Since it was first established in Hendersonville, a city North of Nashville, 11 years ago, Elite Landscape Co. has built strong brand recognition around the Nashville area for exceptional service and quality work. Elite’s signature red leaf logo is easy to spot on roadways and lawns all around the greater Nashville area. But owner Taylor Milliken decided he had to take a big risk … and to make one of his toughest business decisions ever, to ensure his company’s future growth.
Since Elite started out in 2002, the company has grown to serve four times as many customers as it did just three years ago. But as Elite branched out into new markets, Milliken’s research showed his wasn’t the only landscape company operating under the “Elite” name. A competitor just over the state line in Kentucky was using the same name, and as Milliken’s customer base expanded, he felt there was bound to be confusion for consumers.
“You’re going to run up against one of two problems” Milliken says. “Either you’re going to be competing against a great company with an established brand presence, or worse, one that’s got a bad reputation, with poor service and poor quality.
“The customer shouldn’t have to decipher which is which,” he says. “You have to be one of kind.”
Starting with the end in mind. Milliken’s goal was clear from the beginning: find a unique name that would pass the test not only in the region, but across the country. He resolved to come up with a new company name in just two weeks. Among his employees, reaction was mixed. “One half was super excited, and one half was really nervous,” he says. Milliken asked each member of his management team to come up with as many names as possible – “good, great or stupid,” Milliken says.
The only guideline? The team agreed that to distinguish the brand, it was important to stay away from Elite, the old company name. The six-member management team generated 57 names. From that list they cut the list in half and then half again, until they narrowed down the list to just three names… then voted on the winner: Milosi – the combination of the Milliken name with Rossi, Taylor’s wife Samantha’s maiden name. Milosi reflects the importance of family and relationships in the company’s growth and success.
“We were ready to put our name on this dream we are building,” Milliken says.
Getting the customers on board. Milliken knew he needed to move fast and involve the whole team for the new brand to work. Megan Lowe, the company’s sales and marketing coordinator, was appointed to lead the re-branding process, and looked outside the company to Nutshell Branding, an Oakland, California-based branding consultancy and All Natural Design of Connecticut, which had helped the company develop its brand image and website in the past.
“Working as a team was key in the decision-making process,” Lowe says. “Because we were all part of the decision, there was buy-in from the beginning – everyone felt invested.”
Once the team was in place, the group laid out a road map, a step-by-step process, with a timeline. The schedule included everything necessary for the transition with a target date. The company’s existing customers were contacted directly, a new website was developed to reflect the new name and a public relations campaign was organized to introduce the name change in the local media.
The team worked backwards from the target “rollout” date for the name change, which was set for September 3, 2013. Lowe kept track of the process, deliverables and kept things moving.
No surprises. “It all came down to making sure we communicated with our customers,” Lowe says. Elite sent out letters to the company’s existing customers and to vendors signed by Milliken explaining what was happening, the reason for the name change and how customers would be affected. “We didn’t want there to be any surprises,” Milliken says. “I wanted our existing customers to hear it from me first.”
The company also turned to social media, posting the progress of their rebranding process on the company’s Facebook page, not only to inform customers but send a message that the change was a positive, exciting new direction for the company.
Staying out in front of it. As part of the Facebook strategy, the team posted photos of the new logo on shirts, signs and vehicles. “We wanted people to get used to the idea of the new logo on cars and trucks. It’s not like people just got a bill with the name change on it,” Lowe says. “We stayed out in front of it, thinking about our audience all along the way.” One customer called and as we were talking he said, ‘What about that name change? That’s really cool,’ Lowe says. “That’s when I knew it had worked.”
Building on core values. Company owner Taylor Milliken saw the name change as an opportunity to rethink and define the company’s values and direction. Customers were interviewed about the company’s brand value and were included in a “brand blueprint” that serves as a roadmap for the company’s marketing platforms. The management team provided input to shape that document, making sure it captured who the company is and where they are going. The goal was to create a cohesive and consistent brand message with the company’s vision in mind.
“So far, we have received zero negative response from this,” Milliken says. The company has received numerous emails and postings on Facebook congratulating them on the name change.
Joined by customers and staff, the company celebrated and officially introduced Milosi in a small, ribbon-cutting ceremony in early September. The event drew mentions in the local media and chamber of commerce publications. The company plans to organize a larger event to mark the transition and recognize customers and staff next spring.
“Our goal was not only to make an impact internally, but to create an exciting new chapter for and with our customers – a catalyst for positive changes to increase and improve our services,” Milliken says. “In the end, we saw this not just as an opportunity to build brand awareness but also as a milestone to becoming a better company."
Here's an example of a letter Milliken sent to customers announcing the rebranding.
We are excited to report that we are moving ahead with our name change. To keep you in the loop, we wanted to give you a little update on our progress. First, our new website is scheduled to “go live” later this month. We hope you will visit us there at www.milosilandscape.com. Soon we will be changing our business cards, marketing materials and various signage to reflect our new name.
We hope that you like our new brand/logo as much as we do. This is a decision that we have not taken lightly and we pray for the support of our incredible customers. Very soon, you will start to see the new logo on your invoices, on our letterhead, at your property and more. In making these changes and ultimate improvements to our company, we want to assure you that Milosi will still be an Elite Company.
We will still maintain the same ownership, personnel, and high level of service and personal attention you have come to expect from us. We simply are changing our company name because we are ready to put our name on something – this dream we are building.
As we grow to be a smarter company, our goal is actually to grow our personal relationships with our customer base. By becoming a larger company; we can manage bigger projects and pay closer attention to detail. You are the reason that we do what we do.
We never want to lose that personal touch that makes you, our customer, feel special and feel a part of what we are doing. In addition, we never want to be perceived as an organization that is uninterested in bidding smaller jobs or that we are too busy to take care of Mrs. Jones’ lawn down the street. It’s those small jobs that got us where we are and are helping us to achieve the goal of where we are going. We will never lose sight of that.
September 2, 2013 is our target date to “roll out” the name changeover. We hope that you are as excited as we are about our new name and the future of our company. As we continue to grow, our goal is to “grow stronger”. If you remember anything about this changeover, we hope you will remember this—that you, our customers are at the core of everything we do. It is because of you and your satisfaction of the work that we are proud to put our name on it.
Please follow us on Facebook as we introduce Milosi, our new name. We look forward to sharing and celebrating this transition and our progress with you!
God bless. We look forward to seeing you soon.
To see how Milosi is doing nearly a year after the transition, see Rebrand the right way.