“Write a blog post on our rebranding,” my team said. “Reflect on the past ten years,” they added. And so I did.
Running a business is a lot like raising children, in so far as the days are long but the years are short. Maybe anything that takes so much energy and commitment while rewarding but also challenging and frustrating would trigger that trope?
The visual rebranding, in and of itself, isn’t noteworthy. I wanted to freshen up, modernize, and reflect a more contemporary aesthetic. There was nothing wrong or outdated about our original brand identity — in fact, I loved it so much I struggled with the decision to rebrand. But as I shared on “The M Word” episode on our 10th anniversary, even my pragmatic husband said, “Shouldn’t a branding agency lead by example with a refresh?”
For me, the more significant impetus to rebrand was tightening up our language about our purpose, values, and positioning. I’m not saying that 10 years has made me wise enough to know what our brand will be one day, but I know that we’ve matured as a business since I started this little agency a decade ago. In the beginning, as is common, we’d say “yes” to every inquiry, offer every type of service, and shy away from being too picky with the kind of work we’d do. Now, we know ourselves and our purpose in a way that we didn’t before, and our brand needs to reflect that.
So what about our brand has changed?
Our values and our messaging have changed. We weren’t articulating the passion with which we find inspiration in doing good — being agents for change. Our updated values, I believe, capture this essence more directly.
Our activism. I am no longer afraid of offending a potential client by speaking out on anti-racism, gun-violence prevention, anti-poverty, women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ matters, immigration, or mental health issues. We don’t infuse activism into our clients’ work unless it makes sense, but we proudly use the small platform we’ve built for ourselves to advance the agenda of things we care about.
Our quality. Let’s be real: the quality of our product has only improved the “older” our team has become. As we learn and add new notches to our expertise belts, what we produce gets better. We invest in professional development, as our team must stay up to date with the constantly changing best practices in our industry. The larger our team, the more we have been able to learn, which has helped us get better.
What hasn’t changed?
Our connection to the community. We’ve always been about finding ways to connect our clients to the communities they serve in authentic ways. We’ve discovered it isn’t cost-prohibitive for even the smallest business to build a cause marketing strategy into their business. We love being able to help our clients realize these synergies and exploit them in a good way — a way that benefits the community, the business, and the organization.
Our flexibility. If a business had a middle name, ours would be flexibility. I started this company when my three kids were pretty young. Part of my purpose was to build something of meaning that could flex around the realities of raising kids. So as we hired staff, moved into an office space, and grew the team, we have maintained a culture that respects our individual needs. We get the work done, but we allow ourselves as individuals to make our own needs a priority. And it isn’t just about having kids; it’s about mental health, prioritizing exercise, working remotely to be with extended family, and taking real time off. I’m proud that our company established these norms long before the pandemic made them more mainstream.
Our love of marketing. We get a thrill when we create a concept from scratch, devise a plan to deploy it, and can impact a client’s bottom line. Conversely, it really bums us out when something doesn’t work.
Where do we go from here?
We have business goals, sure. We have dream clients (you listening, Peloton?) But in reality, I want to continue to grow the business — mentor my amazing team, continue learning, and build a brand synonymous with doing good and giving back. In the last few years, we’ve taken on pro-bono clients and invested much into those engagements. I’d love to do more, give more, and impact more. While we’ve hired a college intern and have hosted Bridges to Independence students, I admire businesses that can support teams of interns; it means they have the capacity to nurture and teach, and I’d love to be able to grow Arlington Strategy to do that.
As I say in my interview on “The M Word” about our anniversary, “it’s the people that matter in our business and our brand… We are not just a plug-and-play tech solution. We are a team getting to roll up their sleeves and learn the inside outs of people’s businesses and brands. And so it’s about the people at the end of the day, and I’m really excited for where we are now because I think our brand finally reflects our people.”