Owning it. The story behind the Akhia rebrand.
In the summer of 2022 I had an exciting and scary thought – what if we focused our business entirely on manufacturing-driven companies?
Meaning companies that make something. Serve companies that make something. Collaborate or partner with companies that make something.
I took a quick look at our client roster. The numbers were there to support this theory:
A day or two after having that thought I had lunch with a client. They wanted to talk with me about kicking off a project in a new area of their business. The reason we were being chosen to lead this work? We ‘just get it’ when it comes to understanding the why. The client said, “You know, at the end of the day we are a manufacturing company that just happens to make _______.”
I used fill in the blank because, thinking about it, that wasn’t the first time I had heard that. In fact, I had heard it many times over my career. That saying, which I agreed with (we all ‘make’ something at the end of the day), is one of the reasons I was never a fan of defining Akhia as a B2B or B2C agency.
Oh, I believe in the need for specialization and for differentiation. But that lives with our channel teams – specialized expertise to move the needle for our clients, that in the bigger picture are manufacturing companies that just happen to make ________.
So, what if we could think bigger than just the B2B or B2C world. What if we could celebrate and support companies that take pride in the fact they manufacture a solution. That want to tell the whole story of why they make it. How they make it. And the joy they take in the success of those who use what they make.
I kicked around the idea for a few days. Talked to our leadership team. Developed a plan of action, setting in motion a plan that I would be excited and nervous about for the next 18 months.
What would we look like?
Would our team be up for the challenge?
Would our clients value the position as much as I did … or thought they would?
What if I was wrong?
Imposter syndrome. Vulnerability. Doubt. They all made plenty of visits to all corners of my mind as I advocated internally for this move and began to drive the story and structure forward with our team.
While that feeling never fully went away throughout the process, it did start to shrink, especially as the components started to come together. First up was the return to our pillar – the mark that had identified us since our inception in 1996. Used because our founder believed that strategic communications was a key pillar on which any successful company was built.
With the return of the pillar was our use of all caps, again. Bold. Clean. Simple. Refined. Just like so many of our clients’ products. And topping the ‘I’ in Akhia to form the pillar? An orange trapezoid we named ‘The Gusich.’ A tribute to our founder, Jan Gusich, who will now live forever in our brand and brand guidelines.
Our new tagline ‘From the Insight Out’ played a big part in putting a lot of my anxiety to rest. In seeing that – and knowing ‘this is it; this is us’ when I saw it – I knew that our new brand, despite being different, would resonate with those who know us already as well as those who have yet to meet us.
That’s what we’ve always been about. Putting our clients first. Bringing value in all that we do. And driving our ideas and their business with real-world insights that create tangible change. But today those insights come at a premium.
There is more noise, more external factors and more internal circumstances than ever before. So many data points need to be considered to ensure your programs do what they’re supposed to do. There is more than ever to worry about – as one very good friend told me recently, “Ben, the best agencies are the ones I can outsource my anxiety to.”
Putting all of this together – a brand position we knew we could own; with a group of people we knew we could help; and led by an agency full of people that could take what had been started and elevate it to a new level … well, I couldn’t help but feel we were ready to tell the story we had tried to own and tell so many times before.
So, what’s different? Really … we’re what’s different. We used to view our differentiator as a nice to have – taking ourselves and our differentiation for granted. Now? Now we know we can make a difference. We feel what we offer is a must-have. And we know, more than ever, why we do what we do. We do it for you. The makers. The influencers. The designers. The creators. The believers. The sellers. The promoters. The leaders.