Anatomy of a revolution Featured

7:00pm EDT February 26, 2006

When Rocky Crossland joined Cleveland Unlimited Inc. in July 2004, the wireless services company had just 112 employees.

A year-and-a-half later, Crossland has created the company’s successful Revol brand, offering unlimited anytime minutes for one flat price, employs 400 and expects 2005 revenue to exceed $100 million.

“We’re very excited about the brand that we’ve developed,” says Crossland, CEO and president. “The marketplace has responded.”

Launched in June 2005, the Independence-based firm has eight company-owned retail stores, 17 independently owned premiere dealer locations and 73 authorized retailers.

It may be Revol’s street team in tricked-out Jeeps at community events may initially attract the young adult market, but Crossland says it’s the company’s low-cost, flat-rate wireless service that meets the needs of this demanding demographic.

“It’s young people in high school, college, just out of college, who have started their first job,” he says. “They haven’t had time to build up a real credit history.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that the wireless industry has been designed not to cater to that type of customer. That’s where the growth opportunity and the real potential lie.”

Smart Business spoke with Crossland about how he formed the Revol brand and how its helped his company grow.

How did you create the Revol brand?
We figured out who we wanted to market to, where the growth was coming from in the industry and why, and then we developed the brand. We hired a company and did a branding workshop where we figured out exactly what were the core attributes we wanted our brand to epitomize at the base level.

When people think of our brand, what do we want them to think of?

As we developed the brand, we developed a side list of everything about the wireless industry that people despise. We positioned it so that we would not become the things that people don’t like — complex hidden charges, surprise charges, renewing people’s contracts at every turn without telling them.

What we wanted to do was develop our brand, our service product and our product offering so that we’re very different from the rest of the wireless industry in how we approach this. We want it to be simple, hassle-free, no surprise charges, no contracts, and we wanted to provide maximum value for your dollar.

Yeah, you can put in hidden charges, surprise this and surprise that, and it helps your revenue — and that’s why most of these companies do it — but at the end of the day, it doesn’t build brand loyalty and it doesn’t build customer loyalty because it really diminishes the experience that your customer has with your service.

How do you attract your initial customers?
We just looked at everything that people didn’t like about the wireless industry and said, ‘Let’s just do it the opposite way.’

We conducted extensive focus groups here in Cleveland — not only with the young adult market but with all age brackets, all categories of the marketplace — to get feedback. We looked at industry reports and industry studies.

From there, we developed our brand, and our brand led directly to our service offering. The two really have to go hand-in-hand.

About halfway through the work session, someone said, ‘We need to develop something that deals with (the concept of) freedom.’ It was just like the hair stood up on the back of my neck. It’s about freedom from the status quo within the wireless industry.

From there, we developed 350 names (for the product). We narrowed that list very quickly down to just a handful, and Revol, which was short for revolution, kept coming through. We developed the backward R with the graffiti look to it. The two really fit together, and we said, ‘That’s it. Don’t change a thing, it’s perfect.’

As we gave (Revol-branded) apparel to our employees, they would take them home, and those who had children in high school or college would come back and say, ‘I need another hat because my kid just took mine.’ This was without any service offering, without any product information. This was just the logo and the name. We really felt like we’d hit the mark.

How has the Revol brand benefited your company?
We launched this in June, and the third quarter of 2005 was the largest sales quarter in company history. It was three times what our normal sales rates have been. We knew that immediately people got the brand. They understood that we were a different kind of wireless company and that we were differentiated in the marketplace.

When you walk in our retail stores or our dealers, there’s one price point. There’s not a myriad of 15 or 20 different plans to try and choose from.

It’s really just a matter of choosing the phone that’s right for you because the plan is so simple.

How do you plan to evolve the brand?
You can look at developing a brand but if you’re not careful, an awful lot of that will be fluff. You can look at how you market it, how you brand it and how you want to evolve that.

But we think the better way to do it is to put more steak on the plate and less sizzle. We’re going to develop our product and service offering, and thereby, develop our brand.

So, how do you evolve the brand? You add more product and more services, and we’ve expanded our footprint to further meet the need of a broader segment of the marketplace.

We think that’s the best way to do it. We’re not scared to highlight all the things people hate about the wireless industry, show how we’re doing it differently and then let the customer make the decision.

HOW TO REACH: Revol, (800) REVOL-HQ or