A home builder’s brand identity is an important expression of its culture, character, products, and services. When successful, it inspires trust with consumers, suppliers, partners, and investors. But sometimes a corporate identity needs a facelift. What happens then?
This was the case for Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Allen Associates. Executives at the 30-year-old building firm realized it was time to update their corporate look and hired local branding agency IdeaWork Studios to formulate a new identity. The process expanded into a complete rebranding and even resulted in a new name—Allen Construction.
In addition to the name change, the identity includes an entirely new website complete with a custom content management system, visual style guide extending through to all client touch points, social media strategy, and new logo and marketing materials. Indicative of the elevated level of building within the Santa Barbara area, the rebranding strategy reflects the luxury market, and Allen Construction’s products and services within it, says Jay Schwartz, IdeaWork founder and chief creative officer.
Below, BUILDER’s Jennifer Goodman talks with Schwartz about Allen’s corporate rebranding process.
Why did Allen Associates want to rebrand the company?
The short answer is that they didn’t. When they initially approached IdeaWork Studios, they were looking for marketing help in presenting themselves to a more upscale clientele. They were in the process of expanding to the Los Angeles market and wanted ads, collateral pieces, and a new website that would speak to the new sophisticated market without alienating existing clients in Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, and Ventura. It’s a tricky task, given the misconceptions about Santa Barbara—people in Ventura look to Santa Barbara as, “the big city” while Angelinos look at Santa Barbara as provincial.
Right away it became obvious that there needed to be unity throughout the company’s five different divisions, each with disparate identities. While they work independently, each division relies on the other often so we needed to rein in some of the more independent marketing facets and provide support to underrepresented facets. The nomenclature of the divisions was also confusing, even though I knew what they all stood for. Acronyms that all sounded the same were frequently confused internally. Once I was able to bring an outsider’s perspective to the challenge, the team at Allen was very open, supportive, and excited to move forward.
What did the process entail?
The first step was the analysis. We spent an entire day conducting stakeholder interviews. We interviewed upper management, marketing, and division heads. We found that each division had shared goals, but wanted independent content. We took the time to analyze everyone’s responses and came to the conclusion that they needed to upgrade their overall look in order to broaden their reach, but also rename the company in order to unify and strengthen each of their divisions. The second step was easier, because the name “Allen” is always associated with the company. The old name was “Allen Associates” but everyone called them “Allen” so we just cut to the chase. Each division was renamed to start with “Allen” then identify what division it was by what they do. “Building Performance Specialists” was renamed “Allen Energy” because that’s the crux of what they do. “Building Care and Repair” was renamed “Allen Care & Repair” because it makes sense and carries the strength of Allen Construction. The main arm of the company was renamed “Allen Construction” to indicate what it does, and it covers all aspects: residential, commercial, and remodels.
In addition, having the divisions under the same banner is a great way to introduce people to additional services they may not have known about. A homeowner that hires Allen Construction to build or remodel their home may also hire Allen Care & Repair to provide upkeep services or for smaller projects. The same homeowner may eventually be interested in a solar system or making their pool system more energy efficient, so they’d look to Allen Energy.
It seems like changing the name of an already-successful company can be risky. What was your reasoning behind that?
After quite a bit of discovery, it was the natural thing to do. The company has been around for 30 years. The addition of “Associates” was extraneous. With their growth initiatives both market-wise and division-wise, it was the best way to refresh the brand without losing their identity in existing markets. It wasn’t easy walking in to the meeting where I recommended the name change, but the team at Allen embraced it almost immediately.
What are some of the features of the company’s new website?
The new site leverages Allen Construction’s photography assets. When people are considering building or remodeling their homes, a builder’s photos are their main selling points. Further, we adopted a responsive approach to building the site, so the same site works and looks great on desktop computers, iPads, and smartphones.
What should building executives keep in mind when considering a rebrand?
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend rebranding for everyone. If a builder is looking to expand their client base or enter into a new region, it may be something to look at. If a builder is known for one type of segment but wanting to enter into a new market segment, like luxury homes or houseboats, and their current image doesn’t fit the new market, then it may be worth considering.