Sage North America has a new CEO, and building the brand of the business software vendor is the first priority of Pascal Houillon. And to build Sage's brand, he says the brands of their well-known product brands will have to go.
Speaking to a room filled with Sage partners and resellers at the company's Sage Summit conference (the customers arrive Tuesday), Huillon announced long-standing Sage product brands such as AccPac, Peachtree, Act and SalesLogix will be no more by 2013. Instead, Sage will lead with its overall brand, grouping products in numbered categories based on market size as in Europe, such as Sage 50 for the SMB segment.
"I'm sure many of you are surprised by this," said Houillon. "But as long as we continue to invest our emotions in product brands we'll never build the Sage brand."
Houillon hails from France and ran several business units for Sage in Europe and South America before taking on the North American role. In Europe, he said Sage has a much more recognized and powerful brand, and is recognized as a market leader. He wants to make that the case in North America as well.
"Building our brand is my first priority," said Houillon. He mentioned opening a bank account after moving to the U.S., and putting "Sage North America CEO" under occupation. To his chagrin, the bank employee asked him if he wanted to open a small business account.
"I'm determined to change this perception because I want each of you to know the fleeing of being associated with an iconic brand," said Houillon.
The announcement drew a mixed reaction from Sage partners. In video questions for a Sage executive panel, several partners questioned whether "another" re-branding would serve a purpose and mentioned the cost that partners will face in changes to web sites, collateral and other marketing activities.
Not all partners were sceptical, though. Toronto-based Sage partner Bredet Services Inc.won its second consecutive Community Service Award at the Sage partner awards Monday, and president Debbie Breuls said she's excited with the new releases coming for the hosted products and continuing product development by Sage, which is said us all positive.
"We were originally from the Computer Associates days of them owning Accpac in Canada and have seen lots of change and in this industry. It's always going to be something new. The branding would be part of that," said Breuls. "I'm a big believer in trying new things and I do believe Sage needed to do more to build the brand awareness, so we'll see.
Denis Frahmann, executive vice-president, marketing for Sage, added the vendor's weak brand in North America is a cost for both the company, and it's partners.
"Partners tell me they need to sell to customers twice; once on brand and once on product," said Frahmann. "If we had a stronger brand marketing would cost less, a people would come to us. With a weak brand, we need to spend more on demand and lead generation. Building a strong brand creates pull."
While Sage has strong product brands, Frahmann said they were forged in the 1980s and are no longer reflective of what the product categories today represent, particularly as they evolve to meet shifting customer expectations and new computing models, such as cloud computing.
"We need brands that represent the future, and studies show strong awareness of Sage in the mid-market," said Frahmann.
While Sage is taking branding steps around naming and marketing, Houillon said the brand is only going to be as strong as the customer experience. If the customer experience doesn't match their expectations, Sage and its partners will lose.
"We need to set proper expectations with customers, consistently deliver on that expectation, and when possible exceed it," said Houillon. "We need to be about a consistent experience, an extraordinary experience."
Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.