#StartupSpotlight – How Vulpine Rebranded With A Splash

Nine out of ten startups fail, many anticipate their obituary before they even go completely bankrupt. But that’s not how the story goes for Vulpine Interactive. Young, tenacious and agile, Vulpine Interactive is a company on a mission – to grow no matter what it takes. If you’re a struggling startup here are some valuable lessons from the man behind Vulpine Interactive himself.

Derric Haynie

In this interview Derric Haynie speaks about the challenges of a growth hacking startup, and shares secrets on how they identified the sure signs of rebranded to come back with a splash.

Q. Tell us about your company and why did you feel the need to rebrand your business?

Our company, originally SplashOPM (stood for Online Presence Management) was originally founded to help small businesses with Online Presence Management issues. We later turned focus to educating businesses through online courses in those topics. Then we decided to turn into more of a startup marketing and growth consultancy. All of those ideas were us struggling to find the right product to offer to the right client. I mean, they all worked to some degree, but we didn’t have a scalable repeatable business process. It was just a two person digital marketing shop, which wasn’t going where we wanted to go.

Eventually, we stripped everything away and said we want to become a social media marketing agency, with an emphasis on branding and engagement (not advertising and lead generation like so many other agencies). We now say that we help create contagious brands and passionate fans. A clearly unique tagline that I believe immediately gets the value proposition across. And more importantly, it’s scalable and repeatable.

SplashOPM

The rebrand stemmed from many things. The name was outdated and many people told us they thought OPM stood for "Other People’s Money." That’s not good! We needed to distance ourselves from the previous audiences we served in the past, and we needed to elevate the brand to work with larger companies. Essentially, we were going through puberty as a company, and now it’s time to really enter the market.

name ideas for new brand

business models

Q. In a digital world with observant customers and thriving competition in San Diego, what challenges are you facing in the rebranding process?

Our challenges mostly stem from our success. Our company is growing quickly, which means onboarding clients and hiring employees. Client services is always more important than finishing our rebrand, so as you can expect, it keeps getting “put on hold”.

From a branding perspective, I am not getting a lot of problems with the process. When I introduce people, I have to give a caveat to say "Well the company was called this, now it’s that." And a lot of my contacts in the city still think I am running the other agency, with the other focus, so reframing everything will become very important as we complete the rebranding process. I’m planning on doing that with a large re-launch party, and a bunch of advertising, Facebook Lives, and events.

Q.  As a growth marketing company working to save small businesses from the horror of failure, how will your rebranding decision help you garner more customers and expand your business?

That was the exact problem. Saving people from failure is very hard to do. Even after I teach someone everything I know, they actually have to absorb it, decide to adjust from the information, and be able to really execute. That’s why growth consulting was so tough, because it relied on the company to change. We believe with our new focus in social media marketing, account growth, advertising, event and content promotion, we have something that many companies need (certainly not all, but that is the point).

  • Something that growing startups are increasingly in need of.
  • Something that feels very real and tangible.
  • When you get a customer thanking you on social media (or you answer a complaint and make a happy customer)
  • When you get an email subscriber through social, etc.

Being able to focus on one corner of the vast landscape of marketing, and digital marketing, helps us increase our expertise in that field. Our goal by the end of 2017 is to be the fastest growing social media marketing agency in the world, but also, we want to be pioneering what social media marketing actually looks like. It really is a very creative marketing space and there are so many unexplored opportunities in social media that no one is doing yet.

Q. I’m sure rebranding isn’t an automatic button, you need someone to do it. So who is in charge of your corporate rebranding and why you think they will succeed at this challenge?

My wife. She is our creative director (among other things). She is a branding expert and a great designer. Without her we would not be able to pull this off. It’s ironic because one of our clients is a world-class branding agency, but we can’t afford to hire them, so we’ve just gotten a little bit of advice from their CEO and have been off and running ourselves.

  • We are changing our core values.
  • Changing our company structure.
  • Changing our audience and messaging.
  • Our business cards.
  • Moving to a new domain is also a huge pain.

Q. When rebranding, what aspects of business will you advise startups to focus on?

Always make sure there is a clear reason and value behind the rebrand. Don’t just do it for the sake of doing it. For us, it almost became embarrassing to say our company name to others, which was a clear sign that there needed to be a change. Focus on the direction you want to go, and think of the end goals of your company. That will determine what your new brand should look like. Feel like. Smell like. From there, never assume you know anything about your brand. The true expert is the audience, or the customer. Ask as many prospective customers as possible what they like, what works for them, how they feel when they hear your brand name, etc. They are the people your brand is meant to impress, not yourselves. The overall process requires quite a bit of creativity, and quite a bit of patience. Make sure you have a budget and a timeline in place before you begin, then double both to ensure you make it through to the end.

So there you have it, Vulpine is a startup that rebrands to rejuvenate and restart their brand with a new direction. You can check out their website here.

Have you rebranded recently? Share your experience.

Janil Jean is an idealist blogger and social media addict who loves conversations related to branding, storytelling, startups and small business technology and design.

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