In 2021, Headline went through a transformative rebranding process. We transitioned our own firm’s branding from e.ventures to Headline. Having experienced the power of brand first-hand, we’ve now built a team to help our portfolio companies rebrand at pivotal moments in their business’ journey. In this new series, we’ll share a behind-the-scenes look at how Headline is helping portfolio companies find their voice - starting with how Sudshare became Poplin.
Sudshare’s journey began in 2018 when Mort Fertel founded the company in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the goal of making laundry a chore of the past. At Headline, we’re excited about consumer marketplaces that tie into natural behaviors that are high frequency. Laundry is one of those categories - a weekly chore that 100 million+ households in the US struggle with. When we met Mort, we saw his vision to re-invent this category and led Sudshare’s Seed round in 2022. As part of our investment, we activated the Brand Studio to help transform Sudshare into Poplin.
In this blog post, we'll take you through this exciting journey from the identification of the brand-growth-gap, understanding the problem with laundry, seizing the opportunity, to repositioning the business. Keep reading for a Q&A with Mort where he shares learnings from the rebrand that have shaped Poplin's evolution.
Identifying a brand-growth-gap
A few things stood out in our early conversations with the Poplin team. First, the service was skyrocketing. Second, while the vision was to fundamentally change an age-old routine, their brand lacked a compelling emotional story, and instead leaned heavily on peer-to-peer functionality and low pricing. Third, their founding team was open-minded and curious about pivoting their identity, in spite of the fact that they had poured their own time (and hearts!) into building it. Together, we started to imagine what would be possible with a shored up narrative.
The problem with laundry
Laundry is a fact of life. And, it’s a task that’s never finished. There’s always something to put in the washing machine, switch to the dryer, fold, or put away. Meanwhile, the hamper never stops filling. Laundry is impossible to beat – but, why? We led a series of interviews with Poplin Laundry Pros as well as customers to hear both sides; what’s it like to do other people’s laundry? And what’s it like to have your laundry done?
We immediately learned that Poplin Laundry Pros see laundry as a craft – from what kind of detergent is best, to the best settings to keep your colors bright, and how to fold, these professionals took immense pride in transforming rumpled piles into pristine stacks. While consumers could feel the care and precision that went into the laundry they sent out with Poplin, many expressed initial hesitation to outsource the task, even at the service’s low prices. And while the brand touted it’s peer-to-peer model (even nodding to it in the name Sudshare) those who hadn’t used Poplin felt uncertain about sending their intimates out with a stranger. While these people wouldn’t dream of cutting their own hair or washing their own car, they invariably viewed laundry as a DIY task. We made it our mission to elevate laundry from a household chore to a professional skill, showcasing the benefits of caring for your clothing in a brand-new way.
Repositioning the business
We started by renaming the business in favor of a more polished, professional term. Poplin is a type of crisp cotton often used in dress shirts – we loved that the word evoked cleanliness and professionalism, while setting an energetic, breezy, on-the-spot tone for the brand. We then created an identity system to showcase hyper-realistic pristine stacks of clothing, and the laundry-obsessed professionals behind them. Our messaging emphasizes the perfection of these piles, and the joy of finally getting your laundry done – by a professional, and once and for all.
We’re thrilled to have had the opportunity to invest in the Poplin brand, and know the future is full of fresh, folded laundry!
Q&A with the founder, Mort Fertel
Rebranding is always a leap of faith. What were your biggest apprehensions going into this project? And how did they evolve over the course of our work together?
My biggest apprehension was about changing the name, and all the complications that would bring, including having to redo SEO work, losing the value of great PR online, and technically just switching everything over without losing customers or creating chaos. I was also concerned about the goodwill we had built up with SudShare and losing that. The cost of all the rebranding work was also a concern- but I’m confident it will be well worth it.
What advice would you give to other founders who are considering renaming their business?
Keep your eye on the target, which is probably at least 100x the revenue you have now. Will changing your name help you get there? Does your current name seem like it could be a billion dollar brand? Think past the short term discomfort of a name change and dream big.
Having been through this process, how would you describe the meaning of branding? What makes a brand?
Branding is this interesting combination of clearly identifying who you are and who you want to be, and then articulating that identity and vision in the language of design and copy. It’s corporate psychoanalysis that ends with a brand promise that’s both true and aspirational.
Did the rebranding work shift your perception of your business in any way?
Yes, the whole idea of positioning our supply as professionals was revelatory. This now informs everything we do and how we think about many aspects of the business.
What aspect of Poplin are you most excited about?
How cool would it be to build a business that changes forever the way the world deals with something as universal as laundry and be the brand that personifies that change. Today, the top consumer brands in laundry are Whirlpool and Tide, associated with the current DIY era, but the future of laundry is Poplin, a tech enabled outsourcing solution.
Strategy, Copywriting, and Creative Direction: Molly Martell, Headline
Identity Design: Grace Kim and Mary Galloway
Digital Design: Nathan Moser
Digital Copy: Katelyn Seaton
Headline Investors: Nikki Farb and Nicolas von Blottnitz