When Pam Dooley first started the process of a rebrand in 2016, she simply wanted to redesign her website. Its outdated appearance made navigating the site an exercise in patience. But after a few conversations with some experts, she realized her company’s problems were rooted deeper than just the website.
“They were like, ‘Who are you?’ and I said, ‘What do you mean, ‘Who are we?’” Dooley says. “They made me realize that the website was the very end of the process. There was no way that we could develop any website that connected with people that we want to attract without knowing who we were.”
Dooley says prior to the rebrand, her company – Plants Creative Landscapes, based in Decatur, Georgia – was stagnating. It started in 2005 and just hit a wall a decade later.
“We were at the 10-year mark, and I did not believe that our current identity was attracting those employees and customers that we wanted to serve,” she says.
The rebranding process took several years. Dooley says the company saw its top line blossom by 42 percent in two years and its bottom line also steadily rise over several years. Even now, Dooley says the company’s top line revenue of $5.2 million should jump to $5.5 million in 2020. Growth is still happening at the remodeled Plants Creative.
But the rebranding process wasn’t just changing the company logo and slapping it on all their trucks. It took a deliberate, step-by-step process to develop a strategy they still use today.
Knowing when it’s time.
At Compass Creative, which Dooley worked with on the rebrand, creative director Diego Lopez says many companies think their websites are good enough because they generate new client leads. But Lopez and the rest of the Compass team usually turn around and ask if the company’s website generates leads from clients they aspire to serve.
Typically, the answer’s no. That’s where a rebrand can help.
“Not a lot of landscapers know how to communicate what makes them different than the next guy,” Lopez says.
He says companies should determine their short- and long-term goals, and how they believe their website will help them achieve those goals. There should also be time spent evaluating the company’s identity and whether its logo and brand are consistent across all assets like trucks, fliers, social media and on the website.
Lopez says Compass often spends three or four weeks with a client getting to know them, though that might not be an industry precedent. He also adds that Compass dives into the client’s company culture and creates a full marketing analysis.
Based on that initial phase of brand discovery, Compass makes recommendations from there. Lopez says that largely, there are three types of clients: those who adopt any suggestions; those who are skeptical but can be swayed; and those who are unwilling to make any changes at all. It’s the latter type of clients that Lopez says are most difficult to deal with, though some form of skepticism is expected. For any consulting company to come out and spend time evaluating a company, it costs that company money. Compass, for instance, charges $5,000 for this initial discovery process alone.
“(People say), ‘I’m paying you for you to get to know me? That’s kind of weird. But in retrospect, companies see this as one of the most valuable pieces,” Lopez says. “You start by not prescribing solutions, but by diagnosing what the problems might be.”
For the rebrand to work, Dooley had to do her with doing her homework – she had to identify companies that she felt aligned closely with the kind of business she wanted Plants Creative to be. She came back with Southwest Airlines and Starbucks, which Dooley says emphasize charity work and community involvement. She says anybody looking to hire a consulting company should find someone who will keep you just as accountable and force you to consider your company’s mission.
“It was so much more than just marketing or branding – they were really encouraging us to go deep,” she says. “They became really, really thoughtful, strategic partners.”
The big reveal.
When Dooley first looked at a redesigned logo two months into the rebranding process, she didn’t really care for it.
In the big branding reveal meeting, Compass team members showed Dooley what seemed like hundreds of logo variations. They had taken parts of logos and colors from other companies she liked and showed how they transitioned from those mockups to the final Plants Creative emblem. She told herself to simmer on it, giving it time to grow on her.
Ultimately, Lopez says the new logo embodied more of what Plants Creative stood for. The original company logo included a harsh neon green and burnt orange color scheme that didn’t quite capture the warm, welcoming feeling Dooley had said she wanted her company to be about.
She wanted Plants Creative to shift from a transactional commodity landscaping company where they never said no to anybody to being able to have the quality team and customer base they desired. The new brand has attracted those people, she says.
“We continue to grow into that brand that they created,” Dooley says. “It felt like an identification of who we are and also an evolution of who we continue to be. We’re attracting a team and customers that really fit us.”
Plants Creative also adopted a team mantra – “Putting you in your landscape” – and created a uniform color scheme across all its merchandise, trucks and advertisements. The company leaned hard into its rebrand, from the company T-shirts to a sign placed in serviced yards that read, “Another job by Plants Creative Landscapes.” That’s not to mention that Dooley finally got her revised website after months of determining the company’s rebrand.
“Companies very quickly realize that what they need might not just be a website,” Lopez says. “I’m not saying every company needs a rebrand, but very often, we need to take a couple steps back before we get to the website.”
Don’t go through the motions.
Dooley knows the process of rebranding can be expensive. Her advice? Pony up the big bucks and expect the process to take time.
“When you find somebody that you just trust, that you believe has the ability to guide you through the process, I would go all in,” Dooley says. “I have so many people go, ‘I just can’t spend that,’ and I get that because we couldn’t spend that four years ago. But it just gains so much momentum and if you try to cut any part of the process out, I just think that it limits the return.”
The returns are still coming in. Plants Creative hired Joanne Augustin, a social media strategist, earlier this spring as a way of promoting the brand more online. They’re focused primarily on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest, which is where they feel many of their possible clients post and interact. Dooley wanted people to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at their company and educate clients enough on landscaping that they establish themselves as clear-cut experts.
Augustin says she acknowledges many landscaping companies don’t have one person dedicated solely to social media, but she hopes it grows across the industry because establishing genuine connections with clients is critical in the digital age.
“Social media is a great opportunity for us to connect directly with our customers and build meaningful relationships,” Augustin says. “That’s the goal: We want to not only share some of the great design projects and just our services in general, but we also want to inform customers on managing their own landscapes and how they can do a few tweaks here and there.”
Plus, Plants Creative still has an ongoing relationship with Compass. They have monthly calls to exchange new ideas and go over what hasn’t worked so well. Dooley, as well as People Experience Manager Hope Smith, often sit in on the conversations with Lopez and his team.
Looking back, she says there are parts of the process that she understood the “how,” but not so much the “why.” Why would they want to shift away from the brown and green color scheme she saw from other companies in the area? And why would she need to think about companies in other industries that inspire her? But by the end, she was able to follow the evolution in thought process that’s promoted the Plants Creative messaging.
“As you grow, you start saying no in order to say yes to the right people,” she says. “That’s what it was for me.”