CXO

James Rogers. CMO. Brand Builder. Former Techie. Wishful winemaker.

Avention's James Rogers tells TechRepublic about rebranding a 20-year-old company.

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Image: James Rogers

They say you won't learn anything from a video game.

For James Rogers, current CMO at Avention, that definitely hasn't been the case. Back in 1981, when Rogers was a senior in high school, he and his best friend would read Computer Gaming Magazine every month. Eventually, his friend's parents bought their son an Atari 800, and the two guys would take turns reading and typing the syntax from the magazine, compiling the code, debugging it, and after many hours finally playing the game.

"I basically was coming out of high school right when the first personal computers came out, the Atari 1040 ST and the Commodore 64 and the first Mac, and there were no degrees in college that you could learn the development languages for PCs or the client server," he said.

That early experience helped him and his friend in several ways. For one, it helped them get their first jobs out of college with Informix, then part of IBM, which was to test, consult, and sell database software for Windows 3.0 and early Macs

It also introduced him to a mindset that he said has proved critical to his role as a CMO — dealing with regular waves of change. Afterall, his career did not start off in marketing. He spent time at enterprise software companies and did everything from QA and configuration management to product management and product marketing. Eventually, he became more of a general manager where he got into business development and multiple marketing disciplines.

In 2013, Rogers joined OneSource, an Concord, Massachusetts-based sales and business information company that had been around for more than 20 years with 3,500 customers, and hundreds of thousands of existing users. At that time, the company had just begun a massive project to rebrand itself.

Over the next year Rogers would need to transform OneSource into Avention, a company focused on B2B and big data. He broke the initial process down into the following three main steps:

  1. Doing lots of research and understanding what the current brand means in the marketplace
  2. Having a "top" agency to help guide the effort
  3. Getting the entire senior executive team onboard and engaged

"[Rebranding] touches everything," he said, from the obvious things like contracts and sales materials, to the phone system and voice greetings. "Through my career I've been involved in at least four other activities of rebranding in terms of rebranding product lines... but never to the extent of rebranding an entire company," he said.

The process took roughly a year. During that year, the soon-to-be Avention had a lot to accomplish.

In terms of priorities, rebranding means running a triage of sorts on the items that must be completed by a certain date, the items that should hopefully be completed by a certain date, and the items that can wait. "Then it's kind of a rolling thunder," he said.

On March 4 of this year, the website launched, the product launched, and you best believe the email signatures said "Avention."

The immense amount of detail required for a project like rebranding a company is part of what Rogers enjoys about marketing as a discipline.

"In the world that we live in today, marketing has become a very complex responsibility," he said, listing off divisions from social media marketing, to retention marketing and many more. "You really take a step back and think about all the breadth of responsibilities and capabilities you're going to need to have to be successful in that situation, it's a little overwhelming at times," he said, "That's what makes it challenging and interesting. It's never boring."

In his own words...

How do you unplug?

"I still play video games with my 19-year-old son. I travel, and play golf and tennis, and ski. We do a lot of the Wii games and sometimes we do Super Smash Brothers, and sometimes we do Mario Kart. Now those games are even online. We can race Mario Kart and so forth against people all over the world."

If you could pick another profession, what would it be?

"I would love to be a winemaker. I grew up in Northern California. I very much like the experience and the whole atmosphere of the whole wine industry. Who knows what it's like when you're actually responsible and in it, but it seems like a great profession, and one of the exciting things about where I live, I live in Austin, Texas, there's actually a pretty significant wine industry that is coming to be near the Fredericksburg area. I always thought it would be really cool to own a winery and learn how to be a wine master and produce really great bottles of wine."

Is there a website you read for fun?

"I go to ESPN. I start my day, and this is probably a little old school, but I start my day, every morning with a cup of coffee and going to Yahoo! and looking at the Yahoo! news."

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About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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