20-Minute Leaders

"Make sure that you clearly understand the messaging and the narrative before you jump"

For any company rebranding, Amit Daniel from Cognyte shares with Michael Matias that it is crucial to begin those efforts within the company

CTech 10:1417.08.21
While considering customer perception is important for any company rebranding, Amit Daniel shares that it is crucial to begin rebranding efforts within the company. Keeping all employees informed about changes and the process and logic behind the changes helps them to be engaged and excited about the rebranding. As chief marketing officer and strategy, Daniel knows this firsthand as she helped guide the rebranding effort when Cognyte spun off of Verint. Most of the work was done during Covid, which was an extra challenge, but Daniel says this also forced her team to think outside the box. Cognyte revealed its changes to customers at a virtual event. Her career path was also not quite standard. After studying marketing, Daniel actually spent 10 years in product management before combining the two areas. She considers marketing to be a form of storytelling, and she enjoys the creative process.



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Take me back into your career and your journey in marketing roles.


I did my MBA abroad. I didn't start from marketing, even though that was my major study. I started from product management. I spent almost 10 years doing product management in startups and managing product management teams across high-tech and technology companies.


I finally understood that a very fascinating job like product management is tightly coupled when it comes to marketing. I shifted, and I started managing product management and marketing as well as business development. For me, marketing is storytelling. Creating and being surrounded with very creative people, and being able to create a branding story that is used by different channels and audiences. If you do it right, it's impacting everything that you do.


Tell me what rebranding is as a strategic point of view.


Rebranding is really a strategic process. Sometimes people think, "I'll just create a visual identity and logo and take it practical." It's completely not the concept. Branding is your window to any kind of audience. You need to make sure that you think of what you want to convey. You need to start really asking very difficult and complex questions when you start a rebranding process. I think that one of the many insights if you want to have a successful rebranding process is to make sure that you clearly understand the messaging and the narrative before you jump into the actual implementation and execution of branding and logos and visuals and websites. In order to do that strategically, you need to cover different aspects. Clearly, when you're changing a name, which was the case when we shifted from Verint to Cognyte, it was even more complicated.

Amit Daniel, chief marketing officer and strategy at Cognyte. Photo: Amit Daniel Amit Daniel, chief marketing officer and strategy at Cognyte. Photo: Amit Daniel


Why would the company go through a rebranding process?


It's really complicated because we needed to rebrand and rename. The initial process was to set our goals. How would we like to be perceived by different audiences? This is where we started from, and once we mapped this one, we really looked at everything.


For example, we started with a "namestorm.” You need to come up with a new name, a new identity for a market that knows you very well. The initial task was really to define the criteria. We wanted it to be representing what we do and really simple to pronounce. We wanted to make sure that it speaks different languages.


Tell me more specifically about the strategic thinking that goes on transitioning from Verint to Cognyte.


The process then was really to say, Who we are? What's our message? How do we stand out versus our competitors? We said, “We are a security analytics company; that clearly needs to come out in everything.” The other thing was we wanted it to be very different from Verint.


One of the things that for us was critical is the employees. When we speak about branding, many of these CMOs usually think about their customers, investors, partners. One of the critical things for us was to look also at our employees—potential new employees as well as existing ones.


One of the criteria was to look at our employer brand. We had it also in Verint. It's called "curious" because we are very curious people. For us, part of the strategy was also to connect the employer brand. It's a critical element when it comes to strategy and branding; sometimes it's being neglected. Once you get to it, it's too late.


What were the action steps that were taken to align everybody to this new language and culture?


The top, top, top lesson learned for any branding process: if you want it to be successful, you need to make sure that you start from in to out. You need to make sure that all your employees across the board are engaged.


Initially when I started the process, there was no COVID. Immediately when we started working on the process, everything became virtual. Even though it was a huge challenge, I think that was one of the main criteria for it being so successful because we had to think out of the box. Sometimes marketing departments, for them, branding is a dream come true, once in a lifetime. But it's sometimes perceived as a marketing act and responsibility. If you only come back to your organizations and employees at the end, just with the results, you're missing a huge opportunity—the opportunity of engagement and communication.


We planned as part of our execution and strategy how we were going to engage and make sure that our employees are part of the process step by step. They were part of our secret. Just to prove that it works, they kept it a secret. We exposed the names to them months before it was out there on the socials. We explained to them what was the process, what was the brainstorming behind it, how we looked at our competitors: all of the logic of the branding process. When you explained how it is done, people were so enthusiastic about it because they felt connected.


Before we started the NASDAQ activity in February, and we all started to show and expose the brand, you could see in the results of the social networks—they were so engaged and proud. They felt like it was their own baby. Doing a naming or branding is like setting up a name for a new baby. People always have everything to say; some will like it. Some would say, "Ah, it's terrible."


How do you then take this now shared secret and expose it to over a thousand paying customers that have aligned with one brand they trust and now there's a whole new brand, which is much more startup-like?


On top of that, it's all done virtually. That was one of the major challenges. Just like we did internally with our own employees, we did the same with our customers and partners. We did a virtual event, revealed to them what we have done, and we showed them behind the scenes of the branding. Cognyte has a meaning. It's a combination of cognition and ignite. We had to explain why we picked the name, why we picked it versus other alternatives, what it represented, what's in it for them, why it's so important, and what it's going to bring to them, what's the impact on the relationship. At the end, it has only made us much more global and accessible to different audiences.


Tell me what really fascinated you as a kid.


One of the top ones is getting to know people from different cultures, to really find and learn about things that are very different from where I was born and grew. It always made me so curious and so interested about stuff that I don't see daily. It was about the culture; it's the people. I'm a people's person.


Today in your day to day, what really inspires you?


I love people that break barriers, people that do things that you're suddenly looking at and you said, "Wow. I couldn't do that." They did stuff that nobody expected that they would be successful at or they broke the ceiling. The people that can balance between their personal life and work and find the time to assist other people to break the ceiling or to do things that are inspiring.


What are three words you would use to describe yourself?


I'm a curious person. I'm a people's person. And energy. I'm high speed.


Michael Matias. Photo: Courtesy Michael Matias. Photo: Courtesy


Michael Matias, Forbes 30 Under 30, is the author of Age is Only an Int: Lessons I Learned as a Young Entrepreneur. He studies Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University, while working as a software engineer at Hippo Insurance and as a Senior Associate at J-Ventures. Matias previously served as an officer in the 8200 unit. 20MinuteLeaders is a tech entrepreneurship interview series featuring one-on-one interviews with fascinating founders, innovators and thought leaders sharing their journeys and experiences.


Contributing editors: Michael Matias, Megan Ryan