Feeling okay with the octopus: four things we’ve learned from rebranding ourselves

We’ve just refreshed our visual and verbal brand. We’re used to doing it for other organisations, but as anyone who’s tried to apply their skills close to home will know, you can be your own worst client.

The last time we looked at our own brand and external comms was back in early 2011, and it was starting to feel out of step with how we’re developing.

So we decided to try and sort it out together instead of asking someone outside Neo to look at it, and six months later here we are.

A few things we figured out:

It really does take time

We all have something to bring to a brand process. And because we wanted the new brand expression to be a shared one, we needed a collaborative process. That takes time and commitment, creating the right environment for different people to express ideas in different ways.

The process was less linear than it might have been with an external project. I think we all felt we should have been able to solve it more quickly than we did.

We revisited elements a number of times, particularly around our values, until something formed that truly came from all of us. It might have been simpler to steer the process with less consensus, but this brand belongs to all of us and it feels right that we felt our way towards it together.

The right words can breathe new life

‘Taking care of the brands that take care of the world’ has been a great way of introducing ourselves in many situations over the past few years.

But with an increasing sense that we must actively seek out the work that’s important, we wanted to express ourselves in less passive language.

It didn’t come easily, but our new articulation is that we find what matters and we make it matter more. The Neo logo has always referenced amplification, but it’s our focus on finding the key insight – the crux in any project from which everything else can flow – that reflects something more important about how we work. We think that’s clearer now, with the words and visual brand working better together.

You test, you learn

It’s only when you have to explain things out loud to someone who doesn’t know you that you can really feel whether it’s coming from the right place. We tried our new positioning of ‘find what matters and make it matter more’ in a few proposals and took it to client meetings. Taking the time to try it ‘for real’ helped confirm that it would feel right using it.

The process can feel messy

We went back and forth and round and round. We had to trust each other, and trust that we would find the right answer. We had to live with the discomfort for a while. And even then the outcome isn’t a neat in the conventional sense of what a brand might be.

It’s a way for everyone to be a part of our identity.

It’s a suite of our own interpretations of the new positioning, some made of fabric, some of words, some of octopus. Everyone can create their own version. We’ve used flowers, shards, paint and maps and it can keep evolving. It feels like an expression of us.

And that’s all a brand needs to be, right?

Thanks to everyone who’s helped us: Jeff Melnyk for asking great questions, Ali Tollervey and Ken Eakins who have captured our team and studio so brilliantly on film and video, and long-time friend of Neo John King, who’s neatly coded our new website.