Branding or creating a successful brand image and message isn’t easy, and re-branding a message that hasn’t been received well by your community is much harder.
There are so many great ideas out there and we hear a lot about the really successful ones, but why do so many businesses that are founded on great ideas still fail? What is it that separates the entrepreneurs who successfully launch a business and those whose businesses flop? When it comes to building a brand, we often ask our clients if they know what the difference is between an inventor and an entrepreneur. Often times, they look at us quizzically wondering what we’re playing at. We ask this question not as a trick, but to get our clients thinking about what the difference truly is.
The answer: an entrepreneur doesn’t just create an idea or a product; an entrepreneur has what it takes to turn a good idea into a successful business.
As many businesses discover, you can create a message, but creating your brand message and actually having it stick are two entirely different things. Typically, when “your” message doesn’t stick — it’s because you’re not backing it up. Building a successful brand is a lot more than a cool logo, fancy website, and catchy slogan; just ask Becky Simpson, the President and CEO of Pathway Enterprises.
(Photo of Becky Simpson and Dennis Richardson shown above)
Here’s a little background into what Pathway is as well as what Becky’s role is in the company. Simply put, Pathway Enterprises one of those businesses that is founded on a great idea. The organization was designed to help adults with disabilities, but more than that, their organization was designed to give back to the community. In Becky’s own words, “we’re a non-profit who is as diverse as the people we serve… We’re dedicated to serving people with disabilities, encouraging independence & supporting our community.”
I think we can all agree that the idea behind this organization is pretty wonderful. Unfortunately, community members who are unfamiliar with this type of company view similar non-profit organizations as more of a drain on the community — just another charity case looking for handouts. This is exactly the notion Becky set out to demolish.
Public scrutiny, state and federal government regulations, and audits are all a big part of the daily dealings in this particular industry. Maintaining a spotless reputation is extremely difficult when consistently under heavy scrutiny and a watchful eye. In fact, Pathway had started to lose some of its luster in public opinion. Daily operations, lack of organization, and audits can weigh heavily on a public image, no matter how good the idea behind it is. These were only a few of the many hurdles that Becky had to face five years ago when signing on with Pathway.
How do you deal with a brand image that is losing public favor? This was exactly the challenge that Becky had been presented with. Becky knew that re-branding and reestablishing Pathway was essential to their future success. So, what did she do?
She developed a plan and gathered a team of people who could help her achieve her goals. The plan included a complete internal refinement strategy as well as growth and expansion goals, rounding out the plan with increased community awareness and a redefined brand image.
We were elated to be a part of this brand rejuvenation project. Becky contracted Pixel Productions for our expertise in developing a strong message and visual identity that would really resonate with the community. I don’t want to undervalue what we do and the role Pixel played, but it’s essential to point out that all of the individuals that Becky recruited, as well as Becky’s implementation of better processes and the fostering of an improved “culture” within Pathway are the things that were essential in living up to their company message, upholding their core values, and ultimately rebuilding a successful brand. Pathway is a perfect example of a company that answered the question we began with: “what does it take to make a good idea a success?” Just to clarify; it takes a plan, it takes determination, follow through and the motivation to back up your message.
So what exactly was Pixel’s role in the brand refresh of Pathway Enterprises? I’m glad you asked. We were specifically contracted to help increase community engagement and awareness. There were multiple aspects to this ranging from visual imagery to implementation of new communication channels.
One of our main challenges was that Pathway was already an established business in the community – an organization which already had a logo, colors, and messages recognized by the people it helped, the businesses it served, and the broader community base. We couldn’t completely abandon their visual identity, nor did we want to. But we knew we had to make it obvious that the company was changing for the better. We wanted people to know that this was still Pathway, but a better Pathway that wanted to be a bigger, better and more helpful part of the community in which it served.
We began by refining and revitalizing what they had started with. We were able to utilize existing elements such as the wavy banner graphic in their original logo, but integrating it as a more cohesive icon with the logotype. We used it to suggest the idea of a pathway moving forward, a walk they could continue with the community.
Building on those principles, we moved to the website where our goal was to create a friendly, engaging and ultimately more inviting gateway for Pathway to share information and engage the community. There are several distinct facets to the Pathway organization and the services that they offer, so it was integral to quickly and clearly define those messages and points of interests in order to direct visitors in the appropriate manner. In web design, a key part of doing this effectively is establishing a navigation system with a clearly defined structure and a hierarchy that allows visitors to quickly move to topics of interest or in some cases, lead them to an action.
We set the site up with the ability to access any page with just one click no matter what page the viewer was on. We also provided contact channels from every page so that people could immediately access help for any questions they might have. We built the site with an easy-to-use content management system to facilitate a more fluid engagement between the organization and their community. This also extended to social media channels, Google docs and Google calendars where much of their event planning and coordination takes place. Pathway clients are very busy and participate in many community activities including: community gardens, senior center activities, car shows, Hope Equestrian events, various Parks and Recreation activities, Special Olympics, and Church services. We designed the website to become the Pathway “Hub” for distributing all news and events to both staff and clients easily and effectively.
In Becky’s own words our role was, “to align the timing of Pathway’s new website, logo design and core message with our move to a new location, our Open House party, Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, and the creation of our Facebook page. We started working with Pixel in February 2012 and within weeks they showed us a few designs, colors ideas, new copy and picture ideas to help us understand and make decisions about how we wanted the public to perceive our company as well as how the interactive components worked and what the colors and design represented. They listened intently to our requests to be more relevant, up to date and have a lot of visual stimuli that would interest customers. They heard us describe not just how we serve, but who we serve, and how passionate we are about our mission, our core values and our desire to be respected within the community. They took this information and were able to very succinctly project ideas and feelings onto a page. They helped us understand the layout and how the information was organized as well as calming our anxiety about changing format, copy or pictures in the future.”
We did a soft launch of the website and some marketing materials prior to the Open House Party and Ceremony to prepare for the mass introduction of the new Pathway Enterprises and their new message. Simply put, our goal was to have people recognize Pathway for their unique ability to help people, foster economic growth and ultimately build a stronger, healthier community.
Was it a success?
I asked Becky that very question and here is what she said to me…
“As the CEO of Pathway, I know first hand the many things Pixel did for Pathway (as a company), the residents and its employees had a tremendously positive impact with our goals. The employees of Pathway take great pride in the work we do, Pixel was able to translate this pride throughout or web and printed material. It’s not just Pathway employees who like the new look; it’s much more than that — it’s about how the community received our new message. We are partners with many organizations throughout Oregon and provide services for many businesses here in the Rogue Valley. These partners and business customers recognize our name, our new logo, and our revitalized message and in turn, have recommended us to their business partners. Our organization has been able to grow and give back thanks to all of our efforts in not just improving our image, but maintaining it. I feel that the pride of Pathway has rubbed off onto the community. Do they accept our message within our community? Well, we have received more referrals and business requests since the redesign than in the past 5 years combined.”
We too are proud of the work that went into this massive undertaking and we’re grateful for the opportunity to work with an individual who knows that success in business is more than just design — it’s a commitment to defining and living up to your role in your community.
Author: Chris London is the art director for Pixel Productions Inc., a strategic graphic and web design company where his focus is to continually find creative and innovative strategies to implement with businesses who need brand design and marketing with impact.