Blog > Agency Updates > Feeling like your business has outgrown your brand? Lessons learned from our own rebrand.

Feeling like your business has outgrown your brand? Lessons learned from our own rebrand.

This year, we’re not only celebrating our 10th year in business, we’re also celebrating our first year as Orso. 

For the majority of our existence, we were Coordinate°, a name and brand we had to rework to make room for new growth.

This is the story of why our company invested in that effort, how challenging it became to prioritize it while devoting ourselves so fully to our clients, how we finally got our act together for a rebrand, and what that process looked like.

It’s also, we hope, a guide for anyone considering a rebrand:

  • What a brand foundation is and why it matters
  • The importance of brand maintenance
  • How to approach your brand foundation work when you have stuff to do now
  • How to actually, tactically update your brand foundation

So let’s wade in!

When Coordinate launched a decade ago, we had a small team and narrow scope of services; we mostly delivered polished, user-friendly websites for growing businesses.

Over the years, our business grew beyond that original mission. In support of our clients, we added ridiculously talented experts in complementary fields and found ourselves able to provide more: more services, more support, more strategic guidance. We still built websites, but as part of a much more expansive portfolio. As a result, the Coordinate brand no longer represented who we were as a company, or what we offered our clients.

So, in early 2020 we put our heads together, had some great conversations, and settled on the new name: Orso. 

Then – despite our best intentions – other work (and a global pandemic, NBD) got in the way. We stalled.

As time went on, our brand felt more constricting. We restarted conversations, renewed brainstorms, and then… still nothing. Client work, deadlines, and excuses kept taking precedence.

Last year, when our team just couldn’t bear it any longer (see what we did there?), we finally bit the bullet, reprioritized, and built Orso.

Why are we sharing all this with you when it’s pretty awkward for us? Especially since this is literally the work we do all the time with our clients? 

We’re sharing because it’s real, it’s important, and hopefully you can learn from the successes and mistakes we made along the way. 

We’re sharing because now that we’ve done it, and love it, and feel like a weight has been lifted, we’re kicking ourselves for putting our own brand refresh work off for so long. 

We’re sharing because we know many of you also know this feeling. You need to give your brand some TLC, but you have shit to get done. Short term, high priority to-dos clamor for your attention, so branding and strategy work gets pushed to the back burner. Well, we’re here to encourage you to stop putting it off and start having tough conversations. 

Finally, we’re sharing because when we did eventually revisit our brand foundation, we followed the same process we apply to our clients’ branding work. And since we believe wholeheartedly in a) our approach and b) transparency, we’re here to walk you through what we learned.

So whether your business or organization needs a full brand overhaul or just a light refresh, read on. Hopefully, our experience can blaze a trail for yours.

What’s a brand foundation?

A name and logo ≠ your brand. It’s so much deeper than that.

Your brand distills who you are as an organization: why you exist, what you deliver, the ways you deliver it, and why anyone should care. It informs your logo, voice, and culture. Your brand foundation aligns and realigns your stakeholders to these tenets so that as your organization grows and changes, you can decide together whether behaviors, assets, and strategies are “on brand.”

A healthy brand foundation:

  • Makes your marketing more efficient and effective. It knows your audience and speaks directly to their needs. When teams ask for copy, content, or design work, the voice, tone, process and visual schema are ready and appropriate. When researching a new market or product, you know your goals.
  • Deeply impacts your culture. A brand guides team member and partner behavior. It represents them; they represent it.
  • Paints a clear picture for clients and prospects. They know what you do, why you do it, and how. 

When a brand no longer fits, team members no longer feel represented, marketing efforts become clunky, and clients don’t clearly recognize your capabilities.

We really felt these challenges during our last few years as Coordinate. And the unfortunate fact is, we wasted so much time and energy by not investing in our own brand earlier and more often.

Maintenance matters

Brand maintenance ≠ a rebrand.

Just like your organization, your brand will grow and change over time. Even if it’s built on a rock-solid foundation, foundations shift. These shifts don’t usually require a rebrand. They simply require maintenance.

Brand maintenance means reviewing your brand foundation in an intentional way. It can take place quarterly, annually, or before a new project. It helps realign the organization around what works, what doesn’t, and what small, meaningful changes to voice, imagery or culture may need to take place.

Yes, there are certainly situations where a rebrand is appropriate. But most of our clients find that all they need is a little maintenance to tighten up their brand foundation. This also doesn’t (necessarily) require changes to their visual brand. It can take place entirely behind-the-scenes. And it’s something we wish we had done earlier and more often ourselves.

While our own rebrand was unavoidable, we realize in hindsight that we should have better maintained Coordinate’s brand foundation. Rather than addressing its growing misalignment at the root, we bandaged over it in a piecemeal way until we had no choice but to start from the ground up. 

Maintenance wouldn’t have prevented our rebrand, but the gap between where we started and where we wanted to go would have been much smaller.

But there’s no tiiiiiime!

You know you need to assess your brand foundation but what are you supposed to do? You have to help launch that new product; stakeholders expect it. Plus, three different internal teams have asked you to push three different email campaigns for three distinct audiences by the end of the week. Not to mention, you have that big event coming up and your CEO keeps emailing you asking how to get more TikTok followers. And while the brand guiding all of these deliverables is stretched entirely too thin to be useful, you just don’t have time to deal with it.

We get it. 

But you don’t have to do it all at once.

We work with clients on their brand foundations regularly. In fact, we guide them through a tailored version of our methodology before every project. While some companies find this so valuable that they pause short-term work to fully focus on updating their brands, others just need work delivered. Both paths are okay! By starting from the foundation, we are able to create deliverables in a forward-looking way, piece by piece, realigning your brand over time and projects.

And if you do choose to do it all at once? You may discover that it’s a lighter lift than you feared. That was the case for us! Once we committed, we completed our rebrand in less than six months, all while putting client deliverables first. 

Bottom line? We should have done it years ago.

So… how do you actually, tactically, dive into brand foundation work?

Get the right stakeholders on board.

For us, it was important to pull in all of the team members who had been a part of Coordinate’s growth. As an integral part of the company, it was critical that their voices be part of the new brand. 

This may look different for your organization, but gather a cross-section of team members who can speak to the essence of your organization.

Decide who you are, and who you want to be.

We onboard our clients with customized questions. We start with objective questions that help us determine whether we need to define voice, tone, or visuals. We ask about goals and have a strategist engage to assess values and positioning. This work helps us understand the state of the organizations’ current brand, but also their ideal. It gives us the vision we’re building toward.

To guide ourselves through this process, we considered:

  • Our history and story: Just because Coordinate no longer fit us didn’t mean it no longer mattered. Our roots are an important part of where we’re growing (just like yours).
  • Our goals: How we want to grow, how we want to partner with our clients, and how we want to impact our world. 
  • Our core values: We thought about this a lot. How do we make decisions in this complicated world? What matters to us first and foremost?

Identify your ideal partners.

Focus matters. If you serve everyone, you can’t excel for anyone. Who is your ideal customer? Do you have more than one? Be open to the possibility that this has changed over time, alongside your brand.

We identified our own ideal clients by thinking about where we felt magic in recent projects. We thought carefully about what we wanted to keep doing, and – more importantly – who we wanted to do it for:

  • Clients who trust us to challenge, support and advise them while also embracing our authenticity. We love how we can be ourselves with our clients and work to create an environment where they feel the same. We value getting to know them personally, working hard together, and then grabbing a drink and talking about our dogs.
  • Clients who care deeply about the work they do and get excited – maybe nerdily so – about the power of marketing and taking their business to greater heights.

Not only did this exercise help us clarify our ideal customer, it reinforced our Why. Thinking about our great-fit clients and the outcomes we helped them achieve was so reassuring and motivating. 

So, as you build your own brand vision, give these questions some thought: 

  1. Who do you need to hear from? 
  2. Who do you want to be? 
  3. Who do you want to serve? 
  4. What engagements have been your favorite and why?

Hi, we’re Orso.

We are so happy we invested in this work. Was it a pain at times? Absolutely. But it brought our team closer, gave us clarity, and set us up to move forward more strategically.

What we hope you can take away from our experience:

  • If you suspect that your brand no longer fits, it’s probably time for some maintenance (at a minimum).
  • Putting it off will hold you back and ignoring the problem will only make it worse.
  • It doesn’t have to happen all at once, but the sooner you clarify your vision, the better you can build toward the future – even if you can’t invest in a full brand foundation exercise.
  • Establish your priorities and stick to them (for example, we agreed that client commitments still came first throughout the rebrand process).
  • Collaborate. All of the teams that make your company successful should be represented at some level in the vision for your future brand. 
  • Get ready to grow – establishing brand foundations is only the first step.

Orso is in step two of our process (Brand Presence), teetering on the edge of step three (Brand Growth). We’re finalizing our website, updating our messaging and visuals across channels, and getting ready for the next stage of growth.

We’ll continue sharing our journey in the hope that it helps those of you embarking on your own. And we’d love to hear from you! Are the challenges we’ve shared familiar? How have you tackled them? 

If you’d like support establishing your own brand foundation – on a large scale or a much smaller one – talk to us. We’ll help you find new and creative ways to grow your business.