Jun 6, 2016 • 10 minute read

Know Thyself.
How a Long Hard Look at Your Agency’s Inner Workings Can Lead to An Authentic Re-Brand.

Undergoing a rebrand can be daunting. But it’s often necessary – especially if the face your agency is presenting to the outside world is out of sync with the agency you’ve become.

That was definitely the spot we were finding ourselves in at The1stMovement (T1M). As our 10th anniversary approached we started looking at our messaging and realized it hadn’t kept pace with the changes we’d undergone as an agency and the upgrades we’d made. (In 2012, we had undergone a company-wide switch to focus on revamping our process based on the Agile methodology (with help from our friends at AgencyAgile) and came out of it with a much leaner, much more collaborative and flexible approach to our work. Read more about it here)

A comment we were often getting from new hires was, “I had no idea you guys were like this!” Internally we knew we were witty, personable, friendly, and, I'll say it, downright hilarious. But our external facing brand had become a little more static, buzz-wordy, and way less personal than what we wanted to project.

If you are looking to walk yourself through your own rebrand, I hope there are some gems for you in this article: It’s about how we walked ourselves through the process and how we remained true to our agency culture along the way.

Step 1: Take the Time to Really Understand Who You Are. And by That, I Mean Really Take The Time.

Who Am I? Who Are We? At risk of this sounding like a high school coming-of-age story, these are valid questions. And questions I think any organization periodically must ask.

Since our agency prides itself on working in a collaborative approach, we decided we wanted to ask all our team members these questions—old hires and new. I’d recommend this because you’ll gain a multitude of perspectives that way.
After all, sometimes the ones who know YOU best are the people sitting next to you.

To accomplish this we used a tool we often use with our clients—stakeholder interviews—asking each team member a series of questions: What did each person think was special about the company? Why did they apply originally? If they’d been here since inception, what had kept them around all these years?
We encouraged people to be open and honest, not just tell us what they thought we wanted to hear.

The answers we obtained were eye opening. Some of them were pretty frank. And some of them even gave us “the feels.” As mentioned, T1M has been through a lot over the years. But what team members said hadn’t changed was the passion they had for the type of work they did and the enjoyment they derived from collaborating with each other and our clients.

We had won some prestigious awards along the way, but somehow that didn’t matter as much. The human connections were the reason most of us came to work every day.

Step 2: Okay, So Now You Have Some Answers, But How Do You Boil Them Down?

The interview and discovery process took weeks. Once we had our results collected, we sat down and reviewed everything. We boiled our findings down to some of the key qualities that had emerged: we were fun, playful, dedicated, accomplished, collaborative and proud of our process and values. This list was the guiding light to finding a better representation of “us.”

Step 3: Pick a Persona, But Not Just Any Persona…

Once we had our short-list, we asked ourselves if our agency were a person walking down the street, what type of person would he or she be?

This is a useful exercise because It helps identify your brand's core desires, goals, fears and even weaknesses.

At first, we gravitated to the persona of the Joker or Class Clown, that guy or girl who is easygoing and always up for a laugh. We liked it, because we are a playful bunch. But we also had to admit the majority of our days were actually spent at our desks solving real problems.

So, we finally agreed on another persona. It’s someone you can trust to have an ongoing relationship with, someone who can be playful and serious, who likes working together, someone who looks after others needs, often at risk of losing themselves.

Logo study

Step 4: Making Your Outsides Match Your Insides

Our team was genuinely excited about our new brand persona. And that was a big lesson for me:

Once your team agrees on a persona, the new logo, font choice and brand colors can all flow from there.

Here is how we translated our discoveries into our rebrand:

The Logo: Series of Industry 1sts, Agile Approach & Collaboration

After hundreds of rough sketches we brought a few logo designs into the computer to explore further.

Again, we wanted to make sure everyone was on board. The logo we chose represented everything we wanted to get across: The “1” and the “M” are integral to our name and reflect the series of firsts we’ve notched in the industry. The continuous line shows the collaborative, interdisciplinary way we work–with other team members and with our clients.

The Colors: Leadership, Passion & Collaboration

In the past our logo had been red, orange, gray and orange, but rarely consistent. We knew we wanted to stay within the red/warm range since those colors represent passion, energy and leadership. But we also wanted to make sure our lead color couldn't be confused with any other brand. The color we decided on is named Amaranth and brings in hints of salmon, pink, and red.

The Use of Pattern: Uniqueness, Interconnectedness & Innovation

Although color is an important element of any brand, we wanted a more dynamic element that would differentiate us. Early on we had explored the use of patterns to accomplish this. I had developed a few quickly and started playing with them, but ultimately left them aside as we moved forward.

As we continued to build out our brand and create different assets like business cards, we looked back at them and realized how valuable these patterns were. Part of working in Agile is being willing to revisit ideas that may have come out of an ideating process. For us there was a huge payoff in this: the patterns have become a cornerstone in our branding. They represent our unique agency culture as well as the multidisciplinary and innovative way in which we work.

Key Takeaways:

We’re all pretty happy about our rebrand. This is what I learned along the way: If you want to create an authentic rebrand that goes beyond just changing the color of your logo, really take the time to talk to everyone at your organization and really listen to what they have to say. Then, once you’ve narrowed down the qualities that are unique to you, find an archetype that reflects your company culture, a persona you can all relate to. It gets everyone on board and it makes discussions about “who you are” much easier going forward. The logo, color choice and other design elements will all flow from there.