Rebranding a brand agency. Whimsical, crazy, or necessary?
Let’s kick this off with an admission…I have watched The Bravo Channel and E! Network once or twice. A by-product of living with others is the acceptance that we may just have different tastes in entertainment, and that’s ok. That said, the Kardashian-Esque universe many reality TV personalities live in is as relatable to me as quantum physics. While many of these shows follow the same format and bleed together, they are always good for a “Please tell me this is scripted” moment. As evidenced by one cast member, likely in her mid-30s, obviously fashion-forward and not tied to a traditional form of employment or income.
As with many of these personalities, she had numerous business endeavors. She was mulling over name ideas for a fashion-based venture and getting input from a friend in the room. She rattles off some industry verbiage-based options, some options specific to her name, and some abstract ideas with floral terminology. Then the thing we in the branding industry strive for…the home run, the aha moment, the culmination of many ups and downs that have now led to the winner. She let out a scream…”Oh, I love this; this feels right!” Well, of course, it feels right, I thought after she showed it written on paper to her friend…WAYFAIR does sound like a legit brand name.
The airdate of this is early 2020, and Wayfair.com was established in 2011, so the real issue is brand ignorance versus brand awareness. Her friend tells her she can’t use Wayfair because it, you know, belongs to a global company with over 70 million online visits per month. I recall her reaction as bewilderment and thinly veiled defiance. While a simple facepalm emoji would suffice here, let’s dig deeper. This is a prime example of a real issue many start-ups, existing companies, and branding agencies face…everything has already been thought of and/or secured. In today’s land rush to try and secure a domain, trademark, and exclusivity, developing a service or product name is intensive, to say the least…when done correctly. You have a potential conversation with the fine folks at Wayfair Legal when done without the proper process.
Harder than it looks.
Without a doubt, naming a business or product is the hardest thing we do. Oddly enough, I found it far less intensive to agree on a name for my son, attaching a life-long moniker to a human, than it has to rename our agency. In most cases, it’s literal months of research, interviews, collaborative sessions, and setbacks before the path forward is set. However, that moment eventually happens; when it does, it’s electric. With every organization, campaign, or product we have successfully named, there has been a sigh of relief and perhaps a sprint around the office like we just won the World Cup. So imagine our nerves when we determined the next step in our evolution as a business was a rebrand.
Many small businesses begin with one set of goals, priorities, services, and personalities. Business names will often be based on one of those attributes, or it may simply be a manner of what can be developed and secured on a DIY basis. For us, Likemind as a name was born out of a bit of all those aspects but mostly based on the philosophy of a joint venture between our clients and us. Two sides use their knowledge in tandem to solve a problem. For us, the value has not changed, and the client relationship has become an even stronger bond through our evolving creative process. Beneath the surface, things like competing uses, domain fees, trademark availability, and our agency’s evolvement forced a re-evaluation. Once we had more than one prospective client describe how much they liked our experience in Software Development, asking on a call if the CEO would be joining us, we knew they were referring to another Likemind they had discovered, and the rebrand clock started ticking.
When developing a name for a client, it’s more technical, it’s easier to stick to the script and be impartial. In this case, we put ourselves in the client and agency roles. It’s an odd dynamic when you are tasked with answering your questions, tempering your expectations, or killing ideas thought to be going the distance. Often, those roadblocks are out of our control; again, we are a blip on the radar of those with good ideas. At the end of the day, we had to approach the problem as if it were any other client and take our emotion out of it.
With several designers, strategists, and trusted colleagues, I narrowed the team’s goal to simplify the process. GET US SOMETHING WE CAN OWN. That may sound easy, but again in this age of racing to an LLC, social media handle, or domain, options get eliminated as fast as they come. Since Likemind launched five years ago with little resources and bandwidth, we have discovered the name applied to at least a half dozen other organizations on varying scales. Without having some security in an exclusive trademark, it was only a matter of time before the market did what it naturally does…populate. Now, with years of work and growth under our belt, we were in a place where we could use our people and resources to tighten up our presence. So securing a new name we had exclusivity for today and the ability to protect it for tomorrow was mandatory; otherwise, what was the point?
Many companies today are forced to re-engineer the English language as we know it to secure their name. From creating mashups and edits of existing words to simply inventing new terms that may seem odd at first but quickly become a standard part of our consumer vocabulary. Would the phrase “Add it to your Spotify.” have made sense to anyone fifteen years ago? Often names are developed to secure a domain name first before the legal business name itself, and that can be an adorable new puppy that comes back to bite you later like a rabid dog. Some who take a DIY approach confuse a domain with exclusive rights to a name or even a legal trademark. Owning a domain provides no more exclusivity or legal ownership than a branded coffee mug; however, it can play a role when applying for Trademarks and Copyrights as it shows your brand identity being used in commerce. A more effective order is to research your naming options for competitive uses inside and outside your industry, then trademarks/copyrights, domains/social accounts, workshop the name, then rinse and repeat. It’s a rigorous endeavor; however, the end result has a better chance of long-term success.
Naming a new Chemical Engineering Firm or a flavor of alcohol seems flexible. However, those tasks can have a very narrow path to the result, with the technical service or product features heavily influencing the direction. A Brand Agency can essentially be whatever we want to be in theory, though often the process can get bogged down when the flood gates are that wide open. Do we want to convey a sense of humor, be literal with our services, get dramatic, or provide inspiration? It’s like deciding what kind of mood you will be in for the day…then being expected to stay in it indefinitely. A brand Groundhog Day.
Arriving at a solution
We focused on answering several questions about our business in hopes that perhaps one would lead us to a relatable depiction of us versus inventing a new term. Defining what we do, why we do it, and who we do it for over us as a group of people felt like the course to follow. Like many in our industry, we look to other thinkers and makers for inspiration and become fans, following their projects and successes. Brave People of Tampa, FL, Parliament of Portland, OR, and Motto In New York are just some agencies we admire for their work, process, and persona. Their names also give the viewer an immediate feeling, a gut reaction, a sense of what they do, a status to the experience with them, or an attitude toward their impact. We are admittedly a fraction of the size of those agencies; however, we tell our clients that a lack of size should never determine the quality of their presentation. We will certainly not go against our own guidance on this one.
As I referenced, our core philosophy as a business has not changed; we are still ultimately the guide in a journey and a collaboration-based experience with our clients. So Likemind as a value will always live and breathe, while a new name represents it. Additionally, this new name coincides with another fresh start…our move to the uber-cool city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. So the company slate has not been wiped clean by traditional standards, but it is bigger and brighter.
After many weeks of the highs and lows we would face with any other rebranding project, the questions, and answers became clearer. How do our clients and us approach each other’s work, and what impact do we want it to make? Our answer is a goal to be good, honest, and hard-working, with guidance paramount. What is the literal end product we produce? A personality, impression, and symbol that resonates with hearts and minds.
Welcome to Saint Emblem.