Why we decided to undergo a rebrand
The decision to undergo a rebrand is not one that should be taken lightly. Believe it or not, there are a ton of moving parts involved, and the longer you’ve been in business, the more parts there are to keep track of. As we head into the new year, we will be heading into a whole new brand, including name, identity, logo, legals, socials - all the things. Below, we’re sharing why we decided to undergo a rebrand, what led to this decision, and what to consider if this is something you may be grappling with.
A note from the founder:
For me, this had been a long-time coming, and I only recently (last few months) shared it with the team. If you’ve been following SPBX for a while now, you may have noticed that we went fairly quiet on social media over the course of 2019, and the main reason for that was the fact that I knew this was coming. I knew that this process would likely be underway soon, and quite frankly, it didn’t feel like a good use of time to continue investing into a brand identity that would be changing completely. In addition, 2019 was a huge year for us in terms of growth as a team, as well as taking on new clients and new projects. As we continue to grow, I knew that the bigger a brand gets, the trickier a rebrand becomes. It feels like planting a tree - the further down the roots go, the harder it’s going to be to re-home that tree someday. As we headed into Q4, a time of year when things typically start to slow down, it felt like the right time to dive into this. So, I set a deadline for January 1, 2020 and shifted focus so I could be fully invested in this rebrand. That said, let's jump into the WHY -
Reasons for rebranding
Pretty early on, I realized that the business name was going to be grossly misconstrued. To clarify, the actual, legal business name is “Soapbox", and the "SPBX" representation is technically just a symbol of that name; more commonly referred to as a logo. Similar to the Nike swoosh - the brand is not called “swoosh”, it’s called Nike, but you recognize the swoosh as being a symbol of Nike. The first time I received a cold call to the office and the person on the other end asked for the owner of “S-P-B-X” (as in: ess, pee, bee, ex) I knew this might become an issue down the line. To combat that, somewhere along the way, we began using “SPBX | soapbox” to represent our brand and business.
It didn’t help that the original domain was spbxsocial.com - this was done to abbreviate an otherwise lengthy URL, and the word “social” in the domain was meant to be a play on words since we work with so many socially conscious/social good/social enterprise brands. Alas, it leads many to assume we only offer social media services. Womp, womp..
The discrepancy between “SPBX” and “soapbox” doesn’t do your SEO tactics any favors either. It might be better to go with “SPBX” since there are far fewer brands with that name or initials, but again, that’s really just your logo, right? So, if you go with “Soapbox”, but don’t have the full word in your domain URL, it can be an uphill battle with Google. At the end of the day, I always wanted something simple, clean and easy to remember, but this missed the mark. File under: “Things I’ve learned since starting a business”.
Believe it or not, I created the SPBX logo myself, while playing around with graphics on my laptop, sitting on my couch one night. There were a few different versions of the logo before I created the final product, but once it clicked, it just clicked. I was so excited because it was clean, easy to read and easily recognizable - perfect! I was confident that I had finally nailed down the logo and that it was something I would love for years to come. Then, I would say right around the two year mark, I started coming across Instagram accounts for brands and businesses with nearly the exact. same. logo. Even with different letters, it was still so obvious - four letters inside the box, the letters are an abbreviation of their full name, and more often than not, the full name was spelled out below the box. So, I did a ton of trademark research, and spoke to my lawyer - interestingly enough, none of these businesses had trademarked their logo. It was at this point, I decided to start the trademarking process.
But wait - fast forward to early 2019, and Canva is offering templates for logo creation. One day, an intern here at the office asked me if I created the SPBX logo on Canva. I genuinely thought she was joking, until she showed me the exact SPBX logo, now offered as a “template” on their site. Next up, another call to my lawyer... Now, I’m not saying that one of Canva’s “designers” totally ripped off our logo, but I will say that the SPBX logo was 100% created organically by actually playing with fonts and shapes, all of which was inspired by my personal vision. I'll also say, that this logo was created long before Canva ever had any sort of "logo template" or even business card templates for that matter. Hell, I don't even think anyone was really using Canva at that time?!
In regards to their logo template legalities, Canva had this to say:
“Canva’s pre-made logo layouts and elements are used by many people, so your logo will not be exclusive to you if you don’t heavily modify the design and elements. Non-exclusive logos cannot be trademarked. If you intend to trademark your logo, use only elements that you’ve created yourself or commissioned directly.”
Please note above: "Canva's pre-made logo layouts".
Interestingly enough, that’s precisely what I did, years ago - created a logo myself. However, since I had not trademarked yet, and now a Canva “designer” has uploaded that logo as a template, my logo was now considered “non-exclusive”. Just because Canva came along and claimed it as one of their own "pre-made logo layouts", it now belongs to Canva? *Insert eye roll here.
This means, not only can anyone use this logo since it’s virtually public property, but challenging this puts me in a “chicken or the egg” battle with Canva. According to my lawyer, we could have technically proceeded with the trademarking, but then we would have to prove how long the previous business (SPBX) logo had been in use, and then go after everyone who has been using this logo, including Canva. Of course, this could have all been avoided if I had just trademarked out the gate.
So, lesson learned for anyone who is relying on Canva for your business marketing needs - you don’t have any legal rights to what you’re creating - ever. See someone else on social media with an eerily similar look and feel? Before getting upset and slapping them with a cease and desist, ask yourself, how your content was created. If it came from a tool or platform like Canva, then you really have no legal leg to stand on. That’s like getting mad at a total stranger for liking, buying and wearing the same shoes as you. Our case is probably the exception, rather than the rule, in the sense that I had actually created the logo before it showed up on Canva. Given the work we do with clients, I would have known better than to “create” something using a pre-made design and then claim it as your own. Now, if I had already completed trademarking before Canva started offering logo templates, that would be a whole other story.
One that likely would have played out in court.
The lesson learned for me, was that trademarking shouldn’t be put off as something you’ll “get to later”. It should actually be done as early as possible. If you’re in the early stages of building your business, you’ve likely done the whole name search thing, and filed for a DBA at the very least. That’s great! Now save yourself the headache, and trademark that vision before you take another step forward. At the end of the day, finding out that our logo was technically available for the public to use freely just because Canva said it was one of their “templates”, paired with the fact that I had already begun to see it being used by other brands on social media, was exactly what I needed to push forward with the rebrand. (Note* This is also why a rebrand is not an overnight process. To really set your business up for success from the start, it can take months to wrap up all of the necessary legalities.)
After you’ve been in business for a couple of years, it’s highly likely that your business may evolve into something very different than when you first set out on your own. This is all totally normal, and there are plenty of business-building gurus who talk about this on their podcasts quite often. But as SPBX started growing and evolving, I saw a need for more. I found myself being approached by acquaintances, friends and colleagues, all looking for advice or guidance along their entrepreneurial journey. Often times, the questions were all the same - how do I create my brand identity/do social media/use SEO? I have had lots of creative entrepreneurs ask for input regarding the creative elements of their own brand. At first I thought this was so strange - almost like the shoemaker with no shoes, these are incredibly talented people, with creative minds and visions. But as it turns out, they are just not sure where to start. This is when the SPBX mini workshops were born.
Throughout 2018 and part of 2019, SPBX held quarterly workshops tackling all of this and more - each workshop was specifically created after receiving feedback from the last one. We would literally ask, “what’s your biggest challenge right now?” and then outline a three hour class breaking it all down. The best part is, everyone always left thanking us, saying, “I’ve learned so much tonight!” - eventually, this became a passion project of sorts. As much as I wanted to dive into creating courses and in-person meetups, I had a full-blown business to run, and that business was a PR agency. This all brings us back to clearly defining your brand.
If we continued to build and offer these types of resources, that could potentially be very confusing for Google, not to mention anyone else who may be looking us up. A clear brand identity means, when you walk into a shoe store, you should be able to tell within the first 10 seconds if this is a store for you. Think about it - maybe it’s a men’s shoe store, or maybe it’s a kid’s shoe store? What kind of music are they playing? Same thing goes for your brand and business - the people who are going to be a loyal part of your tribe need to be able to easily find you, and connect with you - almost instantly.
That said, after grappling with all of the above for nearly a year, the need to diversify became painfully obvious and the vision for moving forward finally became clear. Essentially, we are splitting one business into two and playing to the strengths of each one individually. SPBX had more or less, become one massive umbrella brand, housing a ton of different ideas and business initiatives for far too long. By splitting into two businesses, we can really focus on building the core elements that make each brand great, while serving two different sectors of our community. For instance, we have worked with some very high-profile names throughout 2019, but is that the same brand that runs workshops built to inspire the creative entrepreneur who is just starting out? Probably not, and even if it was, that would be incredibly confusing for all involved.
WHAT DOES THIS LOOK LIKE MOVING FORWARD
For me, as the business owner, this definitely requires me to mentally shift gears quickly while also prioritizing my time. After the launch of Dark Horse PR as the mother brand, we'll be able to start the redesign of the SPBX business model. Once they are both fully established, I will need to clearly segment my time between the two businesses in order to ensure that they both receive the time & attention they deserve. Up until this point, it’s really all been under one “roof” which means boundaries have been murky; causing overwhelm and the feeling of being an octopus with too many arms.
This also means hiring differently. Moving forward with the two separate brands means that we can hire to specific needs and strengths, streamlining each prospect's roles + responsibilities. Creatives can just be free to get creative, and editorial PR brains can stay laser-focused which is really key for me. I think it's important to let team members hone their craft, while nurturing their unique talents and interests, rather than asking them to be more fluid in their role; switching back and forth to tackle different tasks.
LOOKING FORWARD TO WHAT'S NEXT:
As overwhelming as this rebrand has been (oh yeah - in the last six months, I've also: gotten married, moved houses, and we’re now in the process of moving the office - but, NBD) it has really been a blessing in disguise. After the first of the year, the new brand identity, Dark Horse PR will take precedence, while we clean up and reorganize offerings on the SPBX side (look for that re-launch near summer 2020). The vision is a little different, but the mission is the same - SPBX will always be a place for creative entrepreneurs. Only now, we’re able to really step into, and expand, that side in order to serve even more people.
If you got this far in the post - thank you for being here, we'd love to have you along for this new journey! The best way to stay up to date on all these happenings is to sign up for our newsletter - exciting things are on the horizon, and we can't wait to share them with you!