The Year of the Wolf: Checking on the Maark Brand a Year Later

by Jason Ocker

About a year ago, we launched a rebrand that had been a long time in the making. Developing the new brand had been a lot of work. A lot of dead ends. A lot of revelations. A lot of soul searching. A lot of trying to find time in between client projects. A lot of nailing down our story. A lot of meetings with things taped on the walls. And then we had it, we loved it, and we showed it off.

Brand launches are interesting things. Tons of works goes into them, they get unveiled, people snap-judgement them for good or ill, and then soon everybody gets used to the brand and forgets the change even happened.

But I wanted to look back on the brand with the film of another year on my eyeballs. After all, we preach a lot about the great things that a great brand can do for a company. Has our brand done great things for us so far?

Rallying the Pack

A great brand unifies an organization. It expresses a shared sense of effort and set of goals. It’s a way for everyone to know that we’re all on the same side of the rope in this tug-of-war of a business. And I think our new brand has done that.

Not a day goes by that multiple people aren’t wearing the wolf in this office. One of the first initiatives we undertook once the brand was baked was to create swag. We made hoodies, sweatshirts, t-shirts, jackets, backpacks, ball caps. It felt a little excessive at first, but that’s how sports teams and their fans show unity. Feels like the right companies with the right stories and the right brand can do that, too.

And we didn’t just throw a logo on the right breast of a polo. We really focused on carefully and creatively applying the brand to clothing. It looks good enough that we joke that we inadvertently created a fashion brand.

But there are other ways the wolf has unified us. We finally named our conference rooms (all wolf names, from Arctic to Were). Wolf stickers adorn laptop lids and car bumpers. The account team clamored for the new collateral because it gave such a presence to their presentations. People make wolf jokes. It’s like we’re all in a club. The Maark logo isn’t merely something in the corner of our HR site interface or etched into the frosted front door of the office, but a part of what we do and who we are. And a big part of that is the story the wolf represents.

Telling the Story

It’s amazing how much the wolf has opened conversations with new and potential clients. Before the new logo, we had the Maark wordmark. People always asked us what this double-A’d word meant, and we used that question to pitch our value. It’s an old Swedish word that means standard, and that’s what we wanted our work to be: the standard of quality for our clients by which other projects are judged. It’s a nice little pitch, but it doesn’t go far beyond that.

Now, when they say, “Why the wolf?” We get to not just pitch the aspirations of Maark, but what makes us different and how we approach projects. We talk about the idea of how a wolf pack works, how analogous that is to our SWAT team methodology. How we use small teams whose members are senior, have overlapping expertise, and have worked together for years. How those teams integrate with client teams. People really get to know us when they ask about the wolf. And telling that story is useful internally, too, both for new hires and as an ethos to hold onto as we grow.

Commitment is Everything

The brand is more than the wolf logo. It’s the system behind it. It’s how it’s applied across the business. It’s how much it’s invested in. Brand at its best is a commitment. At its worst, it’s a default template.

When it comes to brand launches, I always think of GAP. Back in 2010, they changed their logo and received a sizable early-social-media backlash. Days later, they reverted to their old logo, dumping years of work in the trash. Subjective aesthetics aside, I think that if GAP had stood behind the new brand, put it into practice, emphasized the story around it, invested in it, they would be using that new brand today and the old brand would feel old. A badly designed brand committed to is far more valuable than a well-designed brand not committed to. And it really feels like, a year into this brand, we’ve really committed to it (um, and that it’s a great brand). Had we just settled on a logo that worked, some colors and fonts, and called it a good-enough project, it wouldn’t have become so pervasive and so central to how we do things internally and how we interact with clients.

Rebranding is always a tough decision, and each company has their own unique set of circumstances to consider when making decisions about its brand. With the year behind us, I think it’s one of the best things we’ve done, both as an organization and for the organization.

Jason writes. Tells stories. Develops strategies. He oversees a wide range of creative and technical projects. He’s also an award-winning author of half a dozen books and has been featured on or in CNN, The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, The New York Times, and TIME.

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