Lessons from an Agency Rebranding Process

By Nancy Marshall, The PR Maven®

Last year, my leadership team worked with Drew McLellan, an agency guru and consultant from Des Moines, Iowa, on implementing an agency-centric process rooted in the philosophy described in Gino Wickman’s book, TRACTION. It outlines a process that entrepreneurs can go through with their key employees in order to develop an ‘entrepreneurial operating system.’ We spent a year implementing the process and as part of that, it became evident that the agency was due for a refresh of our brand.

So, in the fall of 2017, we began the process of looking at the Nancy Marshall Communications brand. I decided that I wanted to remove my first name from the agency name because we had developed such a deep ‘bench’ of leaders in the agency, and I wanted to take the focus off me. So, we became Marshall Communications.

Nancy Marshall Cartoon ImageWe decided that although we were located in Maine, we were really quite connected around the world through our work with clients such as the Maine Office of Tourism, the Orvis Company, Discover New England, and others. Plus, my own network of relatives and contacts spans the globe, as well.  So, our new tagline is:  Maine Based. Globally Connected.

We developed this video to explain the ‘why’ behind the rebrand.

This all sounds great, but I wanted to share some lessons I learned from going through the process.

  1. Renaming a company and developing a logo after 26 years of history is hard. It’s especially hard for the founder (which is me). Give yourself time and don’t expect it to be easy.
  2. Surround yourself with advisors who know your brand and can help you make a decision. Charlene Williams, who has worked with me since 1996 (double check), became my trusted advisor. She knows me, she knows the brand, and she has a great eye. So, along the way, she helped me make decisions when it seemed overwhelming.
  3. Your logo design should be rooted in your brand story. We updated our “brand manifesto” before we started doing any design, so we would be mindful of the story our logo was meant to tell. For example, we decided that Maine was a huge part of our brand, so we wanted blue and green to reflect the colors of the water, the sky and trees. We also wanted a modern font and tagline to reflect the fact that we are worldly.
  4. Start with the end in mind. There were times when I just wanted to throw in the towel and say, ‘oops, never mind, let’s just go back to NMC.’ But my team reminded me that we wanted a new image and a fresher look and feel.
  5. Tell your graphic designer that it’s not personal if you change your mind or don’t care for some of his or her designs. The relationship with the designer is critical so as not to take the wind out of their sails or get them exasperated. It’s not personal!
  6. Remind yourself that it will feel really good when you get it done. Looking back, I am so glad we put in the hard work. We now have a great new brand that is fresh and vibrant. It is more reflective of who we are today.
  7. A logo grows in equity over time. Imagine you were the team developing the Nike swoosh. That piece of art looks pretty darn simple but just think of how much brand equity it holds today! Nike has invested millions, maybe even billions, promoting that swoosh and their brand. So, any piece of artwork, whether it’s a swoosh or an “M” (for McDonald’s) or a DD for Dunkin’ Donuts will start out looking simplistic but it will grow in the hearts and minds of the brand audience.
  8. Test your new look and feel on your key customers. I leaned on my agency management network which is a national network of agency owners like me. They gave me brutally honest feedback along the way, which was invaluable.
  9. Don’t think the work is done when you get the artwork finalized. Once you have the new logo and tagline, you need to implement it on business cards, signage, trade show displays, napkins, coffee cups, pens, coasters, office interiors, giveaways (we have our famous “to do” pads) and other branded items. You might even have uniforms or clothing with your new brand to think about. And, don’t forget your website and social media! It’s time consuming and it’s expensive! Plan for it. Budget for it. Do it right or don’t do it at all.

These lessons are the tip of the iceberg. If you’ve been through a rebrand, you might have other thoughts. Please share them with me and I’ll share them with all our readers. We can all learn from one another. This is the biggest lesson I learned:  Rebranding isn’t for woosies.

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