Building brand awareness for a rising tech company
Since 2009, Okta has helped companies secure their digital interactions with employees and customers, often without the need for usernames and passwords. Okta was already a trusted partner to more than 13,000 businesses around the world by the summer of 2020, when GDP had the opportunity to work with them.
Identity management is a complex, sometimes abstruse concept. For a brand like Okta, simply building awareness of what it is, what it does, and what it stands for had been a challenge. But the company was on the ascent. The pandemic had accelerated the need for immediate and safe access to everything online, and the Godfrey Dadich team saw opportunities for the brand to go even higher. Dreaming big with their leadership team, we asked: how can the company become the category-defining icon it deserves to be?
A deep dive into Okta’s strategy, voice, and product perceptions revealed that tech sector and security professionals already knew how adept the brand was at providing bulletproof protection. But the company’s capabilities remained unknown to most outsiders. And even loyal end users sometimes held on to outdated and preconceived notions about how those capabilities were expanding. For example, many still referred to Okta as “the single sign-on company,” even though that particular cloud-based security service, which eliminated the need for multiple passwords, was nearly a decade old.
GDP embarked on an effort to develop, design, and execute a master brand campaign to help reintroduce Okta and advance its presence in new markets. We took the leadership team through our expansive interview process, talking to 35 key stakeholders, followed by a deep-dive brand workshop. These activities helped us pinpoint what sets the company apart: by abstracting the complexity of identity into simple, efficient products that seem nearly effortless to use, Okta was a company that customers could expect to “just make things work.” Now the challenge was to scale awareness to match the value of the brand.
“The identity category typically feels more like compliance and data protection, putting cumbersome barriers in place to lock out bad actors,” says GDP Strategy Director Lauren McGehee. “We felt like we were onto something different when we could say, Okta believes identity is about asking, ‘What more can we make possible?’”
The first breakthrough was landing less on a new strategy and more on articulating a promise: Okta gives you the confidence to reach your full potential. By bringing simple and secure digital access to people everywhere, Okta enables everyone to safely use any technology. Taking that 30,000-foot view brought forth narrative possibilities that helped us see a higher orbit for the brand.
In this era of remote work and heightened concerns around technology safeguards, Okta isn’t just a security company but rather a source of trust, an essential voice, a culture leader. And at a moment of global concern around which giant tech firms have access to our personal information, Okta’s position as an independent identity platform casts it as a champion of free choice and a beacon of unwavering credibility.
“People Protected” was the theme of the campaign we developed, and the tagline we used was “Access Possibility.” Together, these phrases distilled the idea that confidence in your protection systems gives you the freedom to unlock endless opportunities. Our creative team focused on the human story of identity protection by putting people at the center of a campaign with striking visuals and straightforward language, such as “your people are your future. Protect them.” and “safe identity for every workforce.”
Drafting a creative brief is one thing. Executing on those objectives in the high season of still-developing COVID safety protocols demanded out-of-the-ordinary grit and determination. We enlisted acclaimed photographer Cody Pickens and the director team of Plummer/Strauss to produce campaign images over three days at various locations around the San Francisco Bay Area. The goal was to create editorial that captured our subjects in an authentic way, whether at a fully operational HVAC plant in the East Bay, on a Sonoma-Marin Area Rail train in Marin County, or at a historic Eichler-designed home in the Oakland Hills.
“Even though identity management can seem abstract, the team kept coming back to the fact that every digital identity represents a person, and Okta enables them to do their best,” says Allie Fisher, GDP’s head of creative. “We wanted to capture a world where each of our subjects feels a sense of assurance, and the technology supports but doesn't dominate the frame. Every creative decision worked to communicate this, from the slightly low-angle framing of our talent to the fluid movements of the camera through the scene to the rallying quality of the scripts and headlines.”
This was the first campaign of its kind for Okta following a recent brand refresh, and the aim was to make a big splash across all segments and verticals, including print, YouTube, podcasts, and social. Digital displays appeared across the US and Europe, and in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Creative was optimized by region, channel, and site to maximize performance across the campaign.
“The People Protected campaign delivered results right away,” says GDP Group Media Director Heather Brady. “We saw over 654 million impressions globally and saw great results in performance metrics, with some channels exceeding benchmarks by as much as 169 percent. We also saw a 25 percent lift in website traffic and a 122 percent lift in unaided awareness, strong indicators of the success of the project.”
In addition to the campaign, our team also wrote, animated, and scored a vision video that was showcased internally by Okta and shared through its social channels. The company was so pleased with all of our work that they invited us to create an ambitious long-form documentary featuring compelling narratives from Okta’s customers, leaders, and employees that offered a personal and emotional look at the challenges of running a business in 2020.
Identity has become a cornerstone of our digital lives, changing how we work, live, build, and learn. We were happy to have the opportunity to help Okta convey to the world that identity is bigger than what it prevents. It’s access to everything in the modern world. It’s ubiquity and impact. It’s connecting the right people to the right technologies at the right time. That certainly sounds iconic to us.