Branding Bust

Why Not Stand Behind the MODX Name?

If you didn’t hear the news, MODX Cloud is becoming SiphonLabs and will soon support hosting not only MODX websites, but the competition as well. This has caused quite an uproar in the MODX Community, and I think the branding strategy behind all this is to blame. The issue isn’t that MODX Cloud is exploring providing competitive software to its customers. At MODXpo Netherlands a Wordpress installer feature was discussed and as I recall there was no tomato-throwing involved. In fact nobody seemed to care.

Now even though I’ve been contracting with MODX ProServ for several months, the SiphonLabs transition was complete news to me. If I would have been informed my first question would of been about the name. I have a much better name in mind: MODX Cloud.

Why the name Change?

The branding “experts” behind this decision must of had a presumptive fear against their own name. “We’ll never get Wordpress users to sign up with MODX in the name” they must of thought. Firstly, I’ll rebut that with a single question.

What does MODX mean?

Absolutely nothing. Trust me, I’ve asked the man himself. So you’re gonna tell me that Wordpress users who probably don’t even know what MODX is are going to be scared away because name of the hosting service contains an ambiguous acronym referencing another CMS? They’ll come running for something named Siphon though I’m sure.

1. A pipe or tube fashioned or deployed in an inverted U shape and filled until atmospheric pressure is sufficient to force a liquid from a reservoir in one end of the tube over a barrier higher than the reservoir and out the other end.
2. Zoology A tubular organ, especially of aquatic invertebrates such as squids or clams, by which water is taken in or expelled.

Apple didn’t re-brand the Mac when they added the ability for their computers to run Windows in an effort to widen their audience. The name SiphonLabs is terrible, but the lack of seeing big picture branding implications here is much worse.

Branding 101

Brand consistency is where a business attempts to communicate messages in a way that doesn’t detract or wander away from the core brand proposition.

What is SiphonLabs core brand position? If it’s MODX, like they claim, then they shot themselves in the foot. SiphonLabs is more relatable to my toilet than it is to the MODX community and services.

Stand Behind the Name

Imagine what would of happened if the exact same announcement was made without the re-branding. What if they came out and announced this:

MODX Cloud is adding support for the following competitive site building technologies to better serve our customers needs and give them even more creative freedom in how they choose to build their websites.

Here’s what would happen:

  • A similar backlash from the community that would be much sooner forgotten
  • MODX is now represented as something so capable that it can host the competition without worry
  • MODX Cloud loyalists get to continue marketing the service to their clients as a MODX service
  • MODX Cloud becomes something even more unique

Imagine the hype that could have been generated from headlines to the like of “MODX Cloud invites Wordpress to the Party”. Curiosity would be raised as to why they are doing so but at the end of the day MODX is still standing on its own to feet. Behind the SiphonLabs brand, MODX already seems pushed aside. Want proof? Just look at the pagetitle at siphonlabs.com:

As someone looking for Wordpress Cloud hosting, if I came across MODX Cloud and was sold on Wordpress Cloud features, the more I used MODX Cloud the more I become curious what MODX is, and how it compares to Wordpress. If this hosting technology, which I now love and helps me do my job better is this great, there must be something to the CMS they built.

On the contrary, as someone in the same situation who stumbles across SiphonLabs it’s just another hosting platform. SiphonLabs does not stand behind the MODX brand, and that’s the problem.

Comments (9)

  1. Ryan Thrash:
    Mar 29, 2013 at 02:01 PM

    Great thoughtful post, JP. Thanks for sharing and caring.

  2. Paul Pleavin:
    Apr 11, 2013 at 12:46 AM

    Very well thought out and written post. 100% agree with it.

  3. Helen Warner:
    Apr 11, 2013 at 04:08 AM

    My sentiments exactly! I thought it was great having MODX Cloud and whilst I completely get the need for a revenue stream, did the name really have to change. And what's with Wordpress before MODX in pagetitle? - I noticed that too, kinda left a bitter taste in the mouth - who are their priorities?. Good post, keep them coming.

  4. David Walker:
    Apr 17, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    Quote: "Apple didn’t re-brand the Mac when they added the ability for their computers to run Windows in an effort to widen their audience." No they didn't, but understand that running Windows is not something that gave the Mac huge gobs of extra market share. What it mostly did was to overcome a specific problem, which was that people who were on Macs had to interact with the Windows World and needed access to Windows-only apps.

    The MODX guys need incomes. They know about hosting, and hosting is something you can make money at. So they're setting up a hosting business. And if you're hosting, you host WordPress, end of story, because the WordPress market share is huge and it dominates the blogging space. Given that they're not just selling MODX hosting, then InsertNameHere is going to be better branding than MODXWhatever.

    I'm not sure what part of this is so terrible.

  5. JP DeVries:
    Apr 17, 2013 at 12:17 AM

    I wouldn't call SiphonLabs "the MODX guys" that's the problem. Also I wasn't critiquing adding Wordpress support at all but rather the nature of the rebranding.

  6. TPM:
    Apr 22, 2013 at 03:00 PM

    Wow! and the "“MODX Cloud invites Wordpress to the Party” part is priceless. Too bad there was no community brainstorming before big decisions like these were made. Great post!

    I'm wondering where Ryan is standing on all this. Why the silence man?

  7. JP DeVries:
    Apr 22, 2013 at 03:34 PM

    As a MODX ProServe contractor I knew nothing about the transition even though apparently I began contracting with SiphonLabs when the announcement was made, so I doubt engaging a community discussion was considered. I understand the need to be hush hush but this was a closed-door deal gone wrong.

  8. Lucy Iannotti:
    Apr 30, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    Thanks for vocalizing this. My thoughts exactly. Seems a terrible misstep and many missed opportunities. It came as a huge surprise, and honestly I don't understand the need to be hush hush about this. Would it have been so bad to have an open discussion? I'm glad they are expanding the hosting service. But the "re-branding" is an UN-branding and feels desperate. Only thing I'm relieved about is they didn't hold a crowd-sourced logo design contest. ;)

  9. JP DeVries:
    May 04, 2013 at 04:10 AM

    You know it was a rough thing to see happen, but it's already proving itself to be for the best. Those dedicated to MODX, the software, are now able to focus on it exclusively without distraction.

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