Wallach: Anatomy of a re-brand

Allen Wallach

Let’s face it, most people fear change – especially when it comes to their businesses. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to be a valid excuse to stay comfortably stuck in neutral. If you’re like most, that anxiety doubles when it comes to the name of your business.

After 13 years as Concussion, one of Fort Worth’s largest advertising agencies, I recently had the need – and desire – to change our company name to PAVLOV. Conducted with equal parts excitement and trepidation, our name change and rebranding has yielded a new bank of insights and expertise to better serve our current and potential clients.

It was a valuable journey and successful case study worth sharing with those of you who may be pondering a new name or brand position.

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Why change? There are many reasons why a name change is necessary. Federal Express shortened its name to FedEx in response to what its customers were already calling it. Anderson Consulting changed its name to Accenture by legal decree. I changed Concussion to PAVLOV because of a partner split and my new vision for the company moving forward.

In reality, many companies thrive in spite of their bad names. Others never reach their full potential, and some suffer and die. A name, alone, can’t overcome poor products and services. But a great company name coupled with a great product or service is crucial to long-term success and maximum financial performance, and has been proven to fetch a higher price in the event of a sale.

Whatever your reason, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of such a change, and to conduct thorough due diligence prior to pulling the trigger.

What’s in a name? Everything. A company’s name is a welcome mat and a prospective customer’s first impression. Inspirational, informational or purely engaging, your company name has the power to compel or repel. Make it count.

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In our case, our previous name, Concussion, stood for “blunt force drama” and a “blow to conventional thinking” – things that make sense to someone seeking to hire an advertising agency. With the partner split, I wanted a name and brand position that quickly conveyed a smarter approach to our business and benefit to our clients. With PAVLOV, we gained immediate recognition and borrowed equity from the famous work of Russian scientist, Ivan Pavlov, who discovered the phenomena of stimulus and response, and conditioned behavior. These findings are now basic tenets of the advertising profession used to modify and motivate consumer behavior.

PAVLOV is now a creative and strategic “stimulus lab” that combines art and science, as well as digital and traditional tactics, to provide the most favorable response for our clients. Our name is shorthand for our brand promise, and makes for engaging conversation at cocktail parties.

Method to the madness As naming and branding experts, we know that the right (and available) name doesn’t just magically happen on its own. That was certainly the case for PAVLOV, which required a proven methodology to identify and implement effectively:

• First, we decided what desired brand personality and principles we wanted to convey, i.e. smart, irreverent, confident, personable, capable, etc.; • Second, we assigned our agency the appropriate brand archetype: the Sage, a scholarly, expert, trusted, knowledgeable advisor; • Third, we explored a wide range of possible names and created a “naming bracket” system to narrow down and select a final name; • Fourth, we had our legal counsel check to see if the name was available and applied for trademark protection.

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With the PAVLOV name in hand, we then set out to bring it to life. Our team of graphic designers created various logos, and settled on the version that, when set on its side, gives us added brand symbology. The stylized A in PAVLOV can mean an arrow signifying stimulus, forward progress and greater than. Our new color scheme: graphite and flash, provides a vibrant visual stimulus that stands out in a crowd.

We also wrote a brand narrative and vocabulary that supports the PAVLOV premise and promise to use in all company collateral, on the website, advertisements and other promotional elements.

Ready for launch Next, we decided on the right time and place to debut our new name, and created a marketing plan for a sustained promotional campaign to ensure awareness of the company name change.

In January of 2014, we added a daily countdown ticker to our website homepage that said “Stimulus Starts in XX Days” in order to start building anticipation.

In mid-February, we sent a short, cryptic teaser video to clients, vendors, friends and others that showed missiles blowing up our Concussion building in an email titled “Concussion…out with a bang?”

A press release announcing the new name was crafted and sent to local media the day before our local American Advertising Federation Awards event. To create buzz within our industry, PAVLOV sponsored and produced the Awards after-party, complete with a glowing yellow specialty drink called a “Bell Ringer.“ To generate goodwill among our industry peers, we bought the first drink for all attendees.

The news broke in the local print media the following Monday, and the press release was sent to national advertising, marketing and public relations trade media.

In addition, we fired up our Internet marketing machine with a paid search campaign and social media blitz to further proliferate the news. Our team kicked our Facebook, Twitter and other outlets into overdrive to ensure maximum exposure.

Cue the controversy One thing to remember: you can’t please everyone. As part of the launch we ran full-page advertisements in the local newspapers. The first ad in the series featured a now-infamous image of a shirtless man sniffing his hairy armpit (stimulus) coupled with a photo of a spray of deodorant (response). As was intended, the advertisement generated plenty of feedback – not all of it nice.

A small group of people took offense to the ad, and our new name, citing reasons ranging from “poor taste” to “mind control efforts.” In our case, our experiment worked as the ad elicited desired responses of all types, including a number of prospective new business inquiries.

The armpit advertisement mini-controversy even helped extend our publicity coverage when the local, major daily newspaper ran an article on the negative reaction it had received from a select few readers.

The end result Once you embrace the change and commit completely to the initiative good things start to happen. For PAVLOV, we found the rebrand exercise to be a chance to start fresh literally and figuratively, and to make ourselves more relevant to those seeking our services.

Our entire staff is reinvigorated and continues to collaborate on new ways to express the PAVLOV brand. Clients understand and appreciate the new approach. And we have gained a valuable tool to leverage the power of “new” in our publicity and business prospecting efforts.

If you are considering a company name change or new brand position, there is no better time than the present. Whatever fear I had to rebrand my company is now a distant memory. My only regret is that I wish I had done it sooner.

Allen Wallach is CEO/Owner of PAVLOV Advertising LLC.