When I’m asked to rename a brand, it’s usually for one of two reasons: a legal challenge (someone has a prior claim to the name) or a major shift in the organization’s direction (we used to sell housewares; now we sell jewelry).
Neither of those scenarios applied to Resourceful HR, a 10-year-old Seattle human-resources consultancy that approached me last autumn about a name change. The company was thriving. It had successfully registered RESOURCEFUL as a trademark. And its business plan involved a refinement, not a revolution.
Still, company founder and CEO Jennifer Olsen told me with a sigh, it was probably time to change the name. For starters, her graphic designer had “taken the brand imagery as far as it could go.” And the brand strategist she’d hired, Catherine Carr of Vitamin C Creative, had done some interviews and concluded that “what she was hearing from us was more exciting than what she was seeing in our materials.”
Obviously, it was time for a new name.
Before: Resourceful HR website
I had reviewed Resourceful’s website, and I agreed that there was room for improvement. But I disagreed that the solution was to change the name.
Was I talking myself out of a job? Not quite.
“Resourceful” was a strong name, I told Catherine and Jennifer. It clearly communicates flexibility, which is the company’s primary benefit to its clients. But its potential wasn’t being tapped. What needed to change, I submitted, was everything but the name. Happily, Jennifer and Catherine agreed to take a chance with my ideas.
In my proposal, I recommended that instead of developing a new name I refresh and revitalize the verbal brand: tagline, brand voice, and web content. I also proposed exploring fresh visual directions to support the new brand guidelines that Catherine had established. (No, I’m not a designer. But I’ve worked with enough excellent designers to have developed an eye for visual weaknesses, strengths, and opportunities.)
Here’s what I ended up recommending:
1. Drop “HR” from the company name and move it into a new tagline. (They could keep ResourcefulHR.com as their domain.)
2. Create a new tagline. The old tagline, “Committed to Your Success,” was tepid and generic; it could belong to virtually any service-sector company. I developed a dozen new taglines that sharpened the focus on different aspects of the brand: the “-ful” in Resourceful, the “-source-” in Resourceful, the types of clients the company prefers to work with (impact-focused, mission-driven, environmentally conscious), the way Resourceful works (person to person). The first tagline I submitted, Your Full-Service HR Team, rose to the top and won acceptance.
3. Sharpen the brand voice. Resourceful is a woman-led company with an all-female team. The existing brand voice skewed conventionally “feminine,” employing a lot of language about caring, nurturing, and helping. I also saw too much throat-clearing, hedging-our-bets language like “actually.” I proposed trimming some of that language and balancing it with gender-neutral words like savvy, experienced, perceptive, and lead.
4. Strengthen the Resourceful brand by teasing apart its component parts. I suggested using words with the re- prefix (resilient, responsive, rewarding) or the -ful suffix (skillful, powerful, insightful). And was there a way to make more of source?
5. Choose a stronger, more vibrant color palette and stronger typeface.
6. Consider a more creative approach to the typography of the wordmark. (The existing all-lower-case, sans-serif wordmark came across as shy and retiring—a poor fit for a dynamic, growing company.)
7. Eliminate the stock-illustration icons. As I wrote in my recommendations, “They are visual clichés that add nothing to the message; they’re just filling space.” Instead, I recommended developing some relevant proprietary images.
8. Use more photos of people. HR is all about people.
New wordmark and tagline. The typeface is graceful yet strong, and the italic f in a contrasting color is distinctive and creative.
New home page. The image of a rowing shell underscores the concept of “teamwork”—and is geographically appropriate to Resourceful’s Seattle home.
New “What We Do” page with fresh iconography.
Resourceful’s blog is now called The Source. A “re-introduction” underscores the Re- in Resourceful.
Here’s what Resourceful CEO Jennifer Olsen had to say about my contributions to the project:
I want to thank you for the work you completed for our brand. I appreciated the level of thought and engagement in your review and recommendations. The team is on board and excited about our new direction including name revision and tagline. At our retreat, they were laughing and coming up with all kinds of ways to embody “full spectrum.” It was fun to witness and sparked even more enthusiasm in me that we are headed in the right direction.
My thanks to Catherine Carr, who headed up the rebranding team (and whose own company name, Vitamin C Creative, is a perfect fit with her personal name and brand personality), and to the people who brought the concepts to life: Megan Averell (research), Liz Sheffield and Christie Brydon (copywriting), Hovie Hawks (visual identity), and Consistent Hits (website design and development).