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FELA to LifeCents: A lot more than a name change

Relaunching a company's brand is a growth process. LifeCents Founder and CEO Blake Allison shares five pivotal lessons he's learned along the way.

Blake Allison, LifeCents founder and CEO. (Courtesy photo)
This is a guest post by LifeCents CEO Blake Allison.
Brands that can successfully navigate rapid growth, seismic shifts in the market and ever-evolving customer needs, are able to do so because of two main factors: a clear vision and a sound business strategy.

These companies also understand that these factors require regular, critical review and thoughtful adjustment.

This is not to say that a pivot in business strategy is not scary as hell (or that it is not without challenges) because it often is. I would know, as I’ve recently experienced this firsthand with the company I founded: FELA, Inc. Now, we’re LifeCents.

LifeCents is a financial wellness app that addresses the ever-increasing need to help consumers improve their financial health. We do this by connecting users to content, resources, and partners for their specific financial health profiles, personalities and situations. LifeCents uses AI to curate these resources and gamification to drive user engagement.

With demand for our financial wellness solution accelerating in recent months, we knew we needed to make crucial strategic decisions. After evaluating every dimension of the business, we determined that we needed to shift to more accurately reflect our capabilities and mission while positioning our company for even more growth.

The end result? By focusing on the core of who we are – our brand – we underwent an end-to-end rebrand of the company and our product to “LifeCents,” and in that process, sunset the original FELA name and brand.

Through this process, I learned a number of extremely valuable lessons – five of which I’d like to share with you.

Lesson 1: Listen, assess, respond

In order to effectively position your company for its next phase of growth, or even to bring a product to market, listen closely to all of your stakeholders: your team, investors, clients, partners, and, in our case, our users. You have to be open to new ideas and other perspectives. Welcome all feedback without bias and without an agenda — even if that feedback is not what you wanted to hear, or what you thought you would hear.

During LifeCents’ rebrand, it would have been short-sighted for me to dig in my heels and blindly defend the brand I created when founding the company. Instead, I proactively solicited input from others, quickly discerning the mismatch between our original brand and who we actually are.

The reality is that we were ready for change. The only thing we had to do was listen, assess, and respond.

Lesson 2: Stay focused

Making the decision to do an end-to-end rebrand of the business and our product was just the first step. We quickly realized that this kind of strategic shift impacts every aspect of the business.

With this realization, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and question where to start. We knew we ran the risk of turning what could be a key strategic initiative into a nebulous (potentially endless) marketing effort.

The good news is that we already had a lot of information from our stakeholders – as well as their buy-in – allowing us to easily identify and prioritize key milestones.

What proved to be the most valuable at this stage was the laser focus and commitment of the LifeCents team. Everyone here shares a passion for the work that we do and, luckily, the focus to drive it.

Lesson 3: Choose a name that defines who you are

Your company name is very often the linchpin of your brand. While the right name can position you well in the market and set you up for success, the wrong name can cause confusion about who you are, the services you provide and even your core values.

This realization was at the core of our decision.

We were founded under the name FELA (Financial Education & Literacy Advisers) – quite a mouthful! FELA simply didn’t reflect our high-energy, startup mentality, nor our product, team, energy or passion.

We needed a name that would appeal to people of all levels, ages, cultures and life experiences: a brand that stood out. We wanted to declare that every decision people make about money, every day of the year, can have a material impact on their life now and in the future.

LifeCents made sense.

Bottom line: If your brand doesn’t evoke ideas that align with your business goals, keep trying until you find the best fit. It’s an iterative and creative process.

Lesson 4: Reimagine your brand

Rebranding your company is a unique opportunity to reimagine your organization’s entire public persona, including core values, mission statement and even the tone and voice of your communications. Each of these dimensions warrant considerable thought and attention, as each aspect needs to work together as one.

For example, when we set out to identify our values, we started with a list of more than 100 and whittled those down to four: bold, innovative, empowering, and impactful. As a team, we felt that these spoke to who we are as a company (bold and innovative) and our approach to financial wellness (empowering and impactful).

Lesson 5: Ensure your internal culture reflects your new identity

Effective rebranding includes changing internally, as well as externally. Your new culture should emulate how you approach the business, manage your people and interact with others. Be sure to foster a culture that reflects your rebranding efforts, including your new values and business.

This makes hiring the right people one of the most mission critical aspects of your business. Yes, your hiring practices need to be designed to recruit a diverse team that bring an array of experiences, expertise and perspectives on the world. And yes, you need people who are passionate about your business and are independent thinkers and creative problem solvers. But you also need people who are willing to commit their energy and thoughts to your vision, your values, your mission…and your brand.

Making the decision to revamp your brand can be daunting. But with a clear vision, a great team, and above all, a commitment to moving your business forward, you can take your company in a new and exciting direction and better position it for accelerated growth.

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