GoDaddy rebrands itself with an eye on diversity

With new leadership, the domain provider once best-known for its racy commercials is now at the forefront of the push for greater diversity and inclusion, and that's helping the company attract great talent.

GoDaddy rebrands itself with an eye on diversity
Credit: GoDaddy

At its heart, GoDaddy.com has always been a customer-focused company built on a foundation of hard-core engineering acumen. Oh, you were thinking more along the lines of bikini-clad women and NASCAR? That's so 2011.

In the brandless market of the late 1990s and through much of the 2000s, companies left it up to their IT departments and Internet teams to shop for, purchase and manage their domain names, websites and Internet presence. There wasn't a need for a public brand, unless it was to drum up interest and build a customer base, which made GoDaddy something of a pioneer, says Auguste Goldman, chief people officer and head of HR for GoDaddy.com.

"What you saw on TV and in those ads was all about grabbing attention, generating conversions, building awareness of our product. And boy, it sure worked. But what that didn't do was highlight the fact that the people who work for us are hard-core techies, really incredible engineers and fanatical about customer service," Goldman says.

When CEO Blake Irving took over the company in 2013, he was just as confused as anyone about how the company's advertising squared -- or didn't -- with the reality of GoDaddy. He's since worked, along with his executive team, including Goldman, to reshape the narrative and put the focus back on what the company stands for: engineering prowess and great customer service.

"We consciously decided to change our external messaging to better reflect who we are as a company. It's just as much a moral and social decision as it is about sound business practices. Who do we really work for? Small business owners and entrepreneurs, bloggers, writers. Something like 58 percent of small businesses in the U.S. are run by women," Goldman says.

Goldman says Irving's leadership provided the impetus for change and a chance to flaunt the company's reliability and affordability and to talk more about its customer-centric focus. The company has always had a strong set of diversity and inclusion principles, but none of those factors appeared in their external messaging.

"We are continually attracting new customers, but we wanted to do that based on the strengths of our technology, our talent and our culture. But when we'd talk to customers and we'd try and explain this, they'd give us this look like, 'Wait, what? You're the company who's done those bikini commercials!' It was very clear that the marketing message and our customer experience weren't matching up. It was generating buzz, sure, but not at all in the way we wanted," Goldman says.

[ Related Story: How to diversify your hiring pipeline ]

Public commitment

Irving has made sure GoDaddy's current messaging and public actions demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion; from co-executive-producing the documentary CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap to doing unconscious bias training through Stanford's Clayman Institute for gender research, to attending and speaking at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Just this week, Irving released GoDaddy's salary data in an effort to be more transparent about compensation differences between men and women, and to highlight the gender pay gap.

The shift to a more open, inclusive public persona hasn't deterred growth for the company. In fact, the opposite is true. Goldman says the company is now a global enterprise operating in 37 countries, in 44 languages and with 17 different payment forms accepted. And domestically, Goldman says, putting customers front-and-center of marketing and advertising has been a boon, too.

"One of our strengths is working in and with the communities where our customers live. We have localized offices, local service and support for our customers. At first, we were predominantly American, but now we're expanding and seeing growth in markets all around the world," he says.

[ Related Story: Is your company culture driving away women tech workers? ]

A talent magnet

That growth also applies to hiring talent, Goldman says. GoDaddy's successfully attracting elite talent, and having great success retaining them, too.

"No question that this brand shift has dramatically increased the number of applicants we get, and improved our success in recruiting. This year, we sent 15 hiring managers to GHC, and we still had a queue at our booth of women waiting to talk to us and interview with us. The response has been phenomenal," he says.

GoDaddy also does aggressive college recruiting on campuses around the U.S., and Goldman says students respond enthusiastically; GoDaddy's often at or near the top of the list of companies students want to see return, year after year.

Diversity and inclusion aren't just some sound business decisions, Goldman says, it's the right thing to do for every person aspiring to a career in tech. "We're building a great product for customers, and our customers are diverse. We want to reflect their differences and their own diversity of thought and preference so we make sure we're giving them what they need to succeed," Goldman says.

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