The Numbers do NOT add-up in Sage’s Rebranding Strategy
At the recent Sage Summit user and partner conference, Sage North America executives announced the company’s plan to rebrand its products to emphasize the Sage name, followed by a number (similar to the Sage Europe products such as Sage 50, Sage 100, etc.). The rationale behind this strategy is that the Sage brand is more recognizable in the global market than the individual product names, and this move will help the company create a consistent brand and image for its family of products.
I believe that everyone is supportive of Sage having a strong brand – I know I am. It is very beneficial for all parties, Sage, clients and business partners. However, I see no value to a Sage brand by dropping already heavily co-branded names like MAS, Accpac, ACT! or Peachtree and replacing them with numbers (50, 100, 200, 300 etc). This will only add significant confusion to existing clients and prospects and add client expectations that Sage has never been able to deliver. I support a strong Sage brand; however, I do not believe adding numbers after the word Sage enhances the Sage brand.
Existing Sage branding already uses the Sage name, supported by co-branding with strong product names with a rich heritage. I see nothing in the new branding scheme that will further enhance the Sage brand. In both options, Sage is the first word in the brand. The co-brand components add value and clarification today and help co-brand the Sage name.
Numbers, however, add no value to me and add significant risk and concern. Numbers imply a family, a pecking order, compatibility, interoperability and structure. Numbers can have some value for some product lines, for example, BMW 3, 5, 6, and 7 series. Everyone knows and assumes that the higher the number the higher the cost, bigger the car and more luxurious the feature set. What if they came out with an 8 series that was a competitor to a small European subcompact for a price of $15,000? What if they came out with a 6-series truck instead of the standard 6-series sports coupe? Do you think that would add some confusion?
Compare that to Sage:
First, we have the confusion of a similar numbering scheme in Europe. We get calls every month from prospects who believe that a US Sage product is the same or interfaces with a European version of Sage. Once Sage NA uses the same or similar numbering scheme, that will be a natural assumption. Global company, global solution, same name – they better work together. However, we know they never will, so why add to that confusion?
Second, having multiple products in multiple regions all called the same Sage number is a real cluster. Calling Simply Accounting and Peachtree “Sage 50” in North America and having another Sage 50 in the UK and then another Sage 50 in CRM – what will the customer think or expect? I can assure you that my expectation is they are all compatible, all have the same user interface, same database and interface options and they work together. All things we were told would happen more than ten years ago and I have yet to see any significant movement in that direction. But the customer would expect that today – not coming over the next five years (or never at all).
Third, non-US customers contacting us today already assume that Sage MAS 90 is a upgrade to Sage 50 or an intro or compatible version to Sage 100, or that Sage MAS 200 is the US version and is compatible to Sage 200. It is human nature to assume that Sage 500 is a better / bigger product than Sage 200, Sage 100 or Sage 50. It’s also assumed that product lines in the same family (200 series) work together as seamless modules or applications. None of those assumptions are true, so why set that expectation and encourage negative customer satisfaction?
Fourth, take MAS and Accpac – similar markets and customer profiles. Giving them the same name/number creates confusion; giving one a higher number than the other implies a difference (Sage 250 has many more features and capabilities than Sage 200). Also Sage 250 is just an upgrade from Sage 200 since they both come from Sage, both are in the 200 family … Sage 250 is just a better fit for me. These are all reasonable assumptions, however, all unrealistic expectations.
Fifth, let’s think about cross selling other Sage products. Imagine the conversation with a customer that you propose to sell Sage 250 (ERP) with Sage 400 (HRMS) and Sage 50 (CRM). Choose your own product numbers and related product brands. The initial expectation is that the customer should choose products from the same Sage number family – 200 series. Then the expectation is they will work together – but they don’t. Picture yourself explaining that the right solution is “250, 400 and 50” – though they still do not integrate, look and feel the same or use a common database or technology. Just one more reason to say – this is not a suite of products, just a cluster of numbers and incompatible products. The numbering scheme just enhances expectations we do not meet today.
Last but not least, I am tired of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars rebranding Sage every year on our website, videos, product literature, company literature, advertisements, and more. Yes, the cost to rebrand is expensive. But what is more expensive is the lost opportunity costs of having my staff do that instead of generate leads and opportunities for NEW Sage business via new campaigns, or verticals on new initiatives. A rebrand every 3-5 years would be reasonable. Sage has either rebranded their own name (Sage, Best, Best Software, Sage Software back to Sage) or product names (MAS 90, MAS 90 by Sage, Sage MAS 90, Sage ERP MAS 90, etc.) every year for the last 10 years. Enough is enough. Keep the names the same for at least 3 years. Your resellers barely follow all the changes. Our customers are totally confused.
So, for me – the Sage numbers rebranding as proposed adds no value, and adds significant rebranding costs AND adds significant risk in future sales. Sage, when you make your products look and feel the same and interface deeper than an import-export to an Excel file, then you can rebrand into a suite of products (with or without numbers). Until you do that, the numbering scheme is as productive as creating a package for “MAS 90 for Peachtree users” and providing putting the same old MAS 90 CD in the box with no added value such as data conversion, help guides or anything that would help a Peachtree user migrate to MAS 90. End result: It sets customers expectations and delivers nothing but disappointment and low customer satisfaction.
Sage, please apply those same funds and resources and focus on delivering your business partners and customers competitive and integrated products that we can sell with confidence and that add value to our joint customers. You have great products with a rich history and a current naming approach that supports a strong Sage brand. Changing product names again does not enhance the brand. It’s as productive as changing the cloth color on the deck chairs of the Titanic. Let’s focus on our customers – not another name change.
But, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.
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