Urban Plates 7-Step LMS Rebrand

Jason Bacaj | 9 min read

Rebranding your learning management system (LMS) is one of those tasks that becomes increasingly daunting. But that doesn’t mean a rebrand can’t be both successful and fun. Sometimes it’s Type II fun, of course. Well, at least some phases of a rebrand are fun.

urban plates lms rebrand

Matt Bassuk, instructional design manager at Urban Plates, found that a solid 42 percent of his seven-pronged rebranding approach was full-on fun.

The seven phases Matt used will be familiar to learning and development professionals—flow and structure, permissioning and legal, graphics and design, communication and internal marketing, content, reporting and accountability, and ongoing engagement.

Wisetail was lucky enough to have Matt walk us through each phase in a webinar this spring. We’ll walk through each of them, and hopefully, you’ll find some actionable pieces sprinkled throughout.

Phase 1: Flow and Structure

The whole exhaustive process of Urban Plates’ LMS—called the Huddle—rebrand began as so many do: on a whiteboard covered with color-coordinated text blocks. Matt described this phase as more or less the in-real-life version of the Zach Galifianakas math meme.

“I still have this whiteboard sitting at my desk,” Matt says.

In this first phase, the goal was to understand, conceptually, how the LMS should be setup. Intuitive user experience is dependent on whether the LMS structure matches the content within it, and how that content is supposed to work.

Figuring out what buckets to create and what should go in them is tedious, Matt said. You have to think of ways to consolidate the material. Matt and his team ended up building the LMS home page around six separate pages, used as portals. 

The pages are: 

  • Operations manual 
  • Docs and forms 
  • Team member newsfeed 
  • Trainer’s Corner 
  • Points store 
  • Our story

“We spent quite a bit of time in this phase, just game planning, brainstorming. I did a couple of mock-ups,” Matt said.

All the strategizing paid off. You likely don’t have to stretch your imagination to guess the contents of those six pages. This type of organization helped mitigate the nesting doll effect—when content is built within content within content. Now, the information users might need from Urban Plates is available within one or two clicks. Easy to find in the flow of work.


Phase 2: Permissioning and legal

This essential step was not Matt’s favorite part, but it was certainly one of the most important ones.

All modern LMSs should have the ability to grant content access via location, job title, or any number of relevant data points. What permissioning does is allow access to certain content based on those relevant points. So, someone front of house will view different content than a trainer or the general manager. On the legal side, Matt had to determine a strategy around for non-compensated use of the Huddle.

One much-deliberated decision Matt’s team made was to not put any user-contributed content on the LMS home page. That content now lives within the team member newsfeed page.

“We split that off because we really wanted control over what was on the home page, but still maintain that engagement piece,” Matt said. “Hopefully, if we did this right, it’s a little bit more intuitive of a structure.”

Through permissions, the Urban Plates team turned Trainer’s Corner into a one-stop-shop for trainers. Guides, logs, various job aids, each trainer’s queue of people ready for in-person evaluation. It’s all in one easy to reach place.

urban plate login

Phase 3: Graphics and Design

These middle three phases are the ones Matt and his team enjoyed the most. With the hard work of crafting a structure out of the way, they were able to get creative and push the boundaries.

Initially, the Huddle followed strict branding guidelines, with a set list of colors and only two official fonts.

“It took a little bit of me pushing back and saying, ‘Hey but this is internal. We don’t have to stick to this if we don’t want to. That’s great for external, but internal I think you get a bit more latitude, you can try some new things. You can be a bit more edgy’,” Matt said. “We wanted to try some new things to make it a little bit flashy.”

Graphics aren’t easy to create out of hand. Matt and his team turned to a team member at the La Hoya location, named Nathaniel. He didn’t have any formal design training, Matt says, but he had a great aptitude for it, and they were happy to provide an opportunity. Ultimately, Nathaniel designed the Huddle’s new logo.

“This was a long process and we tried a million different things before we got to one we liked,” Matt says.

The final logo is a hexagon with an ‘H’ built in it. On the left side is a magnet strip with chef’s knives. It’s a strong logo, Matt says, because the H is recognizable on its own, or if it’s followed by letters to spell Huddle.

The standalone nature of the new logo, and its off-brand yellow color, played a significant role in the next phase.


Phase 4: Communication and Internal Marketing

Internal marketing and communications around an LMS is key. No one will use what they don’t know about. One of the more difficult aspects of internal marketing is doing so in a way that makes prospective users truly intrigued and excited.

Luckily, Matt’s team relishes a challenge.

“This is where we really got to push the envelope,” Matt says.

The group decided to do guerilla marketing. One of the hardest parts was gathering email addresses from all the team members. Some in the system were outdated, some team members didn’t have email. Matt’s team loaded the emails into MailChimp and built a six email strong campaign around the rebranded Huddle.

But first, Matt’s team got together with the Urban Plates IT squad. Together, they “hacked” into the recipe screens in each location. Each location has three recipe screens that team members use to prep food and cook all the food in-house.

Twice a day for about a week, the screen went blank. And, for a minute or so, a GIF of glitchy screen with the new ‘H’ logo and the rebrand launch date ran on the screen.

This way, Matt says, his team could slice up the interview answers with questions about the Huddle, effectively building a hype video for the LMS rebrand, all to create a sense of intrigue and interest.

glitch gif

“We just went for it. We thought, ‘Hey, what’s the worst that could happen?’ It was only on screen for a couple minutes,” Matt says.

The strategy worked. People started sending in support tickets, emailed IT, theorized that the Russians had somehow gained access to the recipe screens—building a grassroots level of intrigue. Some people were upset about the tactic, to be fair, but Matt subscribes to the school of thought that no publicity is bad publicity.

Traction gained, Matt and his team turned to the email campaign. Each of the six emails had a unique video, and was structured in such a way that readers were given the impression of an incoming transmission from headquarters. The team had interviewed a handful of employees in a sort of cryptic way. They asked questions like ‘how big is the ocean,’ ‘how expansive is the universe,’ or ‘tell me how you feel about coffee.’

This way, Matt says, his team could slice up the interview answers with questions about the Huddle, effectively building a hype video for the LMS rebrand, all to create a sense of intrigue and interest.

Phase 5: Content

The content strategy Matt and the team developed for the rebrand was built on three pillars: a video contest, video walkthroughs of each location, and a points store.

Their idea was to carry over the initial traction and turn that into engagement with the Huddle. A video contest gives each group of users a personal stake in the rebranded system.

The rules around the contest were kept purposefully simple. Each location could submit a two-minute video. It should introduce the location and the team working there. And the video should be as creative as possible. Because the videos were uploaded to the Huddle and the entire company voted for the one they thought best. Winners got an exclusive breakfast for the team.

Once again, the strategy worked. Matt says the contest helped strengthen company culture as well, even though that wasn’t a stated goal. Urban Plates has locations all around California and on the East Coast, with plans to expand. People in California got to watch the videos from locations in Washington, D.C., and vice versa, which helped make the geographically big brand feel smaller and tight-knit.

That sense was helped, in turn, by the store walkthroughs. Urban Plates hired a freelancer to come through each location with a 360-degree camera. The person created an interactive video, put it on Google, and Matt was able to embed that into the LMS platform. Then everyone could check out other places, and then connect through the platform.

The points store let users make a positive connection between their actions in the Huddle with real-world benefits, which encourages them to work through content, whether it’s compliance-based or a professional development course.

urban plate points store

Phase 6: Reporting and Accountability

One of the more unique reports Matt and his team pulled in the weeks after launching the rebrand was the percent of team members logged in at each location. They compiled the stats and sent out the list to all GMs each week.

Every opportunity Matt and his team had they encouraged GMs and managers to push people to log into the Huddle and use the system. Again, it worked. The Urban Plates GMs are a proud bunch, Matt says, and they responded to the call.

It helped that others in headquarters regularly asked the GMs what their goal for percent usage was for the upcoming week.

“That actually started to move the needle,” Matt says. “We got a bunch of logins and kept driving that.”

Phase 7: Ongoing Engagement

The final phase is one that never really ends, which is always the case when you’re trying to keep people’s attention.

Urban Plates has robust limited-time offer rollouts, with videos and short quizzes to pass. They pull together industry news pieces, in which they aggregate relevant news from around the hospitality world. But perhaps the most engaging piece is a weekly ‘surprise and delight’ module.

Each week Matt’s team puts together a different scenario. Each one has three different possible answers. The user goes through the scenario and picks out whatever they believe is the best answer. If they answer correctly, their name is put into a weekly raffle of sorts for a $10 gift card. Simple and to the point.

Every rebrand is unique to the organization doing it, but the seven steps laid out by Matt and his team at Urban Plates provide a good foundation to work from. Take it one step at a time—one phase at a time—and get creative. No one knows what will resonate with your company culture better than yourself.

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