Rebranding with Boots

By Todd Erickson

In the Florida landscape industry and probably across the country… it’s fairly easy to start up a business and blend in with the crowd of lawn care and landscape businesses online or at 7-Eleven at lunch hour. Side note: I love pulling into gas stations during lunch hour in a work truck…it instantly reminds me of the scene from the film “Anchor Man” where all the various anchors and crews from different channels meet up to resolve their differences in a street fight (scene is loaded with awesome cameos).

To start a lawn/landscape business:

  1. Borrow some cash or take out a loan and get some wheels, a trailer, mower or 2, handful of 2-cycle machines, a rake, shovel and some trash bags. Don’t forget to pick up 2 gas cans.
  2. Create a business name with your name or initials paired with the phrase lawn service, lawn care, or any of the following words landscape, landscaping, scapes, environmental or green.
  3. Print out a few sheets of business cards from someone’s inkjet with your contact info and clipart of a mower, a shovel, some grass blades, a flower or a tree.

Bam! You’re instantly a baller rolling solo cruising around town ready to “crush the game”… just like hundreds of other young go-getters in your community and the thousands across social media.

I say all of the above…because that’s the most common way these businesses come to life, without too much prep work or intensive planning. Our initial startup wasn’t too much different… however, our intent from day 1 was to make sure most things about our business would be very different. We wanted to stand out from the crowd and not resemble average or the norm. One of my biggest mistakes or regrets was not developing a corporate identity plan before the launch of our business. We, like many others, threw together our logo, with a moderate level of care and consideration given to it and we ended up with a short-term minded design. The goal behind the logo was to target our goal of getting the business up and running and to attract large maintenance accounts who could help support the staff we would need to employ. We assumed trying to look like a large maintenance company would somehow help us achieve our initial business start up goals. Well, it worked, within the first 6-12 months we had
established a core of commercial maintenance accounts with days that were topped off caring for residential accounts. This was all fine and dandy… however this lack of preplanning also eventually created problems for us.

(Pics of me many years ago in front of a Butia capitata palm I collected & transplanted to my backyard)

PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT

Campus Landscape was originally born from my passion and 10-year hobby of collecting palm trees, designing and developing landscape packages. While initially having a maintenance-oriented logo helped us develop a solid pipeline of maintenance accounts that ensured we would have enough work to keep our crew running fulltime… it didn’t really help me develop my passion. It actually may have hindered my original goal or plan, which was to develop a fulltime landscape design + build firm. Somehow, I ended up running a lawn and landscape maintenance business. One that also designed and developed some landscape projects. After coping with the imbalance of workflow that I had created and working in the industry for a couple of seasons I began to shift my focus. I was determined to make some radical changes in my business. It was time to pursue my passion once again, free from the daily constraints of managing maintenance routes and the rat race full of equipment repairs and misc expenses… and the pettiness and distractions that often accompany managing residential accounts that are paying you $25-40 per service. This radical change meant that I was going to be reinvesting large sums of money on things we had already purchased or created once. It meant the website and most of its content were junk, our uniforms, business cards, vinyl truck and trailer wraps, yard signs, etc…were all to be scrapped. This learning experience was valuable but also such a large waste of time and hard-earned money, but it would be necessary for us to change our image and develop a new logo… but more importantly, to develop a brand that reflected our passion and who we are.

REBRANDING OUR BUSINESS & THE CORPORATE IDENTITY

As creatives, artists, designers and builders the details and visual elements are extremely important to us. Being able to share our design concepts through renderings and digital presentations is how we welcome clients inside of our minds and share our vision for the proposed improvements. For young businesses that do not yet have an extensive portfolio of architectural photography and video of their completed projects …the initial design presentation is even more important in establishing a level of trust, confidence and ultimately a business relationship with the potential client. Good presentation and appearance allow doors to open and greater opportunities to unfold.

So, how could we rebrand our business to attract more customers pursuing our passion for landscape design + build services.

We needed to develop an all new look, a new brand and a new corporate identity. As an artist I’ve always taken pride in my own art and thus I personally created the initial logo (in about an hour using a 10-year-old copy of Photoshop and some clipart), which now needed to become part of history. It was time to employ professionals, who could analyze my business, its goals, my personality and my passions… and help bring that to life as a new corporate identity. Finding the right fit for this task was not simple. There are tons of start-up businesses these days all over the web who claim to be specialists in logo design / branding /marketing / SEO / web development / social media management…slash, slash, slash. I looked at many of their online portfolios and spoke with many businesses over the first year or so. For the most part they all kind of seemed the same and were creating similar styles or just replicating trendy looks. When I discovered the creative geniuses at Pep Rally, Inc I knew I had found some like-minded artists who were equally as passionate about their work. Keep in mind, these cats are well known in our market area as a collective group of artists who create large amazing wall murals. Their work is awesome and so well recognized now that they are routinely employed to develop beautiful giant works of art for trendy clubs, coffee shops, hangouts, restaurants, corporations and municipalities. Let’s just say they are quickly branding the city of Tampa and having a huge impact on the gentrification of its urban waterfront culture and beyond. Not exactly the type of company you might think of for creating your new business logo. Before I contacted them, I wasn’t even sure that “recreating my logo” would be something of interest to them. To my surprise they offered way more than just that. Josh Pearson, co-founder of Pep Rally Inc., was in fact the one who first told me about the importance of creating a “corporate identity” and a brand, rather than just a new logo.

We sat down in his office in our initial meeting and discussed my business, its goals, my passion for designing and building landscaping packages and of course, my love of palm trees. We also discussed things like preferred logo styles, colors and other logo design related things to help their team understand what type of logos I may be open to considering. They knew when I left that day that I wasn’t interested in just another traditional “landscape company” logo… I wanted something different something that was more iconic, less blend in with fish bowl full of business cards. I needed something that would represent our place in the industry, but also creativity and something that would provoke curiosity and conversation.

This is a “deck” of several initial conceptual logo options I was presented during my first followup meeting. As you can see, they created an interesting mix of style options. The main goal was to discover which general style I preferred, so that they could continue to expand the development of our logo, brand and corporate identity package. (See Logo Design Deck Below)

We had unanimously decided on which logo(s) we loved… for many reasons, but in large due to the level of creativity and complexity that went into something that they made look so symmetrical, clean and simple. As Josh said…they basically created our own Nike “Swoosh”… a simple yet iconic emblem that was unique and very unlike any other business logo out there. It was created and constructed using the general shape of the base of a palm frond that is left clinging to the trunk once a frond has been cut off or has fallen off the state tree of Florida (Sabal Palmetto (aka Cabbage Palm). The chunk of wood at the base of the trunk is known across the landscape industry as a palm boot. Everything about this new logo was perfect and the “boots” have been a wonderful conversation piece ever since our rebrand was launched. (See New Brand/Corporate Identity Deck Below)

See Florida state tree pic of Sabal Palmetto and Campus Hat with New “Boots” Logo below

DRASTIC CHANGE
Most businesses out there have some sort of company logo or clip art that they’ve plastered on everything to do with their business. I would encourage anyone who owns a business to spend a few minutes reviewing their company brand… and/or logo if that is all you currently have. Ask your workers, your spouses, your social media followers what they think about your logo or brand. Tell them that you value their opinion and that you would honestly like to know what they think of your company logo/brand/image. Collecting feedback may help you see a flaw in your image or brand that is restricting your marketability more than you know. Just because you’ve been around for awhile, or that you’ve developed a solid reputation, doesn’t mean that the public thinks your logo or brand are great or that either helped them find you. Ask your trusted peeps if they like your logo or if they feel it represents your business or projected business goals and the brand that you’re working so hard to develop. Regardless of how long your business has had the existing logo… developing a new corporate identity may be the best decision your company has made in years. It may be exactly what you’ve needed to help “elevate your game”, market exposure and following. We spent a large amount of money rebranding, redeveloping our uniforms, business cards, signage, website and so forth. I would honestly make this investment all over again…every year if it meant that I would experience a fraction of the results and growth that it did for us during our last go around. Stay current and remain relevant…change it up. I’ve never seen any business code or rules that even encourage your business or its identity to remain the same as it was when you first discovered or started your business. You may be the second of third owner of your business… but this doesn’t mean things need to stay that used to be or the way it was when someone before you may have started the business. By no means am I implying that anyone I know should change their business or is any of the above directed towards anyone or any businesses… its just some general food for thought and encouragement to keep your mind open to change and to seek outside opinions from friends as well as marketing, branding and identity professionals.

I have attached a quick 59 second impromptu video production that was crafted by our friend Dylan Vigliotti, founder of South Florida Luxury TV, for our social media following. This particular promo features a handful of our recently completed projects and shows some ways in which we have incorporated our brand into our digital marketing materials.

— Todd Erickson of Campus Landscape