Behind the Curtain

Lea Alcantara

For years, Emily and I worked separately under brands that were essentially extensions of our personal names. Now that we're working together, it didn’t make sense to continue running the business under only one of our monikers. We wanted an identity that encompassed both of us and reflected the direction we were taking the company. That led us to changing Emily Lewis Design to Bright Umbrella.

Removing Assumptions

Our new name and identity didn’t come quickly, nor did we take the process lightly. We treated ourselves just like one of our clients and, as with any branding project I tackle, we began with intensive research: starting with gathering external and internal feedback. We don’t make assumptions with our clients, and we weren’t going to make assumptions with each other or about our company.

The external data came in the form of a public query: we asked friends, clients and colleagues to fill out an informal survey gathering the first three adjectives that jumped to mind when thinking of us individually and as a team. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s essentially a tweak of my Art of Self-Branding survey.

In the meantime, both Emily and I filled out a comprehensive survey—the same one we give to our clients!—regarding our personal perceptions of ourselves as professionals as well as a team. This survey was a lot more thorough than the three adjectives asked from the external survey—though, that question was still there. Our internal survey encompassed serious inquiries about professional goals and perception of success, along with questions about what animals we liked and even what celebrities we relate to.

Gathering Perceptions

We received 27 generous survey responses (thank you, you wonderful people!), and I compiled all the data. While I’m not a data scientist, I did my best to organize responses and adjectives into common groups. And the results were illuminating!

The Top 5 Adjectives

From our survey responses, I pulled the top five adjectives used to describe us and our company:

Emily

  1. detailed and organized (13)
  2. smart and intelligent (13)
  3. driven and tenacious (5)
  4. passionate and fiery (4)
  5. approachable and kind (3)

Lea

  1. smart and intelligent (11)
  2. energetic and expressive (8)
  3. creative and forward-thinking (8)
  4. detailed and efficient (7)
  5. fun and sassy (5)

Our Team

  1. awesome (5)
  2. dependable and effective (5)
  3. balanced (3)
  4. smart and intelligent (4)
  5. innovative (3)

These top adjectives are listed in descending order with the number of individual responses in brackets. Exact adjectives are included in the count, along with synonyms (e.g. “smart” and “bright” count as two entries for the same thing).

Once we compiled all the external perceptions. It was time to compare those results to the adjectives we listed for ourselves:

Emily’s Adjectives

  1. Smart (13)
  2. Funny (2)
  3. Talented (1)
  4. Reliable (2)
  5. Loyal (1)
  6. Intense/passionate (4)
  7. Down to earth (3)

Lea’s Adjectives

  1. Sassy (5)
  2. smartypants (11)
  3. reliable (1)

Emily’s Team Adjectives

  • Experts (3)
  • Partners (2)
  • Straightforward (none)
  • Honest (1)
  • Integrity (1)
  • Talented (5)
  • Fun (2)

Lea’s Team Adjectives

  • Expert (3)
  • Exceptional (5)
  • Fun (2)

For these internal adjectives, I listed Emily and my adjectives with the number of external survey respondents that used the same exact word or its synonym in parentheses.

Comparing Internal and External Results

What became immediately apparent were the major differences between our own perceptions of self versus what our survey respondents saw more clearly. No one’s adjectives were more “right” or “wrong” — they simply indicated what our current perceptions were compared to others’.

These differences revealed what we had to strengthen and emphasize in our new name, branding and messaging. For example, when Emily listed “talented” as an adjective, she really meant that she wasn’t just smart, but that she knows how to put smart to work. Similarly, when I saw that only one person used the word “reliable” in our survey, I knew that our future messaging had to reflect that more clearly and thoroughly.

On the other hand, areas where things strongly aligned—for example, intelligence—helped us understand what we wanted to reinforce in our name, branding and messaging.

Who We Are

Taking the time (and investing the truly emotional energy) into this research was invaluable. It defined the focus of our new identity and served as the touchstone for every other aspect of our rebranding. When it came time for a new name and a logo, every idea we had was vetted against our original research. When it came time to design the website, every decision—from colors to fonts to content strategy—was made with our top adjectives in mind.

Once we had the focus of who we are, it was time to decide on our new name … Why “Bright Umbrella,” you may ask? Find out!

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