Graphic D-Signs President Dan Antonelli Describes the Journey to Agency’s New Identity
In the 22 years since I founded Graphic D-Signs, I’ve helped rebrand more than 1,000 small businesses around the globe. I’ve always understood why it’s a decision business owners don’t take lightly. But now, I have an even greater appreciation for my clients’ struggles, excitement and challenges—because I just experienced it myself. Here’s a retrospective of what it was like for me to take a walk in my clients’ shoes while I rebranded my own agency.
Humble Beginnings Take Hold
In May 1995, I walked into the Essex County courthouse in Newark, NJ, and registered my business as a sole proprietor. I was young and still had a “day job” as a graphic designer in New York City. Like most entrepreneurs, I was full of ambition and energized about the possibilities. I settled on the name Graphic D-Signs and incorporated the business two years later when I went full-time. I thought it was a clever play on words: My new company would create signs (mainly truck lettering) and do graphic design work.
At first, many folks didn’t really “get” the name or know how to pronounce it—let alone spell it. But, the name stuck. Thinking back now, on a deeper level, I suppose I never really was proud to say, “ I’m the owner of Graphic D-Signs.” As time went on, I become less and less enthused about it, but on the other hand, it didn’t seem to be affecting the growth of the company.
‘Good Enough’ Seldom Is
I was like many clients to whom I recommend a rebrand for their business: I was afraid of change, and worse, I was too complacent.
As someone who lives and breathes by the notion that nothing our company does today is good enough for tomorrow, I should have given more careful consideration to the challenges inherent in our name. I preach all the time the notion that success in spite of a poor brand is not a valid reason to perpetuate it. I literally have a 5-foot sign in our office engraved with that very saying. Employees told me we should change our name. Even clients who love our work have said our name and brand are not reflective of the quality of our services and the vibe that makes us who we are. So, why should I ignore my own advice, and the feedback from everyone else?
One of the single most critical things I preach to clients is the notion of never being satisfied. Yet, I was afraid to change what was working for us. There are hundreds of ways to rationalize sticking with the status quo. You say you’re worried about the future, your employees, your reputation and the brand you’ve built over 20 years—and that you can’t risk losing all of that. I say in my book that old brands are like a warm blanket to their owners. That’s right, here I was: a textbook case in point.
We are not a sign company at all, and we’re not a graphic design company—so why are we called Graphic D-Signs?
Once the rebranding seed was planted in my head, it wasn’t hard for me to accept that our agency’s name doesn’t fit us anymore and doesn’t even remotely represent what we do. We are not a sign company at all, and we’re not a graphic design company—so why are we called Graphic D-Signs? At our core, we are a creative agency that builds brands and supports small business marketing, in both print and online. Heck, our tagline says more about who we are than our name does.
Despite all of this, I still wasn’t committed to making a change, even though, in my heart, I knew the answer. The video below tells more about how I finally came to realize we needed to rebrand.
New Building Constructs New Beginning
For seven years, I drove past a piece of vacant land on my daily commute to the office. In my head I visualized our growing agency, one day, building a new office on that property. A couple of years ago, the plans fell into place to make that dream a reality. That’s when I decided it would represent a new beginning for us—a new chapter in our agency’s story. Finally, the time had arrived to adopt a name and brand that truly represents us, our culture and what we stand for.
When I announced to my team that we would be changing the name of the business, everyone was on board. Many had been advocating it for a while. But, what would the new name be? Well, hey, we help clients figure that out all the time, so it wouldn’t be too hard, right? Wrong: It was certainly challenging, I think because it’s so close and personal, and I’ve known us as Graphic D-Signs for 22 years.
Embracing Our Identity
A defining characteristic of our agency is our energy and enthusiasm. We’re excited about our clients’ successes and helping them grow and prosper. There’s a certain energy in how we go about our work. Often, while we’re working on a client’s brand, we’re more excited about it than they are. (Certainly, the anxiety inherent in this experience has helped me better understand why business owners aren’t always giddy about rebranding.)
And so, we began brainstorming names that connote our energetic, enthusiastic “roll up our sleeves and kick ass” mentality. After several weeks of pitching ideas, voting, debating the pros and cons, and lamenting a dearth of available domain names, I chose KickCharge® Creative.
As soon as I said the name aloud and then typed it out, I knew it was us. More importantly, I knew it would connect with our customers, who largely operate service-related businesses.
As soon as I said the name aloud and then typed it out, I knew it was us.
We trademarked the name and we are owning it (literally and figuratively). We love that it can be a verb or adjective, too: Get your brand KickCharged; KickCharge your marketing. And KickCharge also sounds like an agency that has its clients’ backs, like we do. It’s one of our principal missions.
Like every brand we create, we needed to consider all the applications of the new logo – from the sign on the new building, to the web site and everything in between. And of course, we had to redo all of our marketing materials, as well.
Energized to Move Forward
Once our new name was decided, and our logo was finished, all of us couldn’t wait to NOT be Graphic D-Signs. It took a lot of time and effort to put all of the pieces together to be ready to launch, but despite the work it required, it has instilled a new energy in our agency. The team is excited to tell their friends and family, “I work at KickCharge Creative,” and they look forward to moving into our new office, a custom-designed space that’s been built just for us. And now, I’m finally proud to say, “I’m the president of KickCharge Creative.”
This is an exciting time for this little agency of mine. From the humble beginnings in my basement with one employee, to the nearly 20 rock stars we’ve assembled, I take to heart the one lesson I had ignored for far too long: Nothing we do today is good enough for tomorrow. We will never stop providing the absolute best service and solutions for our clients, and helping them KickCharge their businesses with Powerful Marketing Solutions®.
Throughout this journey, I’ve reflected on the 1,000+ small businesses that have trusted Graphic D-Signs since 1995, and I personally thank each of you for allowing us to be a part of your success story. We may have a new name, a new logo, and soon a new building, but we have the same spirit, principles, best practices and mission. We’re still your partner and your advocate, and we look forward to continuing our relationship.