As paradoxical as it may sound, one of the most difficult things for marketers to do is market themselves. Like a psychiatrist performing their own analysis, the marketer marketing their own business presents some problems. Lacking the critical distance to see the big picture, or by corollary, being too close to the subject to get the proper perspective, it doesn’t always work. Add to that the reality of being judged precisely by how good a job you do for your own brand and it’s enough to keep you at home in a fleece onesie. Certainly it’s no different for designers, writers, or any sales person in any interview, and it’s the reason why agents exist.
When we decided to take the next big step for our company, we kept these thoughts in mind. With a view to getting past the typical hurdles we applied the same process to our own branding refresh as we have with our clients, or at least for the most part. Some people like to call it eating our own dog food, but we vastly prefer the idea of “getting high on our own pixie dust”. Whatever metaphor your prefer, the deep meta-meta of doing our own marketing was neither lost on us, nor has it failed to entertain, surprise and inspire throughout the experience.
When we started our company, we were so jazzed to get the business up and running and the shingle on the door that we just banged it out. Sometimes just making it happen and not thinking about it too much is the very best thing, especially at the beginning where momentum is key. It certainly paid off for us, and has luckily provided a continuous source of creative direction. Since we both come from an old school aesthetic and love vintage designs of all kinds, it was a natural fit for our brand. While we didn’t want to overplay it, we brought a few elements in that we liked, some more than others. It was a little bit of creative invention that was essential. Even if our messaging was all wrong, as we agreed it was, the branding aspect seemed right.
Thus critical to the next stage was first and foremost, to get the message right. There too we were divided between the laundry list of things we liked and knew how to do, and keeping it simple and providing an opportunity for discovery. The advantage of several intense months working for clients, we gained great insight into the true nature of our business, the processes that were working best, and what we were most proud of. So for example while we began with a focus on helping businesses become more social, we found that in most cases there was a lot of important upfront work to be done getting their messaging, branding and online experience right first before going heavy on the social and PR. Since we have strong, complimentary backgrounds in branding, design, web dev, marketing strategy and content this was a bit of no brainer. We decided thus to focus our message on three easy to understand buckets and our real, actual process. This helped us to verbalize what we are all about in an honest and straightforward way without allowing us to be confused with a web agency.
Our second big priority was moving our brand to the next level without getting in its way. Since we had already established a lot of the key elements from a feel perspective it was really a matter of letting the brand speak. Within our first brainstorming we had already developed a few solid concepts and variations, but as often happens, we found ourselves continually returning to the first ideas. Part of the problem we were having was about defining the specifics of the feel we had in our heads. The other problem was our tendency to try to do it all at once – the messaging, content, imagery, layout etc. It gets pretty overwhelming pretty fast. At the same time, having all of the puzzle pieces on the table at the same time can help you to find the answers more quickly.
While we were originally going for a clean design anchored with simple victorian lithographs, we wanted to bring more fun to it. Once we were there the Barnum & Bailey circus stuff wasn’t far behind. It not only fit perfectly with the original victorian components, but introduced some nice new warm colours to the palette.
Our third big priority had everything to do with creating the kind of experience online that we ourselves have been finding most compelling. Literally, a day does not go by that we don’t spend some quality time marveling at the latest parallax scolling site. The experiences that are being dreamed up and delivered today go far beyond anything we’ve seen before, and we’re only at the beginning. We are without a doubt in another great golden age of the Internet, and we’re glad to see that design is taking the front seat. That said, aside from aesthetic beauty and liberating user experience of these sites, we see enormous power and potential in these new models for telling stories. As such we felt we needed to start with our own, and so the technology challenge was merely that. “We know exactly what we want, now all we have to do is build it”. No sweat! Not quite.
A full mobile experience
All in all, our experience refreshing our brand has been rewarding for us individually and as a company. It’s also brought us some new skills and insights that we are excited to share with our clients. While there is no doubt that the first key decisions we made as a company and a brand have made things easier, our relative success in this stage has as much to do with following our own advice to find the right path moving forward.
Here is a final thought for any marketing companies out there. Whatever you do this year, make sure it includes a brand refresh or a complete re-brand. It will not only remind you of the challenges of being a client and expressing your own unique value, but you may well come out of it with some new and fabulous chops that your customers will love you for.