How a Growing Architecture Firm Used a Brand Overhaul to Break Into New Markets
BLUELINE is a national, full-service architecture firm that delivers comprehensive building solutions to mission-driven organizations of all kinds. Founded in 2004 as a small church design studio, BLUELINE has since grown to become a trusted advisor to growing organizations, providing everything from inspired architectural design to dependable construction management.
Scope of Work
- Organizational Strategy
- Core Messaging
- Brand Positioning
- Brand Voice and Personality
- Web Design
- Collateral Development
After two successful decades providing architectural services to churches in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Architects was running out of road. Eager to pursue new markets, the company merged with a Houston-based firm, Turner Duran, and rebranded under the name BLUELINE. But as the dust settled, some urgent questions began rising to the surface: Who are we now? Where are we going? What sets us apart?
This internal uncertainty quickly permeated BLUELINE’s brand, creating an air of confusion around the company’s focus and its offerings. The firm was up against fierce national competition; and with newly acquired employees entering the conversation, it was essential that BLUELINE find its voice.
At a loss for how to make sense of its brand in the midst of an organizational identity crisis, BLUELINE reached out to Rethink Creative for guidance. Rethink immediately performed an in-depth communications audit and competitive analysis, administered market research surveys, and invited BLUELINE staff and past customers to share their perspectives in live creative workshops. Insights gathered through these activities were eventually distilled into an intricate core messaging platform, which helped articulate BLUELINE’s standout qualities and served as the foundation for the firm’s subsequent website redesign and collateral development.
Performing a Situation Analysis
When Rethink Creative first encountered BLUELINE
post-merger, the firm was struggling to identify next steps. BLUELINE’s leadership had a vision to be nationally recognized as a leader in delivering holistic building solutions to churches and nonprofits, but that dream had yet to be realized.
To help BLUELINE make sense of the many factors at play, Rethink Creative performed both an in-depth situation analysis and a competitive analysis. The result was a document that highlighted BLUELINE’s greatest strengths and vulnerabilities, identified key opportunities for growth, analyzed the competition’s messaging and specific offerings, and defined the external threats most likely to throw the firm off track.
Understanding the audience
With actionable data in hand, Rethink turned its attention to getting to know BLUELINE’s target audience. Our early market research focused on two segments: United States-based churches and private universities, but eventually included mission-driven organizations of all types.
A number of attributes unified this group. Mission-driven organizations, we learned, are notably inexperienced in managing building projects, must operate on a finite budget, and are accountable to a large number of stakeholders (from whom they’ve typically fundraised).
To truly connect with this group, BLUELINE needed to demonstrate that it could manage the entire building process in-house, take into consideration both the short-term and the long-term needs of its clients, and make the process as simple as possible. Fortunately, the firm was well-positioned to take on the challenge.
Defining Brand Strategy
In its early days as a fledgling design studio, BLUELINE earned and kept clients because it could deliver quick work to churches at an affordable price. But in 2020, with two national offices, numerous design awards, and coveted full-service capabilities, the company could handle bigger projects. In fact, it needed to — if it wanted to grow.
In collaboration with BLUELINE, we landed on a brand strategy that positioned the firm as a national, full-service architecture firm. We felt strongly that the BLUELINE’s target customers would resonate with a project management focus and knew the firm could honestly deliver on a “one stop shop” business model, thanks to its merger with Turner Duran.
Crafting a Core Messaging Platform
With BLUELINE’s brand positioning clearly defined, it was time to flesh things out through core messaging. The goal? To distinguish BLUELINE from other full-service architecture firms doing similar work and establish the firm’s unique voice and personality in the marketplace.
Playing to the audience’s need for discerning design and simplicity, the platform elevated BLUELINE’s commitment to co-creation and its comprehensive approach. It also emphasized mutuality. Language like “We want nothing more than to see your mission fulfilled” clearly demonstrated that BLUELINE and its clients are on the same team.
Defining Brand Voice and Personality
Excited to build on the core messaging foundation, Rethink Creative administered numerous questionnaires focused on drawing out BLUELINE’s brand personality. While processing responses, something stood out to us immediately: in many ways, collaborating with BLUELINE was much more akin to forming a friendship than commissioning a service. BLUELINE staff led with their hearts — and that personability was a quality that kept clients coming back for more.
To ensure all future marketing endeavors were a true reflection of BLUELINE’s character, Rethink Creative identified a few tone cues the firm could use to ensure they were hitting the mark.
Brand Voice Example:
We want all who enter the buildings we create to leave feeling inspired, encouraged, and more whole. If we can accomplish that, we’ve done our job!
Telling a Captivating Story
With essential brand architecture in place, it was time to tell BLUELINE’s story publicly by revamping the firm’s primary sales tool: its website. We started at the ground level, discussing the path a potential buyer would take through the site, distilling BLUELINE’s offerings to a consumable level, and creating natural opportunities for connection throughout.
Once the content strategy was in place, we turned our attention to establishing BLUELINE as a credible thought leader. In addition to developing a blog to which BLUELINE’s architects and designers could publish their professional insights, we crafted an interactive portfolio that showcased BLUELINE’s work in the church, civic, community, and education spaces. Image-focused and eye-catching, this award-winning portfolio helped potential clients see what could be!
Creating New Sales Collateral
Following the launch of its website, BLUELINE asked Rethink Creative to produce a sales one-pager focused on the Amplify Workshop. Using the line “Lay a firm foundation” as an anchor, the piece described how the workshop would help participants “develop a strategic blueprint for their facilities” and made a clear case for the workshop as a necessary precursor to large-scale building projects.
Ongoing Creative Partnership
Since the rebrand and website launch, Rethink Creative has served as a long-term partner for BLUELINE, filling a strategic support role and managing creative marketing endeavors such as the production of lead-generating webinars. This has allowed BLUELINE to focus on what they do best: “Serving good people doing great things, by creating buildings that change lives.”
The core messaging platform developed by Rethink Creative ushered in a new era of targeted, strategic marketing for BLUELINE. Now able to articulate its unique value to mission-driven organizations of all kinds, BLUELINE has increased its client roster and is steadily growing.
“Rethink Creative has an excellent team of skilled and gifted staff. They are highly professional, great listeners and problem solvers with a genuine care for their clients. I have enjoyed the entire process of rebranding and refreshing our website with their guidance and expertise.”