Archive for the 'Branding' Category

How important is your firm’s name?

Our firm’s name is Fivecat Studio.

It took quite a long time to settle on the name when we launched the firm back in 1999.

Our intent, then and now, is to build a great and enduring firm that will long outlive its founders. We did not want to build the firm around any single person or personality. We wanted a name that was not only memorable and differentiated us from our competitors, but a name that we could build a brand around. We think Fivecat Studio does that.

What do you think?

Question of the day: How important is your firm’s name?

What’s Your Brand?

When a potential client hears your firm’s name, what do they feel? When they see your logo, what do they think? Your designs? Your studio? Your vehicle? Even the clothes you wear? What do they represent in the marketplace of architectural design?

All these things, together, are your brand.

In his book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell describes in detail how decisions are made within the first few seconds of an impression. How important is your brand? It can be argued that it is the most important factor to your ultimate success. Your brand tells a potential client, as well as your current clients, who you are and what you represent.

What is Frank Gehry’s brand? How about Richard Meier? Frank Lloyd Wright?

Whether you design and develop one, or not, you have a brand. It may be wonderfully inspirational. It may be uncomfortable or repulsive.

What’s YOUR brand? Take control and develop a brand that represents all that you want to be.

How To Start Your Own Design Firm

Here’s an excellent post from one of my favorite blogs:

A buddy of ours recently asked for our advice on how to go out on your own as an architect.  It’s an interesting question primarily because of the timing and the current economy (or lack thereof).  But despite the slow industry, we think its the right time to establish your own firm.  While the market will remain slow for a while (probably over another year), when it does pickup, the architects left standing will be flush with work.  We see the economic recession as a good time for positioning.  While there isn’t a lot of work out there right now, there is much to do to make sure you get work later.

Read more.

Pushing Past the Dip

One more juicy The Dip tidbit from Seth Godin.

ChangeThis Manifesto: Pushing Past the Dip: How to Become the Best in the World

Beyond Your Website

I enjoyed participating as a panelist today, discussing How Businesses Can Use “New Media” to Grow. The event was coordinated by the Westchester County Association. Nancy Shenker, founder and President of The ON Switch, did a superb job as moderator. My fellow panelists, both much more knowledgeable of the subject than I, were Lena West, founder and CEO of xynoMedia and Howard Greenstein, co-founder of Social Media Club.

Nancy invited me to discuss my experience using social media as part of our marketing strategy at Fivecat Studio. Using screenshots of, my Living Well in Westchester blog, this blog and my Squidoo lens, I explained that our entire online presence supports our effort to build Fivecat Studio into the most recognized, most respected brand of residential architecture in the Westechester / Fairfield region (and eventually beyond).

The time we have invested online has paid off. A Google search for Westchester Architects will provide three separate links referring to “Mark R. LePage” or “Fivecat Studio” on the number one results page. And that does not include our AdWords link, also prominently featured on the first page. Perform a search at Google Blog Search and you will find similar results.

Many hours of web development and blogging has put Fivecat Studio in the position to be found online by our prospects every time.

I hope everyone attending found that the event was worth their time and left with some inspiration to start their own work online. If anyone has more questions about what we do at Fivecat Studio, either online or off, you are welcome to email me.

You may enjoy reading the event particiapant’s blogs below:

Nancy Shenker

Howard Greenstein

Lena West

The Brand Called You

Back in 1997, Tom Peters touted The Brand Called You in a Fast Company magazine article, where he explained the importance of taking charge of your personal brand. The late 90’s was a very different place, but the benefits of managing how others perceive you and the unique promise you bring to the table have not changed.

In the Spring 2007 issue of AIA’s Practice Management Digest, Ron Wolf encourages you to Use a Personal Brand to Expand Your Corporate Success.

From Ron’s article:

To demonstrate the power of a personal brand, think Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, or even Paris Hilton. People have an immediate sense of knowing them. When we think Oprah, we think warmth and tears and overcoming adversity. Gates brings to mind gadgets, geeks, and philanthropy. The Donald conjures up ostentatiousness, ego, and a decisive ruthlessness. As for Paris, well, perhaps it’s best we not go there.

Each of these individuals maintains a strong personal brand that’s instantly recognizable. Can you say the same? If you had to look for work tomorrow, would your brand precede you? If just stating your name doesn’t conjure for others impressions of leadership, accountability, innovativeness, or whatever other traits you wish to be known for, you’d better start branding.

You have a personal brand whether you want one or not. Even more so if your firm’s name matches your own. Recite the names Robert Stern, Michael Graves or Frank Gehry and very specific ideas come to mind. Those ideas, those specific thoughts and feelings are all part of these architects’ personal brands. Some of those ideas may not even be true, but they are still part of the brand. It’s up to them to manage their personal brands, to strengthen the positive and minimize the negative.

When we named Fivecat Studio without reference to the founders, we did so to separate the firm’s brand from our own. We wanted Fivecat Studio to have its own identity and for each project to be a Fivecat project, rather than an Annmarie McCarthy or a Mark R. LePage project. We wanted to recognize that every commission is completed by a team of hard working, passionate people. Well developed architecture is never the work of one mind.

Free of associations to our personal brands, the Fivecat brand is flexible to become whatever we choose. It is ours to manage and grow.

As the firm matures and we retire, the firm can continue to grow and thrive without us. Succession will be invisible and Fivecat Studio will live on for generations to come.

Annmarie and I have our personal brands too. To simplify it, Annmarie is “the designer” and I am “the business man”. This blog is one tool I use to manage and build my personal brand. Being an active, vocal member of my local AIA chapter and the Business Council of Westchester are some others.

How do you manage and build your personal brand? Do you think it matters? Share your ideas and thoughts by clicking the “comments” link above.

Lessons Learned from Apple

If you have not been to the new Apple store on Fifth Avenue, do it soon. In a city where everything is big and loud, the Apple store stands out by being small and quiet. It is simply genius.

When you are there, take a good look at Apple as a business.

The Apple brand is all about design. From the glass cube above the plaza, to the structural glass stair (patent pending by Apple) leading down to the simple, clear layout of the store below. Everything says Apple.

The employees are all very enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. You never feel intimidated. They’re nice. Being nice is my first rule for a successful business.

Apple products are beautiful, easy to use and never fail; the complete opposite of every other computer company.

I am continuously looking to other industries to learn how the best of the best build successful businesses. I take what I learn and apply the lessons to my own firm. A trip to the Fifth Avenue Apple store was a whole semester’s worth of learning all wrapped up in one day.

What’s in a Name?

I am very interested in the business of naming. When Annmarie and I launched Fivecat Studio, we wanted a name that differentiated our firm from all the “Smith and Smith” firms in the region (our legal entity is still McCarthy LePage Architects, PC, so we have not yet taken the full plunge).

The Name Inspector has a great blog all about naming. In this post, he uses the TechCrunch Company/Product Index to help us understand how names can be categorized into 10 types:

1. Real Words (i.e. Amazon)

2. Compounds (i.e. YouTube)

3. Phrases (i.e. MySpace)

4. Blends (i.e. Microsoft)

5. Tweaked Words (i.e. iTunes)

6. Affixed Words (i.e. Napster)

7. Made Up or Obscure Origin (i.e. Bebo)

8. Puns (i.e. Writely)

9. People’s Names (i.e. Jajah)

10. Initials and Acronyms (i.e. AOL)

He even discusses the pros and cons of each type. If you are launching a new firm or thinking about rebranding, this post will help get your creative name juices flowing.

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