The Rebrand

“Why do you think you need to rebrand?” It’s a question we always ask our clients. And now, I find they are asking me the same question. You see, we recently rebranded. And while it didn’t make the national news cycle, our clients who have heard that question before are very good to ask us the same thing. So, why did we rebrand? And why did we choose to go in the direction we did? I’ll tell you why–and I would love to hear your thoughts about it. First, some background on the why.

Our firm was founded 21 years ago, and it has always been called Catapult Thinking. And it was a fitting name – everyone who worked here, in any position it seemed, valued the integration of user-centered thinking with design-strategy logic as the foundation for design exploration and decision making. There were many times when that was the deliverable. New frameworks, systems, concepts and ideas were the output – we showed our “thinking.” And, near as I can tell, the identity was designed at least 18 years ago to express that, and it hasn’t changed since. There were years when certain elements would go in and out of favor – like not using the green or another identity element for a year or two – but the system was the system.

The idea of rebranding came about last summer. We were doing some mid-year planning, and at the end the discussion we turned to how we could update our brand to reflect the way we think and work now. And to be honest, I hadn’t even thought about it. The discussion kind of caught me by surprise. I mean, why do we need to rebrand and why now? And if any of you have been at an agency that has rebranded, it can be a bit of a challenge. There is some truth to the cobbler’s children have no shoes / physician heal thyself maxims. I’ll just leave it at that.

So. Why change? We changed because our business has changed. As communication mechanisms have become more advanced and consumers more time starved, the need to cut through with relevance has become even more important. What was once a nebulous concept inside a marketing team (“branding? that’s like the 4Ps of marketing”) has now become an essential practice to align teams with measurable outcomes (brand awareness, brand equity, etc.). There was a time when the idea of branding was thought of as a complex task. Companies felt their audiences were too fragmented to define, product lines were too complex to simplify, and conversations would circle around nomenclature like “are we a product or service” or “is it a platform or solution” or “what is our B2B brand versus our B2C.” At that time, we were often engaged on projects where we were handed long, complex brand strategy and marketing decks to try to decipher. Or we went out and did user research and developed our own long, complex brand strategy decks (they just looked a lot nicer).

But over time, we learned. We learned how to structure brands. We learned how to model them and articulate them so they were clearly defined and easier to understand so internal teams could get aligned. Moreover, we did this so we could execute on the brand strategy. Over the years, we developed tried-and-true frameworks and models that worked for all types of brands – B2B, B2C, products, service, technologies, you name it. Over time we learned that what was really working was our proven brand principles and practices. This is what was really enabling us to provide value and deliver successful solutions to our clients.

And this was what made us realize that our business had changed. We were no longer providing a variety of conceptual frameworks and hypothetical approaches to our clients, and then talking through them as an exploration of a range of thinking. We were now using our experience and tools to provide our clients with a solution that clearly defined their brand strategy and linked it to their visual and verbal language. We had moved away from delivering decks of ideas, to taking responsibility for clarifying and defining a solution that simplified the complexity so they could move forward.

This was the shift we recognized, and the reason why we rebranded. We still have a branding and design focus, but our fundamental value proposition had changed – from showing a range of thinking to clearly defining a structure for brand clarity. The realization was an awakening for us and led to a number of changes in our identity – that were, quite frankly, easy for us to make. First: if we were about brand clarity, we needed to show this. Our website content now explains clearly our point of view about branding, what we do and why we do it. Next, our tagline, “We Make Strong Brands.” At the end of the day, this is exactly what we do. There are a lot of things that go into this (naming, verbal branding, identity development, guidelines, defining value propositions, etc.) but they are all in the service of increasing brand impact. Finally, the name shift. We removed “Thinking” from our name. We still do some thinking here (some), but it is no longer the critical element of our deliverable–the critical element is a clear solution that makes our client’s brand successful.

This change in our value proposition was the “why” and the “why now” for us. As it is for many companies. And once you recognize this, the rest comes easy.