Cutting through the B.S. of high-tech consulting

Factorion

Branding an IT consulting firm branding case study

With one foot in the academic world and the other foot in the industry, this Dutch consulting firm needed help clarifying and simplifying their messaging and value propositon.

Together we developed a new brand strategy, renamed their company, and developed messaging and a visual identity that reflects who they are.

Services

  • Brand Strategy
  • Naming
  • Messaging
  • Visual Identity

In 2018, I began talking to SMR Delft, a boutique consultancy/education startup based out of the Netherlands. Their company sold two very different services to two very different kinds of customers:

  1. A cutting-edge minor program in Robotics, which they sold to Dutch universities
  2. Advisory/strategic consulting to large manufacturers and logistics companies

On top of this complexity lay the complexity of their area of expertise: industrial automation, machine learning/artificial intelligence, and robotics. Needless to say, SMR Delft were struggling to market their services effectively.

Young professional looking at laptop

Simplifying and clarifying

At the start of 2019, we kicked off a brand strategy engagement together. My goal was to provide the partners with a framework they could use to make sense of their service offerings and brand architecture to potential clients. We explored the commonalities between their consulting practice and their education business, as well as their respective particularities.

Eventually, we realized that it just didn’t make sense to sell both service offerings under the same umbrella. We decided that the best way to move forward was to split their company into two separate brands: their education business on the one hand, and their consulting business on the other hand. We created ideal customer profiles and defined value propositions both of the brands.

Rebranding the consulting business

A few months after we had concluded our strategy project, the guys at SMR Delft came back to me for a full rebrand of the consulting side of their business.

One advantage of their “SMR Delft” brand name was that they were known as “the guys from Delft” (TU Delft is consistently ranked as one of the best universities in the world, and SMR Delft teaches the Robotics Minor program at the school). At the same time, the name had a couple of big disadvantages:

  1. “SMR”, short for Smart Manufacturing Robotics, was plain and generic
  2. Including the name of their city (Delft) created an impression of them that limited them from exploring markets outside the Netherlands
  3. The brand equity was almost exclusively on the education side of their business
  4. The lack of separation between their education business and their consulting business caused a lot of confusion

After giving it careful thought, we decided to rename their consulting business.

During the third creative brainstorming session, we thought we had arrived at the final name. It was unique, memorable, and adaptable. Objectively, it was a great name. Despite this, no one was in love with it.

Right before we were ready to stop brainstorming and decide on the name (diamonds are made under pressure, after all), we stumbled across something that everyone got excited about:

Factorion.

SMR Delft renamed to Factorion

Not only did this name sound great and have an intuitive pronunciation and spelling (both in English and Dutch). It also evoked the sort of associations that were just right for this brand:

  1. Factor. The brand is a factor—an important player, a force to be reckoned with—in the Dutch smart industry scene.
  2. Factory. The company culture is one of creating things, always working on new projects and never being satisfied with “good enough”. Not only that: most of their consulting clients are manufacturing companies. The factory part of Factorion made total sense on several levels.

And when we looked it up, we found that factorion was actually a real word: a factorion is a natural number that equals the sum of the factorials of its digits. There are only four numbers like that in the world: 1, 2, 45, and 40585.

We thought about it further, and the name satisfied all our criteria for the brand name:

  1. It evokes a positive brand experience
  2. It’s meaningful—people “get it”
  3. The name is visually evocative (it conjured up images of factory chimneys for some, a blacksmith’s anvil for others: all “industrial” imagery)
  4. It’s got legs: the name can be extended into a theme
  5. The name is unique, yet easy to spell, pronounce, and it won’t limit future growth

We had a winner.

Visual direction

When we do branding projects at Cult Method, we present two different “stylescapes” to determine the visual direction of the project. A stylescape is a rapid design prototyping tool that allows me to present a vision for the visual identity design without committing a lot of time and resources upfront. By using stylescapes, we can identify a direction that everyone is onboard with. As a result, clients rarely request revisions or changes to the visual identity design.

In this case, I decided to highlight two different aspects of their brand:

Vanilla stylescape design

Spicy stylescape design

  1. The first one was a little more mature in its colours, very technical in its layouts and patterns, and emphasized their expertise and “raw”, straightforward approach to communication.

  2. The second direction was more youthful in its colours, and emphasized the qualities of curiosity and innovation embodied by their brand.

When presenting the second direction, one of the partners immediately exclaimed “I love that F!”. Everyone was really excited about the logo concept: the horizontal ‘F’, also resembling a factory building. After some conversation about the colours and general themes, we decided that the second direction felt most authentic to their brand, but we also carried over some of the technical aspects of the first direction in the layout designs.

Logo design

Despite already having sign-off on the logo concept, I continued to explore more concepts. A logo should be able to last for decades with only minimal tweaks, so due diligence is critical. Once I had exhausted dozens of different ideas, I arrived at a more polished iteration of the original concept.

Factorion logo design concept

Embracing colour in the visual identity allowed me to create a flexible system with multiple coloured versions of the logo. Not only does this increase the longevity of the identity system, it also allows Factorion to convey more of their personality through the design system.

Factorion multi-color logo design GIF

The logo I created for Factorion is bold, iconic, and multi-layered. Next to the logos of Factorion’s competitors, it is bound to stand out and be remembered:

Engineering consultancy logos

I continued to create a comprehensive brand identity, including both visual elements and a messaging suite of creative copywriting.

Factorion brand elements

Factorion brand guidelines

Applications

The visual identity lends itself to a great number of applications. As part of the identity project, I developed business cards, letterhead, an invoice template, social media image templates, and other design collateral.

Factorion multi-colored business cards

Factorion grid-based business card design

Factorion enamel pin

Factorion polo shirt uniform

Factorion office space environmental design

Factorion Instagram post mockups

Factorion invoice, letterhead, and business card stationery design

Factorion letterhead design

Factorion yellow design ephemera

Factorion billboard advertisement with creative copywriting

Factorion billboard advertisement with creative copywriting

Factorion logo design

Conclusion

The three partners at Factorion finally feel like they have a brand identity that reflects who they are and what they do, and they feel a lot more confident in communicating their value propositon to their target market.

After concluding the brand identity project together, Factorion engaged me to create a marketing website for them.

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