Sustainability architects – Re-branding program
Monday, April 2, 2012

Early last year I was approached by an architectural firm based just outside of New York in New Jersey looking to re-brand their business. I had a few brief email interactions with the principal architect, supplied a proposal and heard from them no further.

In mid-December I received an email letting me know that they were ready to go ahead with a re-branding program and requested an update to the previous proposal, which I duly supplied and in early January I began getting-to-know-the-business brand consulting and followed with a name generating process.

The firm is a small to medium sized architectural practice and has a proven track record delivering services primarily in public sector building management, interior and architectural design with a focus on energy analysis, management and planning. Many of the energy efficiency sustainability practices the firm delivers will be legal obligations in three to five years.

Equipped with just a little information about the firm's services it's obvious why the re-brand is necessary. Not only is the name grossly mis-leading because it accounts for only 1% of the business but the overall presentation of the existing brand is roughshod and poorly considered. This is particularly problematic in light of the fact that the firm's ambitions are to focus on winning private sector projects where most of the competition offer superior brand experiences.

The nature of the architectural sustainability business is complex and requires highly qualified people, systems and working practices to deliver cost-effectively and profitably. Despite the fact that the barriers to entry to the industry are high there is a lot of competition for projects that are becoming increasingly demanding. And, despite the firm's proven competencies and strong growth it has no stand-out differentiators to create preference.

The firm has a marginal advantage over some of their competitors who outsource energy analysis to independent consultants but in order to stand-out there is an opportunity to demonstrate it's offering in a more clearly differentiated (and robust) brand experience.

As with all businesses who intend to outmanoeuvre the competition, this architectural practice needs a distinct sense of purpose articulated in a brand identity that ensures as much as possible that the entire business is led by it's brand.

I'll share a few more observations and insights about this re-brand in a follow-up post in which I'll also discuss the developments in finding a new name for the practice.