Delving Deep to Find Forcepoint’s Narrative

How Playbook helped this dominant global cybersecurity company rise above the doom and gloom of the competitive threatscape

In January 2019, I met Matt Preschern at a hotel in Boston. Still in the first month of his tenure as CMO of Forcepoint, then-Raytheon’s 700 million dollar B2B cybersecurity company, Matt sought to clearly understand the state of the brand in order to shape and develop it moving forward.

Preschern was the latest and most promising name in a string of recent Forcepoint CMOs with short tenures at the changing company. Massachusetts based agency Mechanica, having worked with Forcepoint for several years, had a good relationship with CEO Matt Moynahan and expected to continue leading strategic and creative efforts with Preschern on the team.

Early on, Mechanica CEO Ted Nelson met with Preschern to discuss next steps and provide an overview of the ongoing strategy work Mechanica had completed for Forcepoint. Preschern was most concerned with whether or not Mechanica had done “deep work” on the Forcepoint brand––important explorations like underlying brand narrative and archetypal analysis. 

They hadn’t, Ted said, but he knew the woman and agency who could bring that kind of expertise to the table. Ted vouched for Playbook Studio, citing my years of strategic experience at large agencies like Oglivy and TBWA\. 

Preschern needed little convincing. At that Boston hotel, he and I immediately connected over Oglivy’s inspired work for IBM and discussed the opportunity for more compelling narratives in the cybersecurity space. We sealed the deal by the end of the meeting, cementing plans to move forward on a Forcepoint strategic revamp with the Playbook + Mechanica duo.

“Caregiver” archetype an unlikely, yet strong storytelling foundation for Forcepoint

At the time, cybersecurity messaging leaned heavily on tired cliches. Industry leaders’ expressed fixation on winning business rather than helping customers––paired with a typically negative, doom and gloom narrative––was neither emotionally compelling nor focused. 

Forcepoint was positioned to be a different kind of cybersecurity company. It wanted to offer a human-centric product, one which “stops the bad and frees the good” at the organizations that rely on it. With this mindset, they were on a promising path. In order to execute an effective strategy moving forward, stakeholders across the organization now needed to unpack and clearly articulate what Forcepoint stood for on a deeper level. 

Much of our work culminated in a collaborative brand narrative workshop at the Westin Hotel in Boston. Ted, Moynahan, Preschern, and I were in attendance, as was a cross-functional leadership team from Forcepoint’s marketing, sales, and engineering divisions. 

One revelatory session turned into a daylong debate over which archetype best fit Forcepoint. A pillar of the Playbook approach, archetypal analysis uses the twelve Jungian archetypes to help define a brand’s relationship to its customers and shape an effective narrative.

After narrowing down the archetypes, we were left with three candidates: the Sage, the Hero, and the Caregiver. In one camp were the hardcore cybersecurity traditionalists, imagining Forcepoint as either the masculine, courageous Hero or the wise and infallible Sage. The other camp, however, remained resolutely committed to the Caregiver.

To associate the Raytheon-owned company with this more paternal, nurturing archetype was counterintuitive, given industry norms and stakeholders’ own self-perception. But it was in this disconnect that we discovered an avenue for strategic success. Forcepoint was, in fact, creating safe and trusting environments for clients with vulnerable employees and valuable assets that needed to be protected. By playing in this unexpected yet intuitively resonant space, we could shift consumer perspective in a way that would make the brand stand out in a crowded, competitive field. 

Taking the high road to safeguard human potential

A week later, a lean working team reconvened at a smaller strategy workshop to tackle the nitty-gritty. Our challenge during that session was to refine Forcepoint’s corporate narrative and brand voice from the perspective of the Caregiver without explicitly referencing the archetype, which, to my amusement, some ominously called the “caretaker.” We landed on a concise phrase “Safeguarding Human Potential”––strategic shorthand that distills the larger organizational promise.

Forcepoint’s existing sales efforts used long-form customer case stories to highlight successful client relationships. In the first practical application of our new strategy, we were challenged to rewrite hundreds of these stories using the new narrative. But producing high-level content at high volume required an expedited approach––a process we called “storyhunting.” 

First, we taught the content team how to interview internal sales teams and clients using Forcepoint’s improved brand voice. We then individually mapped these improved interview responses to the core narrative. This lightning-fast customer story “machine” enabled us to rewrite fifty customer stories, and gave content writers the tools to produce 10+ a month.

Guided by the narrative, Playbook and Mechanica went on to execute a lobby video, sales alignment agenda, thought leadership survey, inclusion and diversity platform, and Forcepoint’s Wall St. Journal Program at DAVOS. 

Fast forward to today: Forcepoint is now in the process of rolling out brand messaging, aligning the narrative with inclusion and diversity narratives, and embedding Playbook and Mechanica’s strategic vision into the larger company culture. At the upcoming January 2021 sales kick-off, CEO Matt Moynahan will introduce this vision, speaking directly from the narrative in his introductory speech titled “Safeguarding the Unbound Enterprise”. Playbook recently signed its ninth scope of work with Forcepoint.

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