DigitalFeaturedOpinionThe Work

Rebranding as a soul-searching tool – by G42’s Faheem Ahamed

Group chief marketing and communications officer, Faheem Ahamed writes how G42 rebranded its identity

It’s easy to follow the path of least resistance. With COVID, lockdowns, inflation, and economic instability, CMOs could be forgiven for playing it safe and keeping off the Board’s radar.

That’s because creativity necessitates disruption. Curiosity to find a better way. In marketing, our best work takes intestinal fortitude and a challenger mindset to drive innovation. Is now the time for CMOs to be courageous?

Here’s the marketing brief we recently faced: Rebrand a two-year old company which has far surpassed its own plans and no longer reflects its renewed ambitions. But to do so without losing its raison d’etre and allowing for continued quantum growth ‘brand-width’.

Exponential growth

Let’s go back to 2018, where our story begins as an Artificial Intelligence (AI) research organisation. Driven by researching and developing technology to solve real-life problems and applying the solutions at scale, we quickly evolved to lead the development of AI solutions that could solve today’s most pressing issues for both public and private organizations. Two years in, we started facing challenges though: our brand was not aligned with our growth trajectory and audiences were unaware, or lacked familiarity, of who G42 is and what it did.

AI is complex and its definition is evolving. As controversial as nuclear in the 80’s, one may argue, or electricity was in the second industrial revolution. The promise is enormous. The risks, if mismanaged, potentially catastrophic.

At G42, we don’t have doubts: we see AI as a force for good, a tool that powers human progress across industries and societies. We set out to evolve our brand, signalling a transition to G42’s next phase of growth as a technology holding company and a global leader in AI.

Visual Identity at Glance
G42’s visual Identity at glance

A brand that is real, and relevant

Granted a brand ‘makeover’ can become a head-turning moment that gets all the attention, but we strongly felt the refreshed aesthetics of the brand shouldn’t be the center of attention, rather what it means instead. We chose to focus on redefining what G42 stands for in the world and how it connects with people, from team members and partners to clients, with authenticity and meaning. We were able to pin down a decisive factor, which is that AI is not something to fear, rather, a “super utility” that has the ability to change our lives for the better and unlock the next frontier of human progress. This is what informed our new brand purpose of “Inventing a Better Everyday”.

The process behind the makeover

Every successful organization makes it to the top thanks to its unique mix of ingredients. In our case, it was the unbridled energy and entrepreneurial spirit typical of a startup, coupled with the technological talent and resources of a large tech-corporation. To preserve the former, we articulated and codified a set of beliefs and behaviours into the brand platform that helped us capture the essence of G42 that we derived from an internal deep dive research. This also served as a marker to ensure the brand doesn’t stray too far from its purpose. These beliefs and behaviours inspire us and remind us of why we’re doing what we’re doing. They also represent the guiding principles our teams adopt as they engage with colleagues, undertake business projects, or make informed decisions with clients and on projects.

As a next step, we deconstructed our brand architecture to redefine the logic to drive the positioning of our existing and forthcoming businesses. The resulting hybrid brand architecture, built on two dimensions of ‘proximity’ and ‘impact,’ gives us the flexibility for future growth, a framework for our storytelling and brand experiences that also allows us to demonstrate the holistic value of our visionary AI and technological solutions.

A renewed identity and personality

To communicate in a more engaging, inspiring and clearer manner we developed a strong visual and verbal identity – one which builds warmth, injects energy and dynamism into the tone – and an all-encompassing messaging framework for our multiple stakeholders. This new voice is now reflected not only in the way we write copy, but also in the way we think, act, and engage with ourselves and others.

The next step was to start looking at our brand aesthetics. We empowered technology to lead the visual rebranding journey. Our new color palette and design originates from the use of machine learning and AI algorithms that scanned thousands of relevant satellite images of the Earth to pick out the most common and vibrant hues, which were tinkered to define the new colors to represent not only G42, but the world it is contributing to shape.

In this journey of exploration, we were strongly smitten by the urge to let go and start fresh, and we were excited with new visual forms of identity. But having undergone the process, and with intense internal consultations, we chose to retain our brand identity and its equity but modernised and humanised it by making it less angular and sharp, and more ergonomic.

AI is for everyone, everyday

With our rebranding we also wanted to demystify AI and show what it enables, creates, and nurtures. This led to the birth of the visual idea of ‘emergence‘, a powerful approach that showcases the potential of AI of bringing clarity to data and how it manifests in everyday life. A simple idea, that had the ability to visually close the gap between how the technology is misperceived and its immense potential on progressing our lives.

What you see today is the culmination of a thoughtful process that looked both internally at G42’s core beliefs and externally to refine the way G42 interacts with stakeholders around the globe. It is more than just an aesthetic change, it is an articulation of G42’s ambition, its people, and the role the company has committed to play in digital transformation, technological advancement, and societal betterment.

Lessons learnt from our rebranding

A rebranding exercise is complex – you have to put your entire business, not only its brand, under the microscope, study all its nuances, be open to multiple perspectives and settle in a long ride of self-reflection and learning. Our key takeaways for anyone reading this article and considering a rebrand are as follows:

  1. Objectivity: Always hire professional branding consultants with the right DNA match to help you bring in objectivity and subject matter expertise – it’s really hard to rebrand on your own. We used Re Worldwide. You can have multiple brainstorming sessions, map out scopes, set timelines, but the reality is, you’re too close to the brand and often unaware of the prevailing subconscious frame biases.
  2. At the core, it’s about people and not creativity: For adoption of anything new or for change, it is imperative to let go – honor the old and embrace the new – even though your old brand served you well, it’s time to let go. You can keep certain elements of high value, but after a rebrand, it’s time for the new identity to do its work, and this takes time with sustained and consistent effort for adoption.
  3. Keep it simple and honest: – when defining your brand identity, try to keep it simple and true to your purpose and offering. In my opinion and experience, simple is beautiful and it should be honest from within.