In 1984, Iris Harrell opened the Bay Area’s Harrell Remodeling and emerged as a pioneer for women in the remodeling industry. Her face graced covers of magazines, her insights were shared industrywide, and alongside the company’s success over the past few decades was her favorite color (deemed affectionately as “blurple” by her team), a grouping of iris flowers, and the letter H—elements that come together as Harrell Remodeling’s logo.
Just as Harrell impacted the success and presence of her company, the logo further carried her reputation on the T-shirts of employees, the side of company trucks, and marketing materials.
What began in Harrell’s garage has become a firm with more than 50 employees and a 2021 revenue of $14 million. Iris Harrell retired in 2014, and the company became employee-owned. Today, Harrell is moving forward on the next part of its journey, which includes a new look and slight rename.
Harrell Remodeling is now Harrell Design + Build, and the “blurple” H with a bouquet of irises is no longer the official logo. Instead, a modern lotus flower positions the company for its next 38 years.
“It’s a great opportunity to move from this icon-based logo and image of the company to who we are now,” says CEO Lisa Sten.
The idea of name changes and rebrands can be tricky, especially in remodeling. In an industry where bad reputations are all-too-common, a name change could raise eyebrows. But if done correctly, rebrands and name changes no longer face negative connotations. Instead, they can propel companies into the next phase of their business.
Rebrands solidify a new identity and with it, new promises and goals from a company to its clients and future hires.
On a broader scale, a wave of rebranding efforts have moved across multiple industries: Kia, Burger King, Pringles, General Motors, and Facebook/Meta all revamped their imagery over the last two years. Each morphed into a more modern image, with Kia going futuristic, and Burger King and Pringles simplifying their look.
Positioned correctly, a rebrand or brand refresh can be an exciting marketing tool for remodelers. The booming state of the industry and consumer preferences today gives way to great benefits for remodelers creating a refreshed identity.
If we’re going to dedicate our lives to an organization that we run, what do we want to stand behind? What’s really our purpose?
Out of 2008 came a necessity for remodelers to become a jack of all trades, offering anything to recuperate losses from the Great Recession. Today, the industry has the opposite need.
And if the staff is there, remodelers can also choose to expand to benefit from growing home improvement interest.
Remodeling company names typically fall into two buckets: aspirational and straightforward. Aspirational names might allude to the transformative nature of home remodeling and a straightforward name could utilize the market location or name of the owner. Both offer pros and cons.
Harrell, as a company, is icon-based, meaning that its reputation is deeply connected to its founder. This is common in an industry where last names are a frequent choice for companies. What has happened in Harrell is a shift away from its iconic association.
“Even if you are an icon or namesake brand, the bigger the company is, the more likely it is to take on its own life because there’s so many people who are representing the company that it kind of goes beyond the founder,” says Sten.
Harrell chose to maintain the name of its founder, but smaller companies may not have that opportunity. They might need to consider what the company looks like after that namesake owner moves on. Will the business be sold? Will a company name that’s also the last name lead to confusion when that person is no longer present? How might this name serve your business years down the road?
Chris and Angela Payson’s business beginnings were much like other remodelers: Young, gritty, and in need of work. The name West Chester Design Build fit: it was what the Paysons did and where they did it, the West Chester borough of Pennsylvania. “When you start a business you need to survive,” says Chris. “You really don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘Let me get fancy.’ It’s, ‘Let me get practical.’”
Increasing backlogs and too few workers to ramp up production—the textbook example of supply and demand—have allotted many remodelers the opportunity to get specific and choosy when it comes to their work today.
As the Paysons found business picking up with typical annual growth between 30% to 50%, they were ready for the next phase. Where a regional name once benefited business greatly, it’s ultimately what the Paysons identified as holding them back.
“We were kind of locking ourselves into a smaller portion of a county here in the western suburbs,” explains Chris. “That might be a limiting factor in the decades to come, maybe not in the years to come, but in the decades to come.”
West Chester Design Build transformed to COCOON with the tagline “remodeling reimagined.” It was important to the company to create new branding that offered an immediate connection to customers, included an aspect of the home, and tied into COCOON’s process.
“For us as a family business, if we’re going to dedicate our lives to an organization that we run, what do we want to stand behind? What’s really our purpose? What really lights up our why?” says Chris Payson.
No rebranding effort is alike, though, and what approach is chosen ultimately relies on the goals of the company. For those with long-term goals set on remaining in one market, a region-specific name fits for SEO and marketing. And if the goal is to work on specific projects with a higher echelon of clientele, a name change may not be necessary.
Chicago-based Arete Renovators opted to convey a fresh look to its clients through a new logo and website to attract higher-end clientele who would utilize the company’s showroom and design team more often.
“Our logo was super old school, very busy,” says Arete Renovators’ Director of Operations Gina Young. “We wanted to hit a higher-end clientele that wanted to spend a certain dollar amount on a kitchen or a bathroom. So we started talking about, ‘What changes do we need to do that? What are our competitors doing?’”
The original logo featured an outline of Bosnia to represent the background of the owners and a Greek building in the background to tie back to the word Arete, a concept from Ancient Greece meaning “quality.”
The team knew it wanted to maintain its colors of blue and gold, and emphasize its niche in renovating downtown high rises. That pared-down logo then influenced a new website, which underwent its own simplification.
A competitive analysis was an impactful part of Arete’s website redesign. The company identified two websites of other remodelers that inspired them as they continued a process of modernization.
Arete had a problem opposite to West Chester’s: Arete’s name and branding put who they are on display, but they wanted to refine it, whereas West Chester wanted to establish a new identity.
Defined Identity as a Hiring Tool
Authenticity is a powerful marketing concept, with 86% of consumers reporting that it’s important when deciding what brands to support, according to a 2017 survey by Stackla. An authentic brand provides consumers with a way to connect and trust, and it’s a tool used by many in the industry to differentiate themselves from the bad rep contractors sometimes face.
Connection emerged as a theme that brands quickly grabbed onto at the height of COVID-19 and after. Sairah Ashman, CEO of leading brand design agency Wolff Olins, told Transform magazine this year that “brands will be increasingly focusing on creating more impactful social and virtual interactions with consumers; a clear outcome of the pandemic.”
Those ideas of connection and authenticity bleed into hiring practices.
Branding goes beyond signaling to consumers: it’s a message also presented to potential hires. The idea of a company identity has newfound importance and attention in today’s hiring market.
The industry’s labor shortage can be attributed to numerous factors, but the construction industry is short nearly 340,000 workers as of February 2022, according to data from the National Association of Home Builders.
Recruiting platform Gem surveyed more than 500 talent acquisition professionals to identify key hiring trends in 2022 and beyond, and branding emerged as a top influence in attracting talent.
“We need to prove how we’re better to work for than any other company even though we can’t always offer the highest pay. Non-monetary perks will be more important than ever,” wrote one respondent.
Company culture has been an area receiving great focus from remodeling business owners as a way to recruit and retain talent. Establishing a vision for the company that a team can get excited about is key.
Sten found that Harrell’s team continues to do more contemporary designs and has a new influx of younger employees, a natural occurrence, she notes, as the industry’s workforce is aging. A fresh, modern logo for Harrell would best represent that aspect of the changing company as well, Sten explains.
Timing can be everything with communicating a rebrand. If your company is approaching an exciting change, such as an expansion or new offering, consider boosting it with a refresh.
West Chester’s rebrand was initially scheduled to launch at the same time as COCOON’s new design studio—until the pandemic halted it. But the shift to COCOON allowed the Paysons to take on a much more impactful personal touch. They began a video series documenting projects and built out a new headquarters.
Harrell’s brand refresh coincides with its new location, back to the street where the original Harrell building was and the company’s future goals of expanding its handyman division, along with an opportunity to potentially look into new construction.
“There’s that initial fear of, ‘We’re not ready or capable, or we don’t have the crews ready to take on this work that we want,’” says Young. “You have to push for it and go after what you want, and the rest will follow. You can’t stay stagnant.”