It is with GREAT joy (and immense relief) that I debut our new logo, and with tears (and only minor bloodshed) that my husband, Mikal, the president of our company, says farewell to the faithful (angry, menacing, aggressive…) shark that he gave birth to nearly nine years ago. Clearly we differed slightly on our outlook about the old logo!
When we finally decided to rebrand, replacing our red and black look with a refreshed, friendlier, orange-and-aqua version, it was after lots of cajoling, some moderate teasing, and a rather candid conversation with our marketing/public relations mentor. Looking at the red and black logo with that menacing shark swimming out of the triangle always made me think of 1980s hockey. Mullets, missing teeth, pre-anthem brawling, beer-guzzling… the stuff Slap Shot was made of! Sure, we started as a hockey company. But we’ve come a long way since then. Our target customer is no longer the hockey player and his dad (although they are and will continue to be our bread and butter… thank you, hockey dads! See you next season!), it’s the ubiquitous PTA mom and her multi-sport daughter.
In the last couple of years, my former-hockey-player husband, who has developed an ice and inline hockey following through innovative designs and social media, introduced products that appealed to highbrow sports like lacrosse, stylish sports like volleyball and universal sports like soccer. We even have some crossover products that have cracked the marching band nut! Although Mikal had adopted a new web address, transitioning from bladesharkhockey.com to bladesharksports.com, the transformation from a hockey company to a sports company was not complete. It was time to send the aggressive, sneering shark back into the watery depths and invite a sleeker, less intimidating one to take a dip with us.
The current stage in our corporate growth and marketing met all the textbook requirements for a rebrand (thank you, DBD International): We were still being identified as a hockey company (even though hockey represented only about a fifth of our product lines). Our customer profile changed (see “multi-sport moms invade the world,” above). We were being pigeonholed as something we’ve outgrown (the giant hockey puck on our website banner certainly didn’t help). Our brand told the wrong story (our products will make your gameplay fierce! Well, only one of them will.).
It was time to ask the harder, more cerebral questions, to not only develop a framework for what the new logo should look like, but also to help sever the emotional connection my husband had with his shark. While we are certainly not at the level of a Pepsi, Starbucks or The Gap, there have been many multi-million-dollar marketing mistakes that have left in their wake lots of chum for which to dive. We’re sharks… we love chum!
First, we had to determine whether our brand direction made us leaders or followers. Say what?? How, exactly, does a company determine whether they are a leader or follower? Is that determined by how innovative their products? How creative their leadership? How trendy their customers? We are a sports-oriented company marketing products to young athletes and their supporters. We figured, what could be cooler than that? Attending tournaments, practices, venues and gyms keeps us current.
Second, is the goal of the rebrand to show where we’ve been or where we’re going? How far we’ve come, or how far we intend to go? While obvious on a superficial level, this one presented a tough journey to arrive at an answer. Our entire brand – the shark, the company name, the attitude – was the brainchild of reasoning based purely in hockey. Mikal, in his research to create a company identity, learned that sharks’ skin is similar to sandpaper. Our original product, the BLADESHARK performance hockey tape, is similar to sandpaper but without the grit. Also, sharks as a species have persisted for generations, a precedent Mikal hoped to follow with a product that stood the test of time. And the test of hard-core hockey players. So certainly the shark represented not only where we’ve been, but where we started. The aggressiveness of the shark matched the tone of the sport itself, as did the tag line, “Put Some Bite in Your Game!” But our evolution from a singular product, designed to improve gameplay, to products designed to allow players and their supporters to show their personality and spirit, both on and off the court/field/rink/gym, freed us from the need to identify ourselves with competitiveness and aggression. Trouble was, what did we replace those elements with? Clearly the red and black had to go. Mikal, a graphic artist at heart, has loved the Miami Dolphins colors for years. The aqua kept with the sea-going shark theme, and the orange was bright and on-trend. Replace the black with navy blue and we had our palate!
Finally, the rebranding effort merited some self-reflection driven by the question, “If we opened our doors today, is this the look and feel we would choose?” Truth be told, maybe not. After all, the “blade” does not exist in any sport other than hockey. But a shark, outside of Vegas, can describe someone who excels in a particular field. Also, our mentor smartly advised us to craft the elements of our logo so that they can be separated from each other for certain marketing purposes, but are still identifiable to our brand. We did that through color placement, word placement and silhouetting instead of detailing. So we can use the shark element and sports element for non-blade products and packaging, if needed. That’s for the future, but we took the advice to heart now.
So here it is… our exciting new look and feel. Goodbye, Sid “Shark” Vicious! You served us well, but it’s time to move on. If you hear some faint whimpering, know that you are missed. But only by Mikal.