Birthing a new brand

Over time, changes have had a deep impact on our business. More recently, our growth has accelerated, leaving the economic gloom behind. Our current service and product lines have substantially changed our company, and we recently reached a juncture where it became abundantly clear that we needed to rebrand ourselves.
Although we had created an overarching corporate persona -- the Lorraine Gregory Communications Group -- it became apparent that it needed to be changed. First, the name was a mouth full. It was too difficult to say comfortably. The word "Group" had to go. The corporate logo in place since 1992 was no longer modern, the colors were stodgy and the fonts were stock Microsoft. The look and feel no longer reflected us or our brand.

The first challenge was retiring the names of individual companies that we had acquired. We had merely let the names survive as stand-alone divisions. Since three of the companies had over 20 years of business longevity and were well known in their market niches, there was a great deal of trepidation allowing their names to fade. The question was how to communicate our rebranding to the customer bases of our new divisions, and assure them that the quality, service and relationships they had experienced for so long were not in jeopardy. Part of the retirement process was stream lining our administrative controls. Management wanted to keep the sales and expenses of each division separate to track profitability. On its face that was reasonable, in actuality, it undermined control, wasted valuable time and led to duplication with diminished results and was scrapped.

Operationally, rebranding would affect workflow. Consolidating control of numerous projects simultaneously led to fear that each division would lose control of its work product. This anxiety had to be overcome before there could be any real commitment to the process of rebranding the company. A close review of the production processes revealed that the change was not only safe but would also be economical and effective. Therefore, presenting one face to the marketplace no longer was an issue.

We've transformed from a commodity provider of printing and mailing services to a fully staffed professional marketing and communication agency. The printing and mailing divisions are the commodity side of the business. Although they remained very strong as the company expanded, they were changing related to our overall advancement. In the world of multi-channel marketing, those product lines are the heavy support for client messaging that would be utilized on numerous other platforms and media. Now, when appropriate, our direct mail and printing services are robustly employed in furthering a client's success. However, from our company's branding perspective, our corporate message had changed - very tricky, indeed.

Organically, we had become a blend of different cultures -- a mini business melting pot, that had grown from 13 to 50 employees. This was where the rebranding work had to begin. Determining who we are was the heart of the process, and it involved enlisting the aid of all employees, management, administration, creative and production staffs. We met, we talked, and we finally determined that we were, in essence, "helpers." We're at our best when we help clients solve problems, meet challenges or achieve goals. It's what satisfies us most and how we gauge our worth. From the basic flavor of our advertising, website and social media, to interactions with the public and clients, we knew we must always communicate that core value. That's the truth of the brand.

The advantage of having expert staff in house made the rebranding process somewhat easier. We're all located down the hall from each other, which fostered many impromptu conversations and meetings by the creative, copywriting, web development and marketing departments. Logo designs, color palettes, style books, web wire frames, themes and templates were discussed over and over. Eventually the focus crystallized.

The new logo image incorporated the connection of the two founders (Lorraine and Gregory) with stylized "L" and "G" in connected thought bubbles which represent the core of our business -- communications. The last of the logo meetings was a two hour free for all. Several combinations of colors were put up on the screen, accepted, reserved for a second look or rejected outright. Many color combinations were marked "Final" and then changed. When the new colors were finally agreed upon there was a palpable sense of accomplishment. Two important steps had been completed - design and color palette - and we could all rally around the look and feel. We could visualize how to use it and build our collateral and ads. The company energy was considerably boosted when we first exposed the new look.

During the process we had touched all the points in the same way we would for our clients. We love our clients and work very hard to create and produce the most outstanding and comprehensive results for them, but our own process became very personal to management and staff. It just seemed that the comments were more pointed; there were personal feelings and emotions involved and there was more push back on key points until we all came together. People weren't afraid to speak their minds or hold their ground when fighting for one element or another in the process. Everyone felt they had a stake in the final brand. There was a lot thought given to the future, and often we heard, "Remember, we're going to be married to this for quite a long time."

The result? A corporate branded identity that we can live with long into the future, one that encapsulates our forward thinking, our warmth and human kindness, and announces our core expertise. For any company seeking to rebrand, I offer this word of advice: Rebranding is far more than coming up with an updated logo. Before you rebrand, find out what you're really about. Rebranding is a way to understand much more about your company, its culture and the values at the heart of its foundation.

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This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.