Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Branding an Office Space

Case Study: New Haven Legal Centre

Idea Wanted: Re-brand an existing office space business.

Challenge: Take an existing local office space business national, and at the same time, change the vision of the business.

Background: 25 year old President Jonathan Arabolos has a passion to reinvent office space. Jon and his mother operate the New Haven Legal Centre in New Haven, Connecticut, an office building where over 90% of the clients are legal associated practices. But Jon has an enthusiasm to serve new businesses and entrepreneurs and he want to combine that enthusiasm with his passion and into a new office space concept. He also wants to expand his reach and take the concept national.

Advice: Branding is about being different in the mind of the consumer. But it's not just about saying your different, it's also about being different. Jon needs to take his values, his passion, and his vision and turn it into a business that's real. When you have a real business that's different, you can have a brand that stands out from the crowd. We are going to advise Jon to focus on being a different kind of office space for small businesses.


  1. The Mission. The first step to branding is to identify your mission, based on your values. Jon's top three business values are flexibility, optimism and passion*. Now those values need to be turned into a mission that will have merit with the target client: small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs. The mission we identified in working with Jon is to "To be a fertilizing ground where businesses grow."
    *For the record: We do not allow clients to give us the value of honesty when going through the branding process. Honesty is assumed as a starting point for doing business long term. This rule also applies to quality. Never use honesty or quality in your marketing materials.
  2. The Brand Promise. After a mission statement is developed, the next step is to develop a brand promise based on the vision Jon has for the company. Jon's big hairy vision is to brand office space nationwide. He wants to set up a network of entrepreneurs and be a hub for small businesses through office space. To accomplish this vision potential clients will have to see Jon as a resource. Our recommended Brand Promise for the re-branded company is for Jon to "Be the resource you need to make your office space successful."

  3. Proving the Brand. Branding is not about constructing a make believe image. Real branding that lasts cannot be done with smoke, mirrors and pretty words. Sooner or later you have to prove your promise. Jon wants to be a resource. We believe the best way to do this is to assemble a hub of services that most small businesses need but don't necessarily know how to get.

    These essential services can include: Bookkeeping, legal help, office supplies, printing, computer repair. Jon would have approved company providers for each of these services and more. He could check references and negotiate rates up front. Then when a tenant needs some printing work, rather than wasting time calling around and getting bids, they just call the "company printer" and order what they want.

    Another value-added service he could offer is a free logo when you sign a lease for a designated term. New businesses rarely have a logo when they start, so they can get a logo and an office in one transaction. There are logo shops that provide logos for as little as $250.

  4. New Name. Obviously New Haven Legal Centre is not going to cut it as a name for the newly re-branded national business. There are a million business naming theories out there, but my favorite is probably Seth Godin's Naming a Business. We did a little creative thinking to come up with a couple of different names:

    Maple Office Centers - We got the inspiration from Jon's name, Arabolos, which is close to the Spanish word for trees. A maple tree is a fast-growing strong tree with a good visual presence. It's easy to spell and pronounce and we think it has nice ring.
    Harvest Business Centers - This name has an obvious relationship to Jon's mission of being a 'fertilizing ground' for small businesses. It also has a positive connotation, is easy to spell and pronounce.

  5. Get a Signature. With a Brand Promise and a new name, we need a signature. Most people call this a tag line or a slogan. But signatures have meaning and they are personal. A slogan is a clever saying, but a signature is personal. Good signatures should tie in nicely with the name of the business and give a clear indication of what a business offers.

    We think the signature here is obvious: 'The Fertilizing Ground for Businesses,' taken from Jon's mission. Now we connect the business name with the signature and we get:
    Maple Office Center - The Fertilizing Ground for Businesses

  6. Key Visual. To put the finishing touch on this brand we need a key visual. Not talking about a logo here, you can learn more about that chore here: The Importance of a Logo in Branding.

    Key visuals provide a consistent theme throughout all your marketing materials. The key visual is the continuity of your communication with the customer. We think the new brand's key visual needs to revolve around a hub. John wants to build a network of entrepreneurs and be a hub for them so the hub visual seems natural.

    If name of the business is Maple Office Center, use a maple tree as the center of the hub and extend spokes out to icons that reference the different resources. You can visualize what it might look like by applying your imagination to the this computer network graphic (sorry, we're not going to show you the graphic we would do).

The Lesson: Why go through the whole mission, vision, brand promise exercise? Lasting brands are built on values and passion, they are what we call 'True Brands.' You can see the process we went through for Jonathan Arabolos and his quest for a new brand. When we identified his values, mission, vision and brand promise up front, the rest of the process really became quite easy. That's because we didn't have to make things up. We were building a true brand.

To learn more about this process and branding your small business, we highly recommend Microbranding: Build a Powerful Personal Brand and Beat Your Competition, by Scott Gross.

For more small business marketing lessons and advice, see our other blog: The Marketing Spot
To learn more about our company, see our website:

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