Every new year is a time for reflection on where you are and where you have been. After reading some articles on logos, branding and whatnot we started reviewing where we started and where we have come over the last 12 years.
I have personally made a bunch of mistakes over the years, but have learned and used these mistakes to push the company light years ahead of where we started from.
So I thought I would share some of our experiences to help ward off these same mistakes in your business - especially new businesses and start ups.
Back in April of 1999 I started what was originally called the Art Department. In '99 we did not have access to google so searching for names was not easy without hiring a trademark attorney. That being said I figured the Art Department was unique and clever enough to build a business on. This lasted for a year. Once we got listed in the Central Penn Business Journal for #1 web design company, we got a call a few weeks later from a local "art dept." that was in business for 15 years and only 30 miles from us. Needless to say we needed to change our name.
In 2000 I joined the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce to start promoting my business more and at this time changed the company name. At the drop of a hat I decided on "Dale Berkebile Illustration • Design". Since I have never run into another Berkebile, I thought this would be a safe name. It was. The downside is the name was also very hard for people to spell.
To overcome this I decided to start using the acronym "DBID". The problem here is acronyms don't mean anything to anybody. As you can see… these were all pretty bad branding mistakes.
These mistakes are common in new businesses. I was 28 years old and never ran a business before and so I did the best I could at the time. I think it was around 2005 when I knew things had to change and that I could no longer settle for mediocrity in my company brand. So over the next 2 years I worked on a new name for my company. In 2007 we launched the new name – Brandwise.
You can tell that not only does the name speak volumes about the company, it is also short, sweet and easy to spell. This has totally changed our company. So here is what I recommend to start-ups, new businesses or companies that are in the middle of this sort of situation now- step back and take the time to refocus your company. Build a brand strategy, goals and direction for your company. Then build the name and logo around that. If needed, hire a professional to help you get to the right place because the first 8 years were costly. The investment in a professional name that positions your company and a professional logo that builds pride, awareness, credibility and brand equity in the company will take your company to places you would not be able to get in such a short time.
Skimping on the strategy, name and professional logo and going with the $99 logo company is like a heavy weight dragging you down. We have included the logos we used throughout the years as another example of good and bad brands. Notice early on the logos we just a font and maybe a weak image/icon. This did a poor job of setting us apart. Now also notice that the Brandwise logo is highly customized. We created a ligature between the "N" and "D" (dropping the stem of the "D" and using the "N" stem to fill it in visually) to make the font flow nicer and to add uniqueness. We also added the "!" for the "i" of Brandwise to again add uniqueness, but to also show how being brand wise will make an IMPACT on your business. Someone could not just pick up a standard font and type our name because of these customizations added to the logo.
The same is true for our business Brandwise is very customized in how we do things and we are no longer a cookie-cutter business that someone can easily duplicate. This should be your business goal - creating a highly customized business that can not be duplicated. This is what builds strong brands. If you have already made some of these mistakes, no worries. Just start fixing them today and learn and grow from your mistakes.
This year is looking like it might be our most profitable year yet and at the rate things were growing last year we could double our best year ever.
So we recommend learning from our mistakes and wish you a profitable 2011 as well.