Heads you win, Hightail you lose


Brand equity is hard to come by so you don’t want to squander it, cause your users to lose confidence in your product/service or, worse, abandon you for the competition. Yet, amazingly, this is what YouSendIt–everyone’s go-to file-sharing service–has accomplished with a name change that’s about as puzzling as that of Kimye’s latest release, um, baby, North.

Say hi to “Hightail.” Yep, as in (to quote numerous commenters on the “shiny new blog”), “Hightail it outta here.”  Many posted variations on, “Why fix what’s not broken?” or “I don’t understand the new name….the previous name is much better and it attracts more customers….” Or “…who in their right mind would make such a dumb move? All brand equity carefully built over the last few years – thrown out the window.” Still others wondered if the new name meant new services, partners, pricing or other benefits (the usual suspects behind a re-brand). The launch communications do not say.

Apparently, CEO Brad Garlinghouse and his team of merry marketers felt the original name—a clear, memorable and easy-to-understand descriptor—was “constraining.” It implied that all YouSendIt did was…send files. (Which it does, brilliantly and dependably). Hightail is meant to be perceived as way beyond send or speed. It’s supposed to connote the sharing of “passion and the things people care about.” Or as another commenter said, “hunh?”

The new logo, variously compared to a stop sign (not a good attribute for a service based on instantaneous delivery) or hospital symbol, also came in for its share of negative reviews.

Beyond aesthetics, the change highlights a more critical flaw in the brand’s thinking. Garlinghouse claims that name is meant to convey “how we want to interact with end users.” Hint to Hightail: it’s not about what you want. It’s about how your customers want to interact with you. And how satisfied they are with the experience. Judging from the reaction so far, Hightail sets the brand up for a high fail for future interactions too.

The irony is that the video (a model of incoherent biz speak and faux-documentary style) accompanying the re-brand announcement opens with “One thing you don’t want working against you is your name.” As the current governor from the great state of Texas might say, “oops.”

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