For The Last Two Plus Years…

I’ve been working with Durham digital agency, Pathos Ethos as a client. This past winter they helped me completely overhaul an outdated website. I had never been through this process so didn’t know what to expect once we signed on to complete the project.

I guess, initially, I thought my colleagues and I would show Sam and Isaac different sites we liked the look of, and our new site would somehow magically appear- looking fresher, sleeker, and generally more appealing to younger audiences.

That wasn’t how it happened at all. Of course we did show them sites and endless links to features we loved, but there was a long period of abstract thinking at the beginning – which I honestly hadn’t expected.

They asked a lot of complex questions about what we thought our brand stood for and how we viewed the life cycle of the relationships we have with our customers. Then, we changed hats and took a deep dive into the customer experience, trying to understand the relationship from their perspective.

What problems did our brand and offered services truly solve for our customers? What differentiated us from our competition –from the customer’s perspective, that made them ultimately choose us over the other guys? As we got deeper into this thinking stage- I ate the whole thing up. I loved it. I’ve always enjoyed pondering what makes customers tick and what motivates buyer behavior.

I didn’t know exactly where we were going with all of this (which is hard for someone who wants to be in control), but Sam and Isaac knew. They had a direction, I had to have faith.

Looking back, all of this brand soul searching and introspective reflection at the beginning was actually strategic planning . And without it, I don’t think our final results would have been nearly as compelling.

I’ll admit, it was hard to be patient waiting on the creative development after all the discussions we’d had and emails we’d traded. I love great design and couldn’t wait to see what was coming.

When the site finally launched, I was in awe of where we suddenly were. The complete metamorphosis of our company’s online personality was stunning, and I couldn’t wait to show everyone.

When I found out Pathos Ethos was actually going through the whole rebranding and website redesign process for themselves, I was intrigued. I understood the magnitude of what we had just finished up together, and they were jumping right back into that process – not for another client, but for themselves.

I asked Isaac and Sam about what motivated change within their own brand identity. They welcomed me with open arms and were very willing to share.

Why Now?

“It’s taken almost a decade to discover who we are and what range of services we should be officially offering to our clients,” explained Isaac. “We learned that even if built perfectly, software will fail without good marketing and strategy. Each does not require the other, but together they increase effectiveness of the whole.

“Even if built perfectly, software will fail without good marketing and strategy.”

“Over the years, we were discreetly doing strategy and creative marketing work behind the scenes on technical projects for our clients,” reflected Isaac. “We came to the realization that we have the skill set and competencies to be more than just a development shop.”

“We’re always learning about ourselves and our market,” added Sam. “We felt we needed a brand that would capture what we are today and what we want to be for our next stage of growth.”

“We are and have always been highly relational, quality driven, creative, and smart, with a heart for social impact,” continued Sam. “Our new brand expresses these things in a deeper way, and demonstrates a maturity and sophistication in our continued growth and exploration.”

A Journey of Self Identity

Pathos Ethos treated its rebrand as they would a client’s, asking all the relevant brand identity questions. The team used an assortment of creative exercises to re-identify their core target audience and the challenges facing it. “We used our own tools on ourselves, which can be a spectacular failure, because it’s difficult to be a consultant for yourself,” Isaac laughed. “There were efficiencies gained because we knew the tools, and efficiencies lost, because at times, we couldn’t get out of our own heads.”

Sam encourages fellow CEOs not to skip this vital step of the process, assuming they already know this critical information. “We actually dwelled longer on questions of target audience, the challenges we can solve for them, and brand promise,” revealed Sam.

The agency explored numerous paths to express the heart of their brand from color theory to typography and logo design. Throughout the journey, Isaac and Sam talked with each other, but asked for opinions of friends and colleagues to keep perspective fresh. “ Even if you’re a wiz at your own skill set- if someone else speaks to you about it, and leads the discovery for a while, it can be very valuable to look at things in another way,” explained Isaac.

“All in all, we know ourselves better than we did when we started this venture and our new brand reflects that understanding,” Sam shared.

Find Words That Communicate Your Value

Pathos Ethos always knew instinctively what its brand promise was. They re-shaped the message to make it more explicit for themselves and their audience. “In some ways, our new brand came out of caring about what we do, taking pride in it and appreciating that we are good at it,” Sam reflected. “Discovering language to express it, wanting a larger audience to see it and appreciate it, were steps that took time.”

“We formalized words for what we’ve been doing the entire time,” Isaac reasoned.

“No matter how digitally native our clients are – when it comes to having a professional, digital presence in the business world – getting to that place has a lot of unknowns, even if you’re technically proficient. There is some fear about how quickly technology is changing. We realized a good portion of our work, is actually helping our clients recognize we understand where everything is, and have our pulse on how people are doing digital marketing.

“The concept of the unknown is very powerful. Without proper guidance, the unknown leads to fear but with it, it  leads to adventure . We guide our clients through the steps to get them where they want to be.

“We are digital pathfinders ,” he concluded. And a tagline was born.

“Without proper guidance, the unknown leads to fear but with it, it  leads to adventure .”

Express Your Personality With Creativity

“There is a greater harmony now with the new creative and who we are as a company,” Sam noted. “Being that we are a digital/creative agency, the balance of this harmony may change and drift as we and our context changes.

“I think brand perfection comes in capturing a true expression of character,” Sam continued. “Some aspects of that likely won’t change, but the hope is that we get better at delivering on that character, as well as capturing the expression of that in our brand.”

“Brand perfection comes in capturing a true expression of character”

“Out of the brand exercises we completed, we ended up focusing on our target audience’s problem,” explained Isaac. “We tried to give it personality. We voiced all these expressions and translated them into style, color, and type. Style informs the other two.

“We zeroed in on a couple of styles, and settled on warm modernism- connecting classic shapes with clean lines and a warm color palette. It’s kind of a back to basics minimalism, with a modern twist.

“We selected the three classical shapes of triangle, circle, and square- to represent our key service offerings ,” continued Isaac. “We decided on true black – which is rare lately, and versions of the primary colors that are slightly different. We wanted the colors to be unique and approachable.

“I think we’re pretty close on creative,” Isaac concluded. “Color and type theory nailed it. But I’m not a proponent of cementing anything in stone. We will always evolve.”

Revisit Your Own Brand Often

Brand can be one of the most challenging things about creating or maintaining a business/organization. “I would submit that it is created, lives, grows and is communicated in everything an organization does,” Sam reflected. “It’s always a good idea to have a firm understanding of your stated brand and its congruence with reality.

“We can attest that it’s an important thing, very easily overshadowed by the urgent,” Sam continued. “ Our brand exploration informed, influenced and refocused all aspects of our business. The new logo/website is the outward expression of our exploration, but there were many important and structural parts of the business that were touched or transformed as well.”

“Our brand exploration informed, influenced and refocused all aspects of our business”

“Daily expression of your brand is always present with your employees, your clients, your donors,” Isaac added. “Not checking up on yourself may cause you to lose something valuable.

“We’ve found pacing our check-in rituals anywhere from every 2 weeks to quarterly is effective. You don’t need to pay an outside party to do these. But every so often, if you have the budget to do it, you’ll get a much better result if you bring in someone with fresh eyes.

“ Not many digital or strategic agencies offer the depth of technical competency Pathos Ethos can. If you’re interested in an external, technically and digitally informed rebrand- come talk to us,” Isaac encouraged. “You’ll get rebranding that connects with your overall business strategy, customer experience, acquisition, and product development.”

“ What may seem like just a redesign of collateral has the potential to be a positive business changing journey ,” concluded Sam. “We’ve led other companies through it, now we’ve done it for ourselves. It’s one of the most rewarding things we do in our consulting because it can be so impactful.”

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