I sat down and had a chat with Damien Metcalf, Pollenizer’s Creative Director. He recently led Pollenizer’s rebrand, which launched earlier this year. In our conversation, Damien shared his thinking behind the rebranding process and the lessons he learned during this period.
Tell us about the old brand.
The old brand reflected Pollenizer’s previous business model. The way that I like to think of it, Pollenizer used to take a more scattered approach by creating a high volume of startups, in the same way as someone throwing seed across a field and watching crops grow. Some would take root, and others wouldn’t – this was just par for the course. Pollenizer’s previous logo reflected this as it was a seed, starting small and then blooming outward, suggesting growth, dispersion and reach. The typography was organic, rounded and soft, it felt natural and helped emphasize the idea of growth.
The new brand
Why did we rebrand?
Over the past 2 years our business model has shifted dramatically. We now work closely in partnership with large organisations empowering them to drive innovation, find new markets and new opportunities. We’ve taken our learnings over the past 8 years and developed what we call Startup Science – a calculated, precise, scientific approach to building businesses, based on running experiments, testing business model assumptions and measuring our findings.
We have, as I see it, gone from scattering seed hoping it will take, to being Startup Geneticists that are able to look into a startup, then identify the strengths and weaknesses, and cut out or splice in new genetic material that immunise the young startup to the challenges ahead or inherited problems.
By working using this method in partnership with large organisations we get what we like to think of as “The Unfair Advantage”. Startups that are agile, quick and effective are able to validate their business models and then have the backing of an organisation that can provide funding and access to markets.
Tell us about the thinking behind Pollenizer’s current brand.
Over the course of my time at Pollenizer I’d been listening to discussions surrounding Pollenizer’s business model shift. Words would be thrown around such as “experimentation”, “hypothesis” and “testing”. If I looked at our documentation the same language and messaging was beginning to emerge.
After sitting down with Clare and Phil discussing how Pollenizer’s brand was positioned, we agreed it was the right time to rebrand. Our business had changed a lot. We were in a period of growth and we wanted a brand that could help communicate these changes.
I spent a lot of time researching different ideas, talking with people about what Startup Science was and how they perceived Pollenizer. After a while a few words stood out that we felt represented our company that we could build our brand around.
- Pollenizer is a science
We make assumptions, but then we investigate. We run experiments. Everything is calculated. We are Startup Scientists and we have the ability to transform the very fabric of a startup and remove possible risks of failure.
- Pollenizer is growth and authority
Pollenizer helps startups and big companies grow. Pollenizer has authority in this area, as we’ve been helping companies grow over eight years and worked with hundreds of startups. We are change makers that can be relied upon to use our experience and knowledge to help drive innovation and change in any startup or organisation regardless of size.
- Pollenizer is partnerships
We are an active part of a vibrant community of startups and various ecosystems that contribute to innovation globally.
- Pollenizer is learning and teaching
We learn and teach in equal measure. Every moment is a learning opportunity. We seek to share our learnings with those around us.
What are your top five tips you can share in regards to rebranding?
1. Be intentional about why and who you’re building the brand for. This is at the heart of any brand. You have to move past the notion that it’s for you. It’s not your brand, it’s for your audience. It’s how you are presenting yourself to your clients, employees and community.
To do this you need to ask a lot of questions. Even if you think you already know the answers, take the time to do your research and try and really understand what makes your business unique. You can have a lot of fun in this stage as you begin to think about aspects of your business you may not have, or get fresh new ideas. As you go along you’ll start to notice patterns and begin forming connections between the things that are really important. These are ultimately what you want to start crafting your brand around.
2. What it looks like is only part of the story. Looks are important of course, but like the old adage “looks are only skin deep”. A good brand has depth, it tells a story, it focuses in on what you do and why you’re great at it. Your sole goal is to communicate this message as effectively as possible. You’re trying to tell people what your company is about. You may rebrand because your business might have evolved to have an entirely new business model (which is what happened with Pollenizer) or perhaps you are targeting a new customer. Maybe you need to change how your business is perceived.
There are many different reasons to rebrand, and you need to understand what yours is. Give yourself time to understand this. Don’t rush into thinking about what you want it to look like. The visuals can come later. Get your message right first.
3. Get a timeframe and lock in a deadline. Most of the time for a startup, they’ll be doing a rebranding process internally. There will be lots of work that will pop up, and it will always get in the way of the rebrand. It’s easy to get into a situation where a rebrand takes longer than expected, or even never get finished! You’ll need to come up with a plan to manage this and stick to it. Make sure designers and stakeholders agree on the process, and have regular checkpoints to ensure you’re staying on track and getting the message right.
4. Create a mood board for inspiration. This is something that I like to do. I find it really helps me to build a sense of what I am trying to communicate. It also helps me shelve ideas when I have moments of inspiration around what a brand could look like. I typically will use Pinterest for this. I find often as I’m doing my research I’ll see something that sparks an idea – perhaps in the case of Pollenizer it’s a scientific diagram, or a picture of cells or neurons. I can then refer to these later when I’m trying to make sense of all the research and looking for inspiration.
5. Never, ever, go straight to the computer. This is a personal belief of mine, but never just jump onto the computer and start designing! No matter how good or bad you are at drawing, resist the urge to feel like you need to crack on. It’s very tempting as you can feel like you’re getting things done. You typically you will burn a lot of time moving things around trying to decide what you want, then having little time to finalise or polish the design.
I have found that by simply taking half an hour to an hour to sit down and sketch out some ideas you are able to create many concepts quickly and find something you think could really work. Once you’re happy with the direction you then have plenty of time leftover to move to the computer to develop and refine your concept. It’s amazing how quickly you can sketch an idea and show it to a stakeholder and get instant feedback on the concept. Since it’s not a polished render, this discussion is purely around the ideas and not whether the angle of a line is correct or not.
Quick tip for when you are lacking inspiration:
No brand is the same, just as no business is the same. Sometimes you just lack inspiration and feel like you’re constantly butting your head against a wall. There are many tips and tricks that can help you, but this is just one that I like to do when I’m feeling stuck.
I find typically the reason I end up feeling stuck is because I fixed myself on an idea early on and then as I progress through the process I feel like things aren’t gelling and begin to feel like I’m not getting the message right.
What I do is I get a large piece of paper and put “Pollenizer”(whatever the thing is you’re branding) in the centre. I then start writing any word that comes to mind. I focus in on the name and start asking myself questions, such as “What does it look like?”, “What does it sound like?”, and “What does it feel like?”. It’s a great exercise to get a team involved and just start honing in on what the company is.
Set yourself a time limit. It’s amazing how a bit of pressure can help get stuff done. Once time’s up, take some highlighters and color the words that are similar. This helps to identify themes. You can then use these themes and repeat the above process for each of the themes. The goal is to get lateral. You want to push the idea as far as you can and once it’s all out start making sense and looking for themes and ideas that really connect with your core message that you can begin to build around.
The secret to all this is that you are never allowed to say no. This is really important, particularly in a group. Saying no only kills the flow, the joy and the confidence of the incredibly bright but nervous team member who has a game changing idea but is now too afraid to share it in case they look silly. The goal is to get silly! Be like Star Trek, “go where no person has gone before”, and have fun. Plenty of time for serious stuff later.
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