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  • | 10:00 a.m. June 5, 2015
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When Suncoast Hospice wanted to refresh its corporate branding, its executive team knew it wouldn't be easy.

Not only would Suncoast need a new name, but also a plan to reintroduce itself to the Pinellas County palliative care community.

Suncoast turned to the Orlando-based advertising agency Fry Hammond Barr to launch Empath Health. The name is designed to better showcase its services that go beyond standard hospice care.

On the heels of that success, Fry Hammond Barr rebranded again. Except this time the client was much closer to home -- itself.

“This is an agency that's been around for 58 years, and we weren't even sure we wanted to do it,” says Peter Barr Jr., the agency's president and CEO, and son of one of the original partners, Peter Barr Sr. “But then again, a lot's changed in those six decades, and we had a name that sounded more like a law firm than an advertising agency.”

And with that, the yearlong rebranding process began. It started with a company-wide discussion on whether Fry Hammond Barr even needed to rebrand. If so, what could the company be called?

Barr turned to his Tampa office, led by Creative Director Rob McCormick, to help bolster the overall rebranding team. It wasn't long before &Barr -- pronounced “and Barr” — was created.

“We thought about the past, and what we were known for,” McCormick says. “That's about our partnerships and the long-term relationships we've formed with our clients and the community. So for us, the ampersand became a big deal, and our focal point. It's what joins us with the people we work with.”

The staff quickly embraced the new name, even before it was released publicly. Yet it was difficult to ignore the standing concern that maybe &Barr should get outside help.

“They always say the cobbler's kids never wear shoes,” McCormick says. “That was always on our mind, so we made sure we went through every step we would with a client.”

Those steps include drilling down to “simple truths” about the organization, creating a foundation to build on, McCormick says. For &Barr, every time, it came back to partnerships.
“We also wanted to find something that was timeless,” McCormick says. “The ampersand represents two things coming together, and that's something that's going to last.”

Customers typically don't like change, and something as major as a rebrand can create a lot of backlash and confusion. Companies willing to undergo a rebranding must be brave enough to pull back if it's obvious those changes won't be embraced, McCormick says. PepsiCo did that with its Tropicana brand, after consumers rejected a series of redesigned orange juice containers.

“It's not always who has the better agencies, or even the best ideas, but really more on what the public is willing to accept, and what they aren't,” McCormick says. “Shoppers couldn't find Tropicana on the shelves because of the new design, and that could've potentially hurt their sales. So they had to regroup.”

One key step that might have helped Tropicana was better communication about the new branding in the beginning. A proper introduction, and maybe even including customers and clients in the overall process, can bolster a rebrand success, say &Barr officials.

And &Barr made sure it did that in its own rebrand.

“This is really a great chance for us to get out there again to tell our story,” Barr says. “Call it our goodwill tour, and we made sure all of our clients were in the know every step of the way.”

Follow Michael Hinman on Twitter @BizTampaBay


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