I recently decided to change my company name from Harrison Creative Group to Heart & Hustle Brands. I made a choice late last year after reflecting on the body of work I’ve done for clients over the years. I wanted to walk in my clients’ shoes and experience what they go through when changing their name or updating their brand identity.
As a small business, I realize that my experience is on a much smaller scale from companies with hundreds of employees, thousands of customers, and multiple locations. Nonetheless, I thought it was essential to go through the process and document lessons learned. Here are just a few of the first things I learned through the rebranding process.
Defining brand messaging
Over four years in business as a creative entrepreneur, my business changed a lot. I started out doing most of the graphic design, web design and copywriting myself. After a year of 18-hour days and working weekends, I earned more client work. I partnered with other creative professionals to help get the growing list of marketing and branding work accomplished. Bringing in new team members to work on my clients’ brands made me think about what values were important. To gain clarity about my company’s values and messaging, I went through the same exercise that I complete with clients.
The CORE workshop is a full-day interactive workshop to uncover deep insights about customers, stakeholders, and specific goals and benchmarks. We define primary and secondary customers, surfacing their jobs, challenges, and pain points. Then we synthesize these items into concise and thorough profiles that we can reference for all brand & marketing efforts.
We then define the brand through key attributes, including voice & tone, look & feel, value proposition, customers, and cultural trends. We conduct a brand messaging and visual analysis of what competitors are doing to help identify opportunities to differentiate.
We develop an extensive list of features that can be integrated into our digital platform. In my case, that was my new website.
Choose a name and buy a domain
We live in a digital world. If a company doesn’t have a website, it has no credibility as a legitimate business. After months of consideration and brainstorming on a new company name, I wanted to make sure I could purchase a domain that fits my company. GoDaddy is an excellent resource for finding and purchasing available domains. Often, common names have already been purchased. But there’s a price for everything. If you’re willing to pay to buy the domain from the current owner, there’s likely a price they’re ready to accept. GoDaddy also offers a service that will negotiate with the seller so you can focus on your business. In my case, I got lucky that the domain I wanted was available for purchase. I grabbed it right away before talking about my new company name. And everyone will have an opinion about your new name- good, bad or indifferent. That’s OK. You’re not in business to please everyone. Just be prepared to defend your choice by explaining why you chose the name and what it means to you.
Hire a logo designer
I’ve been a graphic designer for 20 years, so designing logos is a typical project. With my brand, I poured myself into developing my logo for weeks. I wanted a design that reflects my style and values but also appeals to my audience. When months went by of tweaking, refining, and editing without arriving at a final design, I realized I was far too close to this project to complete it on my own. So, I hired another experienced brand designer whose work I admired.
Here’s a snapshot of the logos that weren’t used:
Stylized Font Logo
After writing a creative brief that outlined my brand personality, customer profiles, and key messaging, the logo designer got to work. He provided three options for my initial review, and I gave direction to help inform the design. I did not tell him which fonts to use or colors to tweak. I gave the professional designer room to be creative, as I advise my client to do. After all, what’s the point in hiring a professional if you’re just telling them which pixels to push? After two revisions, we landed on the final logo for Heart & Hustle Brands.
Once I had a logo and my key messaging defined, I developed a brand style guide that includes my brand logos, fonts, messaging, and photography. This guide serves as a roadmap for building all of my other creative assets, including a website.
Brand Style Guide
Legally update the business name
When you change your company name in Florida, you must file for a fictitious name with SunBiz. I had to download and complete Sections 1-4 of the Fictitious Name Registration application to simultaneously cancel and re-register my new company name. I returned the completed application with a check for $50.
Florida statutes require that the name you register must be advertised at least once in a newspaper located within the county where your principal place of business is located. So, I placed a tiny ad in the Tampa Bay Biz Journal to make the change official. You don’t have to supply proof of ad, but you must certify the name has been advertised when you sign the application.
Hire an intellectual property attorney
Once I filed the application for changing my name and had a logo designed, I felt ready to make it official. I contacted an attorney specializing in trademark filing to ensure my new brand was protected. I hired Fisher Broyles as my Intellectual Property attorney.
My attorney advised me that the purpose of filing a trademark is to prevent others from directly copying the logo and likeness. My brand name was not eligible for a trademark because it combines common words (Heart & Hustle) that can’t be protected. For this reason, companies make up new, catchy words or mash-up misspellings to make one unique name, like Google or Shopify.
To file the trademark, you must file proof of use of the mark. In years past, companies would have to file proof of use with a business card, brochure, or other print collateral. In our digital world, the USPTO requires proof of use of the mark that’s being filed. In my case, I was able to submit the screenshots of my website for evidence of use.
Updating all branded assets
Updating all branded creative assets, internal documentation, and signage with the new logo can feel like a big undertaking. And it is. Business cards, invoices, checks, employee handbooks, uniforms, advertisements, and all those handmade documents saved on your employees’ computers?! Yep, they all need to be updated.
How do you even know what you have and when to update it? I’ve created a checklist to make it easy for new brands that I’ve used for my rebranding.
Promoting the rebrand
Promoting rebranding is the best part of changing your company name. Building excitement with your customers can help your brand gain exposure and interest in your products and services. I’d recommend writing a press release to announce your rebranding. Post it on your website or send it to a news service for publishing. The press release will serve as a tremendous backlinking tool, as well. Send the link to your customers, vendors, and business partners.
Employees will love showing off the new brand as well. Order apparel like t-shirts, hats, pens, or mugs to wear and display their brand spirit. Everyone loves free swag. And happy employees make happy customers.
These are all small snapshots of the rebranding journey I’ve gone through. Follow me to learn more about how brands are transforming their identity.
About the Author
Stacey Harrison is the lead brand strategist and designer at Heart & Hustle Brands and has provided creative direction for healthcare, industrial, and financial services brands for 20 years. She started Harrison Creative Group in 2017 to serve businesses that need a professional brand image on a budget. In 2021, the company rebranded to Heart & Hustle Brands to walk in the shoes of clients that experience a change of name or brand refresh.