The story behind the rebrand and how it's helping Studio Clvr to grow
Rebranding your business is no small task. You might irritate your audience if you do it too often. If you don’t rebrand at all, you risk looking out of date, irrelevant, or no longer representative of your target audience or the work you do.
I had a lot of traditional business folks tell me that rebranding Popdot Media to Studio Clvr a terrible idea, that a name change would damage client relationships and demolish the credibility and reputation I’d built. Conversely, the savvy digital marketers within my network were all telling me to go for it, pointing out that rebranding can enhance credibility and that a new brand identity could be a key driver to proving my authority and expertise with my target market.
While I could see where the traditionalists were coming from, my gut was telling me it was time for a brand overhaul.
Why did I change my business name and go for a full rebrand?
I’ve been thinking about rebranding Popdot Media for years. These are the four main factors in my rebranding process and the reasons why rebranding became essential to the future growth of the business:
- The focus was unfocused! Rebranding was needed to narrow my niche and I knew I could have fun with a new message and identity that could better connect with a more tightly defined target audience.
- I needed to add value to the business and I knew rebranding would be helpful in restructuring.
- I wanted less stress in my life and rebranding was partly about improving process and efficiency.
- I needed a brand message that would better reflect my mission and values.
1. How a new brand narrows my niche
Where I’ve come from
When I started Popdot Media almost 10 years ago, I set out to build a full-service graphic design agency. At that time I was coming from an in-house design and strategy role for a huge global company in the science and medical sector. I had spent my entire career working for internal clients, rather than external ones, and had no idea what work would look like as a small business outside of that big business bubble. So I was happy doing a bit of everything and working with a broad range of clients.
Three years in I went from just me to a team of five, with plans to keep growing. We worked with businesses across all sectors, from startups through to corporates on brand identity projects, marketing and communications services, as well as website design and UI/UX work. Our clients were international and spread across Europe, the US and Australia (I’d been in London for almost a decade and started Popdot in New York before returning to Australia).
I had transitioned the rates for our services to fixed fee but still felt trapped by an hourly mindset that had me and the team working far more hours than our fixed fee retainers allowed for and suffering from some major burnout. Things had to change.
The moment of change
I think a lot of business owners can relate to the idea that the pandemic has been an opportunity for a business and personal reset. We’ve all had a wake up call and an opportunity to really consider what’s important, what we want to do and how we want to live our lives.
You’ve heard it before — when you’re busy working ‘in’ the business, it’s an easy trap to never get around to working ‘on’ the business. That was me and I knew it.
So I stepped back and did a massive audit of all of our projects over the past three years. My aim was to work out where I could niche down and what that might look like.
I quickly discovered that the most gratifying work for me is end-to-end projects involving strategy, brand identity and website design. The clients leaving the best reviews were those for whom I had developed systematised digital operations around their website, making it easier for them to run their business. I was LOVING that work, and my clients were too.
So this rebranding exercise hasn’t so much been about rebranding to a new market, as narrowing down among the customers I was already serving to focus on the segment of my target audience where I could provide the most value and with whom I wanted to form long lasting partnerships — my ideal clients.
Where I’m going
Changing the business name from Popdot Media to Studio Clvr clearly reflects the narrowed focus of building clever websites that make running an online business easier. All of my services have now been streamlined and productised to avoid the need for any time-consuming proposals and to reflect the more strategic work I want to do rather than the smaller one-off transactional design jobs.
My niche is now clear, and I can more easily say no to work that isn’t a good fit. Studio Clvr is built around doing what I do best — strategic websites — for the clients I can help the most — service-based businesses (specifically professional services, legal, financial planners, healthcare practitioners and small technology teams).
On a personal level, my knowledge and experience has come full circle. I can combine my in-house big company expertise with everything I’ve learned over the past decade working with over 500 clients across different sectors and business sizes. It’s all coming together and it feels great!
2. Adding value to the business
I’ve been having a lot of conversations with my financial planner about exit strategies. To be honest, this isn’t something that I had thought about at all when I first started my own business in 2012. I was thrilled just to be able to make a decent living for myself and was proud of building a business from scratch that has survived the first year, then the first 5 years, and then a global pandemic. Phew. Pat on the back.
But that’s not enough. What’s the plan for the next 10 years? Will the business be worth anything? So the Studio Clvr product map has been carefully designed to build value into the business, with the core products as follows:
- Clever website packages that focus specifically on making it easier for our clients to operate a business online;
- Pay-as-you-go services for an hour or a day so we can still provide that ongoing strategic support and hands-on design work when our clients need it, but with no need for quoting on small jobs;
- The Clever Up Program — moving away from complex marketing retainers where we were previously consumed by work that would be cheaper for our clients to manage in-house, to advisory retainers better suited to my expertise, where I act as an external Chief Marketing Officer to ensure in-house marketing is effective and building value for the businesses we work with.
I’ve had fun tying the product names into the clever brand identity, and the new Studio Clvr business name has given me a lot to work with for a fun brand image, a brand strategy that aligns with my mission and a more accessible brand story.
3. Rebranding to de-stress my life
Running an agency with a growing team is stressful. There’s no two ways about it. No matter how awesome your people are (and I had awesome people), managing a team is hard work and for me I felt like I was spending too much time training staff and putting out fires, leaving less time for me to be fully present with the clients I loved or the business itself. Which is precisely why the Popdot Media website hadn’t been updated in six years (shudder!). Given that my core business is website design, this state of affairs was a terrible reflection of my expertise!
Add to that my changed life circumstances. My son was born in 2018 and working all hours of the night is no longer something I am available to do, nor is is something I want to do. I needed to set better boundaries around my time.
So this ‘ole ship is changing direction. Removing stress and improving efficiency had to be a key factor for my new brand strategy. For now, the idea of growing into a big agency just doesn’t mesh with the personalised offering I want to provide for my clients. So with the new business strategy I’ve scaled this back to a studio setup, where I am at the core, with a team of expert partners around me. For long-term clients who know the team, Steph is still around, working from Singapore and providing her graphic design and illustration skills for those marketing materials and design projects that come up.
Who knows, maybe I’ll want to scale the business up again and onboard more permanent staff down the track, but for now I’m loving having more time to grow Studio Clvr with the same focus I give to growing the online businesses of my clients.
4. A new brand strategy to better reflect my mission and values
Outdated branding is not just about a boring company name or what your logo looks like. These are important factors to successfully connect with your audience, but a new name certainly isn’t necessary to achieve this. However, for me, I knew a new name and logo could be used to my advantage. I was becoming concerned that the mission and values of the business weren’t adequately reflected in the Popdot brand and that was an area of the website where my brand identity wasn’t connecting with my target audience.
The key here is that the rebranding strategy needed to fully reflect my mission and values. For me, it’s all about doing work that challenges me and that delivers a measurable impact for my clients — I thrive on problem solving, which is why unraveling traditional offline services businesses to find the core elements that will create digital success is so exciting to me.
Are you considering a rebrand?
Get in touch if you have questions about rebranding and would like to talk through how a change in brand strategy could be a success for your business.
And the results of the rebrand?
Now the rebrand is done, I can truly say that the new brand enables me to better connect with the clients I love working with, build stronger relationships where it counts, and clearly indicate to the wrong clients that we’re just not a good fit — before wasting time for both of us.
You’ll probably know when it’s time to rebrand your business. Whether it’s a full brand overhaul including renaming, a company rethink or a strategic website redesign. Something in the back of your brain will be telling you that your existing brand needs to change.
Maybe, like me, you’ve outgrown your original brand. Maybe, like me, your original brand identity was developed in a hurry or on the cheap and has outlived its usefulness. Maybe, like me, it just isn’t connecting with the clients and prospects you want to work with or maybe you’re looking to break into a new market.
The transformation to a new brand identity including a new name for Studio Clvr has been a breath of fresh air. It’s reinvigorated my excitement for all the ways I can help service-based businesses operate effectively online and in simplifying my niche and product offering, I’m working faster, with less effort and more enjoyment.