Brand Transformation Journey and Lessons Learned

Brand Transformation Journey and Lessons Learned

One thing that life has taught me is things do not always go accordingly to plan, and more times than not I would rather be lucky than good.  Case in point on the Storey Kenworthy brand transformation journey.

It all started so innocently in 2019, when we had an internal meeting to talk about making some slight adjustments to look and feel of our current Storey Kenworthy logo.  I listened to understand and what I heard was the nice way of saying our Storey Kenworthy logo was out of date and needed a refresh.  Not to anyone’s surprise, the meeting and conversation got my wheels turning.  My thoughts and ideas began racing all over the board.  Does everyone realize how many things our Storey Kenworthy logo touches or how much it would cost to update everything even though it was only a slight adjustment and the list goes on and on from there.

I slept on it, and after more internal conversations with myself, I changed my perspective from it being an expense to an investment.  This is an opportunity not a risk.  It dawned on me, what they were trying to say was that our brand was not aligned to who we are today and who we aspire to be in the future.  We have worked so hard over the last several years focusing internally on transforming our mission, vision, and values that we realized we were not the same company we once where.  We are proud of the changes we have gone through in the past several years, and all while not losing sight and celebrating the history that provided us with a guide.  That was the point, where I said we need to tip this project upside down and come at this another way.  Let’s tear off the Band-Aid and rebuild our brand message for today and tomorrow.

School was now in session and it was time to get to work.  But where do you start when you want a new logo.  The thought of the scope, time, and investment was daunting and a bit paralyzing, so we decided to enlist some help.  First, we needed to build our internal branding committee to include a broad variety of perspective within our stakeholder group and then we needed to find a strategic partner to lead us through the process.  One would think the next natural step would be to interview a long list of respected local marketing and design firms, but that was not necessary.  Our gut intuition went straight to Bing Bang, this young, creative, energetic, and dynamic firm we had just met, and helped create a new work environment to complement their brand message and growing personality.  It was not a “love at first sight” moment but there was a natural connection and chemistry between our two teams.  They seemed to know and understand us and vice versa.  We knew they were capable and talented, but we choose them based on trust, fit and spirit.

Now that we had our team in place, it was time for a day long, offsite brand discovery workshop facilitated by our partner, Bing Bang.  My first thought was a whole day workshop was overkill and I was pretty certain I could tell you our brand personality and message in just a few short minutes.  Contrary to my thinking, I could not have been more wrong (not easy for me to say).  Bing Bang led us through a variety of exercises asking us all to fill out our workbooks and had us do individual assignments with homework.  The workshop got deep, uncomfortable, and awkward at times.  Bing Bang was pushing us to think differently and really discover who we are and who we want to be.  They got us outside our comfort zone and that is when our discovery journey really started to take off.  We left feeling exhausted, curious, and energized.  Then the waiting began. Tick, tock – tick, tock.  It felt like waiting for the doctor to come back into the exam room and tell you everything is going to be fine.

One month later, we got back together to hear the feedback and findings from the workshop.  It turns out that before you can create a new brand logo and identity – you need to understand the personality and voice of the brand.  We learned who we are today and who we want to be tomorrow:  Collaborative, caring, innovative, inspiring, trustworthy, daring, creative, cool, and FUN.  Our style turns out to be cool, crisp, with timeless colors and a combination of a classic, yet trendy look, topped with a funky pair of glasses.  Our music jam is Dave Matthews with a sprinkle of the Beatles as our foundation because we like the wide variety songs to fit our many daily moods.  We aspire to be a combination of name brands like Patagonia for its adventure and philanthropy, Starbucks because of the quality and experience and HyVee for being a local market leader and innovator in the grocery channel.

At this point, I was feeling pretty good about where we were headed but we needed more valuable feedback from the community.  What was their impressions, feelings, and experiences with our brand?  An independent research firm interviewed a couple hundred current customers, prospects, and previous customers.  We heard lots of great feedback from the survey results, but the big Ah Ha moment was that the vast majority referred to us as SK and not as Storey Kenworthy.  It was clear that an element of SK needed to be added to our discussion & logo design.  More information to process, and the excitement was building.

Time for the big reveal of a half a dozen logo designs to choose from that matched our brand personality that we just defined.  We whittled it down to two and they were dramatically different in look but not feel but it was clear that we were all in favor of the new proposed tag line of “We Make a Difference”.  Our natural instinct was to choose a logo that was closer to our current logo but updated, but the other was a new fresh, modernized logo with a different look, feel, and message.  I will let you guess which one we picked, and prizes will follow for the winning guess.

Just when I thought we were done with our new brand logo, identity, and personality, it was brought to my attention that our website was hurting.  Truth hurts and I was a little (or a lot) in denial and it felt like I was being told my baby was ugly.  After what felt like long conversation, we were all in agreement that our website needed help and a major overhaul.  Our current website was not the best user experience, and the website brand message was confusing.  By the end of the meeting, it was apparent we were only just getting started and we needed to bring a new website to life so it could tell our storey.

The project was now past the point of no return and it was time to go big or go home.  Go home was not an option, we needed to see this through to full completion and not do this half-assed.  New website here we come, and the branding committee with Bing Bang were up to the challenge.  Time for more brainstorming on the future in front of us.  We needed to showcase our brand personality with a better user experience, updated and refreshed content, case studies, and bring it all to life through a new website and videos.

Full steam ahead with passion, energy, and enthusiasm as we entered 2020.  This brand transformation project was starting to hit on all 8 cylinders, excitement continued to build, and the launch was in sight…………………. then COVID19 in March hit and the rest is history.  We sadly had to put the project on hold as we tackled more important and difficult life challenges.  Life continued to test us into April and May, and then we ramped it up a notch sorting through and understanding the social justice crisis in front of us in June.  We were navigating our way through all the head winds and starting to get back on our feet when Mother Nature decided to have her voice heard and teach us a new weather term and share with us a derecho.  The hits just kept coming and we knew we also had to contend with family choice struggles around the school’s “return to learn”, followed by the uncertainty of the upcoming presidential election.  It was at that moment I decided, I know just what the doctor needs to prescribe to turn this year around.  We need to get the band back together to create, finish, and celebrate a fresh start for our employees to feel better about the future in front of us.

I wish I could say we picked up right where we left off, but the year had taken its toll on the band and we had to persevere and be resilient to get back on track if we were going to pull this off by the end of the year.  Just when we were building momentum, life happened yet again, and I woke up at 5:00am to my phone blowing up with text messages.  As luck would have it, a pipe in our office burst in the middle of the night and flooded our newly renovated and cool office.  The unfortunate event created even more reason and sense of urgency to make lemonade out of lemons by finishing, celebrating, and launching our new brand, website, digital and video content.

Times of crisis build character and it was time to see what we were made of.  I am happy to report as you have all seen by now, that we rose to the occasion and delivered.  The experience speaks to who we are and validates our brand persona.  The big day arrived on Monday January 18th, and we finally got to share our brand with the world.  It feels surreal but so awesome!

Life provides us with a lot of experiences and teaches us a lot of lessons, and the events of the past year and the brand project could not have taught me more.  I learned it truly takes a village to raise a child, there is no “I” in team, surround yourself with talent and great things can happen, but must importantly find a strategic partner that you can trust.  We found a partner that understood our history, passion and spirit of our brand and helped bring it to life so we can tell “our storey”

The story is not complete without providing a shout out to our internal talented and passionate branding committee of Ryan Boyington, Ryan Boese, Lincoln Dix, Julie Beinke, Christin Murphy, Gina Gates, Kate Rush, Tiffane Cassady and Brianna Miller.  None of this would have been possible without the energy, creativity, and inspiration provided by the Bing Bang team of Mark Neyens, Grace Mohr, Mackenzie Eddie, Rodney White, Grant Darrah, Cory Witt, Nick Allard, Peter Zemansky.

Thanks to everyone for their continued support, encouragement, and inspiration in helping us bring this transformational project to launch, proving nothing is impossible if you have the right team.  We are celebrating our 85th year in business in 2021 and history will continue to be our guide as build on our growth journey into the future.  We’re not done, and our new journey is just getting started!