovation was in my DNA from the beginning. UST recruited me to take on a big challenge: To build their marketing function from the ground up. The chance to build a new brand and a modern marketing team for a company the size of UST was an opportunity too good to pass up.
When did you know you needed to transform the UST brand?
From day one, I felt that brand was so important in terms of telling the UST story. UST has historically been quiet and humble and has grown to the global force it is today largely through word of mouth, which speaks to our ability to deliver results for our clients. But after completing an in-depth discovery with leadership, it was clear that we didn’t have a consistent brand identity. Once it was determined that a rebrand was necessary, I enlisted one of the world’s leading global branding agencies to be our partner, and we set out to complete a large bank of research.
Tell me about the research process and learnings.
As a data-driven marketer, I wanted to understand how we were positioned, what our equities were, and what a rebrand would need to accomplish. Our priority was to complete a qualitative and quantitative global study. We talked to leaders, long-term clients, partners, analysts and associates that had worked for us in the past. And we did a broad employee survey as well, which received about 5,000 responses. We also completed an independent blind study that included both clients and prospects across the globe that were screened as potential buyers or potential partners.
These few months of research were critical, and its learnings would inform the creative exploration, the brand platform development, the differentiation, everything.
The “Independent 3rd party EyeOpener research actually validated my gut feeling that there was this special magic inherent to UST. We led our competitor set in the Net Promoter Score (NPS) loyalty metric. Our current and past client partners had extremely favorable perceptions of our work. They spoke highly of the relationships they built, the people they encountered, our innovation, and our technical delivery. We also validated that those who had worked with us considered us as leaders in transformation, cybersecurity and in delivering insights and actions from data – and that the strengths we offered were what our clients were looking for in a partner.
We determined that it was important to protect the essence of UST, but we had work to do to tell our story and to figure out how our “special sauce” was made. And we had to bring the brand personality to life in a differentiated way, while making sure that we communicated our strong sense of purpose.
What are a few words you would use to describe UST’s brand personality?
Nimble, tenacious and trustworthy immediately come to mind. We go in, identify and then solve our clients’ problems. We pivot quickly, and our work drives results. In our 20 years of existence, we’ve always been known for our co-creation, co-development, and our true sense of partnership. Our leaders are accessible and available. Our client’s journey becomes our journey.
Was it hard to get everyone on board with the new cutting-edge logo and brand identity?
When you go through the creative process, you have options to choose from, and the approach we decided on was the most innovative one. It was a unanimous decision. All our stakeholders knew that this bold new direction was an authentic representation of who we truly are. We take chances. We aren’t like others. We are always adapting and evolving.
What feedback have you heard about the new brand so far, and what challenges have you encountered along the way?
Many of the associates that I’ve heard from told me that the new brand feels like “who we are, and who we have always been yet also want to be.” Hearing that was so meaningful to me because I really wanted UST associates to recognize themselves in the brand.
Of course, it’s not fully a brand until everybody lives and breathes it. Communicating across the globe and bringing everybody into the process was extremely challenging.
We started internal communications months ago, and we’re empowering all of our employees with tools and messaging to talk with their clients, partners and the people that they work with every day. And then, of course, there are the pragmatic, tactical things that a rebrand requires, like identifying every touchpoint that needs to change. For us, this is a truly global endeavor, and it’s a logistical challenge at times, especially given the pandemic. We have helipads, marble etched floors, logos on islands. We’re giving ourselves a few months to swap everything over!
Did Covid-19 impact your new brand messaging?
UST has been a mission-driven company since day one. We’re driven to transform not just our clients’ businesses, but their lives, the lives of their customers, and their communities-at-large. You feel that in our culture.
So, I’m not surprised that we’ve become even stronger partners with our clients over the last nine months. We’ve helped them through unprecedented challenges and created resiliency. And in talking to our clients and our associates, we realized that our brand message and core values are more relevant and important than ever.
Tell me about the new name.
Our research overwhelmingly indicated that there was a lot of equity and positive sentiment for our name. We moved from UST Global to UST because one of our brand goals is to simplify our identity. The UST name is a dynamic symbol that emulates who we are and shows our modern, future-forward approach.
Tell me about your One Brand strategy.
I call UST a startup. It's a big, big startup of startups. It's always been like that.
That's part of its special magic. There's this intrinsic spirit of entrepreneurship in the organization, which is full of brilliant engineers, architects, designers, technologists and delivery associates. This does breed many small brands and companies, however, and we’ve made many acquisitions over the last 20 years. We’re evolving from a house of brands to one global brand, with a few select satellite brands. It’s important that we’re pulling together our entire story, because that is what UST does – we bring together all of these different tools and capabilities into one toolbox.
When you’re launching a new brand, consistency is vital. Whether you are having a coffee with a UST associate, encountering us at a trade show or at ust.com, or participating in a Zoom call, we want to that all our brand touchpoints tell the same story.
How are you measuring success? What are your goals?
When we talk to people who don't know of us, they're surprised that we have such an impressive roster of clients. We have many of the largest global companies represented in our portfolio across kind of key industries like healthcare, retail, CPG, technology, telco, media, semiconductor. So brand awareness is a huge goal for us.
We’ve established equity measures through our research. We’ve measured our brand awareness and have forecasted where we’d like to see improvement. Our aim is to continue to grow in our category. We’re looking both at these larger measures as well as the more tactical, pragmatic marketing measures: Traffic, engagement, clickthrough rates, and so forth.
To finish up, a little branding exercise. If UST was a person and you met them at a cocktail party, what would they be like?
UST would be a global citizen, who has their finger on the pulse of what's going on. They're not stuffy. They’re humble, and full of wisdom that stems from experience. Willing to sit down and listen and have an engaging conversation. They’re not the loudest character in the room, but one that you probably end up spending the whole night talking to.