Rebranding your agency: pros and cons

Rebranding your own agency is no small feat. Dario Grandich, who recently saw his company transform from Snapshot Media to Parallax, here offers an overview of the experience – including the pros and cons

Rebranding your own agency is no small feat. Dario Grandich, who recently saw his company transform from Snapshot Media to Parallax, here offers an overview of the experience – including the pros and cons…

Over the past year we’ve made some important decisions about the identity and direction of our company. Our business has grown considerably since 2009; we started in a bedroom, before quickly moving into the living room, and then progressed through three offices. Our projects have also scaled up, are more complex, and take longer to complete.

Throughout that growth, while so much has changed and improved, we’ve maintained the same corporate identity that we’ve had from the very beginning. My brother designed our first logo and website, and while it served its purpose well, it was often neglected.

Our brand was something we didn’t value as much as we should have; we didn’t have rules, and it was more of a visual asset than true branding. Rebranding was a big topic at a number of board meetings, and we’d all become convinced that it was something we needed to do. The decision was finally made to go ahead.

The initial rebrand was to be a slight change – replacing ‘media’ with ‘digital’ in our name, Snapshot Media, and we created a simple plan and bought the domains. It was at this crucial stage that we met Ian Thompson, from Thompson Brand Partners, who opened our eyes completely: he spoke of our brand as if it was something in all of us, something we’ve naturally created. It all made complete sense.

The rebrand process

The initial meetings were workshops where we all explained how we felt about our brand, how our customers perceived us, and then what we and our customers should be thinking. A lot of discovery work was done to establish a firm foundation, adding a lot to our business plan.

Working with TBP, we spent much time defining our values and how we wanted to be perceived internally and externally. Once we had it all down on paper, we created a brand wheel so that we could describe ourselves in three simple words: passionate, intelligent and innovative. These three words were the benchmark for every decision we made, and helped us further define our business plan.

At this point, we all realised that ‘Snapshot Digital’ wasn’t enough. Though a positive change, it didn’t match the three defining values; it wasn’t passionate, intelligent or innovative, and it would have been a mistake to proceed. We needed something new.

After many more workshops, we narrowed down our list to ten names. We closely analysed each one, searched for domains, and did the usual trademark and competitor checks. It was a close call, but there was one name that got everyone’s vote – a real breakthrough. We decided it was to be Parallax.

 

The pros of rebranding

A defined purpose and values
This really helped us understand what our brand means to us and our customers. It has helped us hire more suitable staff and target the right sort of clients, but most importantly has given us a sense of purpose. It’s not just a logo anymore.

More pitching confidence
We always thought our old visual identity made us look small-time. The new brand gave us an unbelievable amount of confidence pitching to new clients, and it’s no surprise that in our short time as Parallax we’ve won some of our biggest projects.

Beautiful and contemporary visuals
We think our logo and visual language looks stunning. It’s flexible enough for us to build on, and it matches a design style that is perfectly suited to digital. It shows a lot of the characteristics of Apple’s iOS7 which we were delighted with.

Staff morale and ambition
We got our staff involved in a lot of the brand work. I think all but one or two fully bought into the values and the new name. It was a great way to boost employee morale and make them ambitious to take us, and themselves, to a new level.

Design awards and exposure
The brand and website has been featured on a lot of design galleries and award websites, giving us a lot of exposure to the international design community. We’ve been featured on Smashing Magazine, Awwwards, and many more.

More perceived value
One of the issues of our previous brand was getting low-value leads through. Although we had a screening process, we’d still get clients looking for the cheapest agency. Now we attract the clients that have the budgets to achieve their ambitious goals.

An excuse to have a party
After a lot of hard work it was a great excuse to celebrate with all of our staff, friends and clients. It also allowed us to catch up with a lot of key clients and update them on our plans for the future. It was a great networking opportunity.

A big learning exercise
It’s been a steep but efficient learning curve. We have all learnt an awful lot about branding from real experts. It’s something that has, no doubt, made us better, and has opened everyone’s eyes to what branding really is.

 

The cons of rebranding

Resources
We knew a rebrand would be a big job, but we had no idea how big. The amount of internal hours everyone clocked up was the equivalent to a full month of billable work for the entire team.

Cost
Doing a rebrand well is never going to be cheap, especially if you do it properly. There are many different fees, and though they were expected, they added up to a considerable total. You’ve got to consider agency, print, domains, furniture and signage fees, to name a few.

Uncertainty
You can never be sure that it’s going to get you the desired effect. So many rebrands happen and get negative publicity. Fortunately, while ours went down a treat, there were still times when we were quite nervous.

IT changes
Software licences, email changes and domains all gave us a few headaches and incurred fees. We’re still using aliases instead of emails sent from our new domain, simply because it’s so difficult to move across.

Loss of brand awareness
When changing everything, some loss of brand awareness is inevitable. We’re just not sure how much. We tried to get the message across loud and clear on social media and by email, and we also kept our old website up for a while too. This wasn’t ideal, but it’s essential.

Search ranking
Our new name is a commonly searched word which has caused some SEO issues. We’re working on it and have seen some amazing gains, but we’re still not at the levels we were prelaunch.

 

Weighing it up: was it the right decision?

Absolutely. The rebrand was a long process, involving a lot of hours and people, causing internal debates, and at points becoming the dreaded design by committee. It was one of the biggest projects we’ve ever done and now, a few months after launch, I can safely say it was a very positive move.

From a business development point of view it has been great, and we’ve won new clients that have the potential to be massive for our growth. We’ve had new business meetings, and calls with companies that we’ve dreamed of working with, one of the first being with Google in San Francisco to scope a project.

For any rebrand it’s going to be about the long term value versus the short term pain. We’re glad the rebrand is over, but as for our vision, we’re only just getting started.

Dario Grandich, below, is a director of Leeds-based digital agency, Parallax.


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