May 2016 Special Section

Your Brand is Your Company’s Reality


Written By: Chris Eversole

For Wendy Crites Wacker, the RTI brand is a moving target — a target she’s been chasing for 15 years as the vice president of global communications for what’s now RTI Surgical.

The company that began as a startup firm known as Regeneration Technologies in 1998 has become a global leader in surgical implants.

“Our brand, including our logo, has changed as who we are as a company changed,” Crites Wacker said.

In the early days, the logo featured a metallic gold square with a black symbol representing one of the company’s first patented implants.

“We were a start-up company introducing new technology to the industry, and we wanted to stress that innovation,” she said.

Practicality led RTI away from gold.

“As our communications became more web-based, the metallic gold tended to look brownish on computer screens,” Crites Wacker said.

Today’s logo uses striking shades of blue and green to subtly convey the company’s stature.

“We’re not a start-up company anymore, and we want to project stability and growth,” Crites Wacker said.

In coordinating brand and logo development, Crites Wacker studied best practices and has also hired outside expertise. Her journey can provide guidance for companies both large and small in growing their brands.

The principles she embraces are as follows:

  • Your brand is more than your logo.
  • Your brand should reflect your company.
  • Let research guide you.
  • Communicate broadly when you make a change.

 Your Brand is Your Company's Reality 2

 

BEYOND LOGO

“Branding is more than your company name and your logo,” Crites Wacker said. “It involves how you communicate and represent yourself not only with your customers but also with the community, your stakeholders and your employees. It is represented in the messaging and design of your printed materials and your electronic presence.

The brand needs to be represented consistently on all business materials, from invoices, letterhead, business cards and much more.

“You’ll probably be surprised how much is involved,” she said.

 

CHANGING REALITY

RTI’s brand changes have reflected changes in its reality.

The first logo change came a few years after the company went public, when the company changed the metallic gold square to metallic blue.

“We relied on external expertise and research to come up with blue, which is more closely associated with healthcare than the previous gold,” Crites Wacker said.

The next change came in 2008, when Regeneration Technologies merged with Tutogen Medical Inc. to form RTI Biologics. The new logo represented the new company name and combined the colors from the previous companies’ logos.

The most recent change was in 2013, when RTI acquired Pioneer Surgical Technology Inc., which specialized in metal and synthetic implants and instruments.

“We were no longer just biologics,” Crites Wacker said. “Our current name, RTI Surgical, reflects that we cover a whole portfolio of surgical implants and applications.”

 

RALLYING RESEARCH

Base your brand development on solid research, Crites Wacker recommended.

“Interview your key constituents and be consistent and objective in your questions,” she said. Smaller companies could conduct research on their own and may need a sample group of 10 to 20, while larger companies may want to gain input from a larger variety of stakeholders.

“You may find there is a gap between who you think you are and how your customers perceive you. You might learn through your research that your key stakeholders see you as the value product in your industry, and you’re focused on becoming the premium product,” she said. “You could use a branding and messaging strategy to help drive change, if that’s what you’re looking to do.”

Hiring consultants can provide expertise and objectivity. During the research phase, your stakeholders may be more open to an independent third party.

“For logo development, there is a science to font, color and design choices and how audiences perceive them,” Crites Wacker said. “Purple might be your favorite color personally, but that might not be the best choice to represent your overall brand. Listen to the experts.”

 

REACH BROADLY

As your company’s brand changes, you will want to communicate changes to all of your audiences, including customers, community and other stakeholders. Your employees are key ambassadors of your brand and can extend your outreach, Crites Wacker added.

“We provide a brand guidelines document on our employee intranet,” she said. “We make it easy for employees to find the right logo, messaging and materials and direct them on who to ask if they have questions.”

Crites Wacker has a final word of advice: Take rebranding very seriously.

“We try to assess our overall brand about every five years, but we only make major logo changes if we have a major corporate event” she said. “It’s not a small feat, especially for a larger company. It’s been two and a half years since our last name change, and there are still elements to work through.”

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