Travis White, Managing Director of Neighbourhood, just recently rebranded his agency. Formally known as The Raiders, Travis talks through his motivations for a rebrand, how he knew it was time, how he handled the full rebrand process, and what the next steps are for the new brand.
Hi folks, my name is Kevin Dunn, and welcome to Agency Unfiltered, a bi-weekly web series and podcast that interviews agency owners around agency operations, growth, and scale. Nobody knows how to scale agencies better than those that are already doing it, and they're happy to share an unfiltered look into what has worked and what hasn't.
For this episode, Trav White, managing director of Neighbourhood, flew all the way from Brisbane, Australia to Boston to talk about his agency's rebrand. Formally known as the Raiders, Trav and his team made the decision to fully rebrand the agency, so in this episode, we talk about his motivations, the process, and the roll out of his agency's full rebrand. Should you be considering a rebrand? The answer's here in Agency Unfiltered.
KD: Trav, thanks so much for joining us, welcome to Agency Unfiltered.
TW: Thanks for having me, and I'm in Boston as well, which is pretty cool.
KD: A long trip?
TW: Yeah, very, like 26 hours from Australia, so.
KD: And what did you think about, you went to the Red Sox game, what did you think about Fenway and the Red Sox?
TW: Amazing. I came over with my New York hat on, and I kind of got thrown a bit of heat for wearing that.
KD: Rightfully so.
TW: I definitely went to the game with my Boston hat on yesterday, it was amazing.
KD: So, you can take the Yankee and just throw that in the trash, Sox hats are nice, blue and red's a nicer color scheme. But I'm excited to talk about a recent rebrand that your agency just kind of completed or maybe are actively going through still.
KD: I'd love to just hear lessons learned, the reasons kind of behind why it was time to rebrand, and so maybe just to start, give us kind of that point in time where you're like, you know, we should be taking our agency and rebranding who we are and how we communicate ourselves to the market.
TW: So, originally we were, our agency was called the Raiders, why was it called the Raiders? Just because we came up with the name, and we just sort of rolled with it, and what we did is, when we first started, we actually started as a creative agency, and we did a lot of creative for Red Bull like, literally, around the world, and then I was super interested in digital and sort of the analytic side of things and wanting to learn a lot more about it. One of the staff members at the time came up to me and said, Trav, you should look into HubSpot, and I was like, what is this HubSpot stuff anyway? So, I jumped on a call with Karen and we went through it, and I think one of the most beneficial things for me is that HubSpot, actually the academy, was that it provided the training, little plug, it provided the training not only to forward myself but also the staff, so they obviously put me under the free serum, and they put me into the free academy and you sort of start, not getting brainwashed, but you start saying, hey, I'm getting a lot of value for this, so we moved from a creative agency and we basically started hitting the ground running and becoming a digital agency. Everyone's too busy to do any of their own stuff, their leaky taps, you know, you can't work on your own stuff. So, we were off to the races. We got gold, silver, gold within the first sort nine months, and I think we got platinum within the first sort of like, 18 months.
KD: That's great.
TW: So, we were super busy just, you know, rolling out what we knew and what we'd learned, and we had a really great network of referrals and we did great work, so people would refer us and keep coming through, kind of got to a point that I was having really awkward conversations because essentially, we were a creative agency and people were like, what do you do, and I'd have to sort of keep repeating what I was saying, like, what do you do? I was like, well, we're a digital marketing agency that, we sort of implement inbound, let me tell you about inbound, and you know, we can also do integrations, we can also do content, and we started going through, but I was having that same conversation, and you knew it was, you knew you kind of, you weren't in the right place because you had your parents going, what do you actually do? It's like, you said that you do stuff with websites, but you're a creative agent, like what do you do, and I was like, so in there, I was like, okay it's going to make it a lot easier for me if we just sort of stop and try to recalibrate where we were as an agency and say okay, what do we do right now? What have we learned and what do we do? We started that journey two and a half years ago. We started it two and a half years ago and, because we were a creative agency and because we were in the process of becoming the best partners that we could for our clients, we were almost hypercritical about who we were and where we wanted to be, almost to a point where we, because there was no structure internally, like, if we wanted to come up with our new brand and positioning, if we weren't 100% happy with it, we'd just start again, which is a little bit different because if a client comes to us, they give us a brief, we know their clear scope, we know exactly what we need to do, but when you have control of the project, you tend to probably not follow that structure as much as possible, so.
KD: Is there any element of like, emotional attachment to the name and the brand and the business you've built thus far?
TW: Absolutely, yeah, and I went to New York, and I went and I saw these amazing brands and I came back and was like, I love this brand and I love this brand and I love this brand, and then we tried to adapt what we were doing to the brands that we saw. Now I know what I know, it's not about what the brand looks like, it's about the purpose of what it's about, which is a very expensive and long journey.
KD: What does the process look like? Is it a lot of whiteboarding, is it a lot of like brainstorming? So, how do you determine like, okay, how do we want to, well one, create a new name and a brand for ourselves, but also a whole new purpose, positioning statement, and kind of all of the surround sound verbiage about who we are, like what does that actual process look like?
TW: Yeah, so we tried to do that internally for ourselves. We set to the whiteboard, and I had every single staff member a part of that journey, because they're connected to that brand as much as I am, I'm just the guy that pays the bills, and these are the guys that actually run the company. We whiteboarded and we put all of our ideas down, and we kept sort of executing the idea, but coming back, executing the idea, and coming back, and it's funny, because we were downstairs having a few beers where we work, and the guys actually that are next to us, we sort of work in a creative hub in Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, and we're all having beers downstairs and I was talking to a good man of mine, Mark, who works next door for a company called Ply, and I was, he was like yeah, I completely understand your frustration, he goes, we're a creative agency as well, and we can't do it. We've been trying to do it for years, and we came to an agreement, like, we came to the realization that, if you're creative, you self-sabotage your whole ideas, and Mark went out to me and said, Trav, I'm going to put it out there, would, can I be involved in this because I'm not emotionally attached to your brand, like, it's not that I don't care, it's just that I'm not emotionally attached. He goes, I do this sort of stuff day in and day out, so do you, but if I can come in and just be that...
KD: A third party, outside perspective.
TW: Yeah, so it kind of like, the fact that I had to go and, we invested a lot of money internally, but the fact to have to go and invest like, actual cash now to at third party, I was sort of weighted up, and I knew it was the right thing to do, so I sorta called Dave and Mark and I said, guys, I really really want to do this, and the work that they do is beautiful, it's amazing, and so we sat down and we did a workshop and we sort of did exactly what we did where we did it internally, except like, they were always hypercritical of their answers and asking us why, and this is the stuff that we weren't doing ourselves, and they, you know, we sort of ended up as our strapline, find your people, which is essentially like, finding, well actually, let me just say, we went from the Raiders to Neighbourhood, because Neighbourhood was a community, we were building communities for all of our clients, and then we came up with the strap line, find your people.
KD: Do you have to put it to a vote? I mean, was it a unanimous decision to make that move or?
TW: Well, it's funny, I sort of came up with the, I came up with the name and I came into the office and I'll just like, blurt it out, I said, hey guys, what do you think? And everyone went, that's actually pretty cool, that's really cool and then Mark said, there's a lot more we can work with here from Neighbourhood than Raiders because it was almost a bit negative, the whole Raiders. So, so I guess the next process for us is that, once we had the name and the strap line and sort of had this whole community, it was really about diving a little bit deeper into the purpose and the reasoning and the why and how do we tie our craft to the name, and I looked at every single partner's website, every single digital marketer's website, and I wanted it to be in a position where our brand and our messaging was, if we had 10 websites lined up, which is what people do, they Google and look, is that, how do we be completely different from everybody else, so I wanted to steer away from the methodology, you know, the HubSpot methodologies, not because I didn't want to be recognized as a HubSpot partner.
KD: I'm insulted.
TW: Yeah, edit that part out, but I kind of wanted to be like, you know what, if we're going to get, if we're going to weigh up diamond, platinum, and gold partners, how can I stand out from that. So, we now do marketing, sales, and customer service, and after sort of sitting down with Mark and Dave and the team, we really settled on, we help you find you find your people, we help you sell to your people, and we help you keep your people, and I really like that because it's creative, it's super creative, but it's, it's a little bit more than just saying we do sales, marketing, customer service, so, and you're almost like, super proud of it, too, because I guess we invested a lot of time and money into it, but it has meaning and purpose, and you kind of wear the shirt with a lot of pride.
KD: I mean, that's how you should feel about your brand.
TW: And that's not how we felt last time with the old one because it was just a logo and it was just something, you know, slapped up there, so.
KD: There's just way more meaning behind this new iteration of it.
TW: Absolutely, yeah.
KD: So, you've obviously landed on the brand, the purpose, the “find your people” messaging. How do you then have those conversations with your customers, did you give them heads up ahead of time, how did those conversations happen in person or was it an email blast like, talk me through how you actually got the message out there to your customers.
TW: I think you might've been on the email lists I sent out.
KD: Honestly, actually, that's a good point, I think I was actually.
TW: So, I wanted to do something a little bit different, and we weren't, we weren't eating our own dog food, as such, with our own HubSpot portal at the time, so we sort of sent an email out saying farewell to Raiders, and the idea for that, some people were a bit like, well that's annoying, but some people reached out to us and said, hey, look, what's going on? And we sort of started a conversation, had a few coffees and beers with a few clients to sort of say, hey, what's going on, is the business closing down? And it's like, we're rebranding, but, but yeah, we started, I think it was a trail of maybe six or seven emails where we were saying goodbye to what we had and we were saying hello to what the future was, and sort of telling that story. We sort of told the story about it's, our service offering, it was the same service offering of what we were doing before, we just never really spoke about it or felt proud enough to talk about it in any way, so we sort of had a, almost like a, you know, a workflow set up that would gradually just start to educate people on how we, what we do and how we offer, what we offer, and the methodologies that we have, and you know, that, because we were talking, it actually created a lot of conversations, and funny enough, leads were just popping out of nowhere.
KD: Well, it's the perfect way to engage maybe these colder leads or folks that decided not to move forward with an engagement previously, so it, you can nurture all of these leads again.
TW: Yeah, and I like, I genuinely like, you know, we were having refer, like, our business was based on referrals, and it's amazing, you know, to not really have to spend any money at all on marketing as an agency and just get referrals, but once we, once you're proud of your brand and you've created something that, you know, that you actually, you spent a lot of time on and you actually, it's the services that you provide and a lot of time and energy have gone into like, every word and every single little part, we, I was on LinkedIn and talking and talking and talking about it, how I was proud about it, the passion that came out from that, I literally have five leads a week, just literally, people going, hey Trav, I love your brand, I love the passion that you're doing, can we have a conversation, and like, it's just almost like, it was almost like a grenade of leads, I threw it into the water and then they just came out of nowhere. So, since then, we've really focused on like, our marketing spend is just on content, helping, helping find their people and sell to their people but we're just pushing content out and it's like, like, probably at the moment, just organically, we get three, three leads a week just by people reading our content on LinkedIn, Facebook, wherever, and just asking, hey, you know, we read your content, is this something, can you help me out with this or whatnot, and it's refreshing because, you know, you kind of feel settled that you're not a creative agency anymore, you know, you're a HubSpot partner, what your website says, what you actually do, and you're actually genuinely helping people because the content that you've got actually is helping people, so.
KD: You're like, the purpose resonated with us, and so it’s probably gratifying to think, oh, well this new purpose, this new brand is resonating with others as well.
TW: I think, what I also was saying off camera to you before was that, when we first started as a HubSpot partner, I made it a mission that every single person did every certification, and I think everybody got all of them done through-
KD: And not a single one is expired, is what you were also saying.
TW: One may have expired in the meantime, but we sort of crafted the brand around what we learned from the academy, and like, the academy is fantastic, like, it is good, it taught me everything I knew today, and how we picked, how we communicated our marketing at that point, after two years of real world experience, where we were and what we thought, you know, how we needed to market ourselves to where we were two years go, it was vastly different, and I think that, you know...
KD: I mean, once you get into the weeds and the day to day. Get the real world hands on experience.
TW: Well, understanding people's problems too, like, you know, we understand that we need to attract and help people convert and to like and all that sort of jazz, but like, the problems you learn, like, and through hard times and through the good times, you learn what people's problems and how you can help people and better serve them, and it was only until you really do two years of really hard yucker and having tough conversations and high fiving and doing really big wins is that you kind of come out the other side and go, okay, all right, I understand what people are looking for now.
KD: Now I understand what it's all about.
TW: Yeah, so like, even on our marketing, marketing, sales, and customer service page, I think Dom who's here basically said, why don't we just put that people are asking in their head, saying, you might need our services if these questions are popping in your head, you know. I'm getting a bunch of leads but I can't convert them, or I have a lot of views on my blog post, but nobody's giving me their details, and that's resonated really well with a lot of people that come through, I said, because I always ask, why did you come through, and they said, oh, we landed on this page, and I was asking myself those same questions.
KD: We have those same questions, yeah.
TW: And we wouldn't have understood that if we didn't have that sort of, the Academy, and also the two years of running an agency.
KD: Throughout the whole process, was there anything that was initially unforeseen or unplanned that just became like, a pitfall or a roadblock or something challenging, like, what was the hardest part of going through a full rebrand that maybe you didn't anticipate at first?
TW: The time. The time you've got to almost take away from all of the client work because we wanted to give it everything. I think finding the right person that can do the job that culturally understands, because I think there's a lot of companies out there that can do rebranding and help you step in the right direction, but I think culturally you guys have gotta be on the same level. In no way do I wear collars to work or, you know, I'm fairly casual, so culture for me was super important that, if I spoke to somebody, that they would just get it and understand it and whatnot. So, I think time would be a big part, but also selecting the right, if you are not going to do it yourself, is working with, culturally, the right people so that sort of they nail it the first time, because I think we've all been there where we've worked with a contractor or a supplier that's just missed the mark, and everyone had really good intentions, but just culturally just off, you know, just not on the same page.
KD: Culturally, it has to be a fit, you have to enjoy working with that person, and they have to have a sense of who you and your team are, as well.
TW: And even back on that, you know, I made a misfire which I haven't spoken about where, I was crawling the website for amazing brands and I landed on a Polish company to try and help us out with the rebrand. You know, I invested a lot of money initially once I sent the money over to them, and culturally, they just weren't on the same page and we ended up investing a lot of money in the initial concepts with those guys, and that's why I think culture is super important for who you work with because these guys had done previous amazing brands, but we were just on completely like, completely different levels like, I almost think that the brands they created were a one-off because everything they gave me was completely not what I was asking for, but, you know, having Mark and Dave next door really, they were like good mates that were helping you out.
KD: I mean, if anything, now it's you're probably just empathetic to a customer's journey of finding the right agency, like you literally just went through it yourself.
TW: Yeah, yeah, absolutely and I think it's, they took time in working with us to sort of sit down and they truly, I think for them, it was, I think that the first time working together, that they kind of felt like they were working with some mates, and like, they'd come up with a really good idea and I'm like, man, I respect your ideas, run with it, and I wasn't that client that was like, you know, I want to cut you off, and it's because I hate it when people do it with our work, and so I think that they looked at it and said, we're going to make this, like, our best work so we can go out there and push and you know what, they have marketed some of our work and we've won a whole bunch of awards for the work that they have, you know, we've all worked on, and they're using that to sort of get more work, so it's been a, it's been a really really rewarding, very long and expensive, but rewarding sort of experience.
KD: Last question for you—I ask this to everybody. What is the weirdest part of agency life?
TW: So, I have a thing that I say internally, it's called patting the chicken.
KD: We're going to need context.
TW: Yeah, we're going to need some context, I can't leave it there, but patting the chicken is, clients just, what I find really strange and I'm probably a bit more empathetic about it now, but sometimes, clients obviously want meetings for the sake of meetings, just to feel comfortable about the process and I think the weirdest thing for me is that sometimes I have to pat the chicken. I know full well that the conversation isn't going to give any value to them, but I think probably, empathetically to them, that-
KD: Just the conversation itself is just, they just want to hear from you.
TW: Comforting them, and it's, I call it patting the chicken, it's funny, we're at InBound at the moment, in Boston, and I had a client call up and Dom who's here with me sort of goes, what're you going to do? I was like, sorry, I just gotta pat the chicken here for a little bit, so just, I'll be 45 minutes.
KD: Yeah, I'll meet up with you after, just pat the chicken.
TW: But yeah, it's, I don't know, would that be the weirdest thing though, now that I say it?
TW: I don't know if it's weird...
KD: I would say it's pretty weird. I would say the terminology is certainly unique.
TW: Yeah, well actually, there was, you can use any of these if you want but, I think one of the weirdest things that we've had in the past is, and I think it's natural, is client's reluctance to tell it like it is, and sometimes they'll self-sabotage their own projects and not be real in some capacity, like, I don't think you can pick that but it's super strange, there's some weird humans out there, I think that, if anything, that's the weirdest-
KD: Self-sabotage and patting the chicken, sometimes. That's not bad, right? Listen, we're out of time, we gotta split, but I appreciate you coming on, it's an absolute pleasure, man.
TW: Thank you very much.
KD: Thanks so much.
TW: Good to see you again.
KD: Yeah, you as well.
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