Progressive AEC Marketing: Naming Stir Architecture

AEC Marketing

In terms of mem­o­ra­bil­i­ty and mes­sag­ing, most A/E/C firms have ter­ri­ble brand names. Firms named after founders can be prob­lem­at­ic if dif­fi­cult to say or spell, and chal­leng­ing for own­er­ship tran­si­tion. Acronyms are even worse. Lost in alpha­bet soup, they are nei­ther mem­o­rable or dis­tinc­tive.

I chose to inter­view Leslie Young, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, CDP because her firm recent­ly renamed using a metaphor­i­cal name, STIR Archi­tec­ture. Hav­ing a great brand name is an indi­ca­tor of pro­gres­sive mar­ket­ing.

Leslie Young, Stir Architecture

Tell me about your role at STIR

I am Asso­ciate Part­ner and Direc­tor of Strate­gic Devel­op­ment lead­ing Mar­ket­ing and Busi­ness Devel­op­ment. Known for both large-scale, com­plex mixed-use projects in the Unit­ed States, Europe and Asia, as well as a bou­tique port­fo­lio of adap­tive reuse, insti­tu­tion­al and tran­sit work, STIR has offices in Los Ange­les, Ams­ter­dam, and Mani­la. I am one of two Asso­ciate Part­ners and 3 Part­ners who were ulti­mate­ly the deci­sion mak­ers for the renam­ing of our firm.

Your firm has changed names a couple of times in its history. Why?

The firm was found­ed in 1984 by Ronald Altoon and James (Jim) Porter, so we start­ed out as Altoon & Porter Archi­tects. In 2012 when Jim left the firm, we updat­ed our name to Altoon Part­ners. When Ronald left the firm in 2015, we saw an oppor­tu­ni­ty to rename the firm as some­thing not direct­ly tied to part­ner names. In 2016, we rein­tro­duced our­selves as STIR Archi­tec­ture.

Metaphorical naming typically isn’t done by AEC firms. Did you consider using partner names or adopting an acronym?

Since the firm’s found­ing, the intent was always to cre­ate a lega­cy firm with a for­mal own­er­ship tran­si­tion plan. The remain­ing part­ners have been at the firm for 30 years, on aver­age. There was a lit­tle bit of “I’ve earned the right to have my name on the door” think­ing, so we did ini­tial­ly con­sid­er the typ­i­cal acronym of using the first let­ter of each partner’s name. But we dis­cov­ered fair­ly quick­ly that DSA, ASD, DAS, ADS, SDA was not going to work for us. But most­ly, we didn’t want to go through the nam­ing process again if one of the part­ners leaves. We thought it was an oppor­tu­ni­ty to come up with a fresh name that bet­ter describes who we are.

Any other considerations for the new name?

Many of our new­er staff had nev­er worked with our founders, Altoon or Porter. While our val­ues and prac­tice hasn’t changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly, we want­ed to evolve the firm with a new name that every­one could embrace as their own.

Did you work with an outside consultant for the naming process? Why?

For about five sec­onds, we thought we could do it our­selves. But we quick­ly real­ized we need­ed an expert and a ref­er­ee. We also had a strict dead­line – atten­dance at our largest annu­al domes­tic tradeshow. We hired WOW Brand­ing to keep us on sched­ule. Also, work­ing in for­eign mar­kets, we need­ed their help with a name that trans­lat­ed well into oth­er lan­guages.

What Was the Naming Process?

We had con­fer­ence calls with our con­sul­tant and the five deci­sion mak­ers. Some last­ed as long as six hours. We reviewed our Mis­sion, Core Val­ues, and pri­or­i­tized goals of the firm. The strat­e­gy has to come first. Next, our con­sul­tant pre­sent­ed a long list of about 50 names, which we edit­ed down to 8–10, then ulti­mate­ly 5. From these 5 final­ists, they did avail­abil­i­ty research and some basic design treat­ment. We had two real favorites, one of which we ulti­mate­ly decid­ed could cause us intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty prob­lems. Ulti­mate­ly, we decid­ed on STIR Archi­tec­ture, which we are very excit­ed about.

Stir Architecture logo

Why STIR? What Does it Mean?

We love that stir is a verb, as in “stir­ring things up.” We like to tack­le new design chal­lenges. Our work also “stirs” the emo­tions of users of our build­ings. STIR refers to how we practice—complex projects with many stake­hold­ers and mul­ti­ple team mem­bers. The ener­gy of our new name appeals to us, our staff and our clients. It is for­ward-focused. It reflects who we are, what we do and what peo­ple expect of us. Our name is our promise.

How Did You Communicate This New Name to the World?

We dis­trib­uted press releas­es stat­ing that as of April 11, 2016, our new name is STIR Archi­tec­ture. These includ­ed shar­ing our strat­e­gy of devel­op­ing the name and what the name means to us. We fol­lowed up with a direct mail pro­mo­tion­al piece (see below) to 600 peo­ple on our mail­ing list. Since we didn’t have phys­i­cal address­es for every­one, we sup­ple­ment­ed the direct mail­er with a 2500 per­son email announce­ment. We chose not to ref­er­ence our pre­vi­ous name in a tagline or as a tran­si­tion­al device. We went all-in with STIR. We still own all our pre­vi­ous URLs, so if a user inputs an old web­site address, it will auto­mat­i­cal­ly redi­rect the user to our new site at stirarchitecture.com. We con­tin­ue at every oppor­tu­ni­ty to recon­firm our brand through direct mail, social media, press releas­es, adver­tise­ments, etc. Con­sis­tent rein­force­ment of our brand at every turn has been a pri­or­i­ty.

Stir Architecture Direct Mail

What Advice Would You Give To Other Firms That Are Considering a Name Change?

Give your­self time. On one hand, it was good that we had a strict dead­line to get the name done by, but it caused a lot of stress. Keep in mind that get­ting the name done is real­ly just the begin­ning. Then you have to devel­op a new logo, visu­al brand­ing tools, mar­ket­ing col­lat­er­al, and web­site. Also, hav­ing a for­mal pro­gram in place to keep rein­forc­ing the brand mov­ing for­ward is key.

In gen­er­al, I rec­om­mend oth­er firms dream big, be bold. As long as you are con­sis­tent in con­tin­u­ing what has been suc­cess­ful for the firm in the past, clients will con­tin­ue to fol­low you.

Conclusion

In start-up mode, most firms, unfor­tu­nate­ly, put lit­tle thought into the firm name. The sole focus is bring­ing in any project that pays the bills. Mov­ing out of child­hood and into ado­les­cence, firms should start to think and act for them­selves, devel­op­ing a dis­tinct point-of-view. If not done pre­vi­ous­ly, this is the time to devel­op a dis­tinct brand name that reflects where the firm is head­ed, not where you’ve been. Renam­ing isn’t easy—few things of val­ue in life are easy. As Leslie and STIR Archi­tec­ture have shown, with the right approach, a small focused team of deci­sion mak­ers, and an expert guide, suc­cess is attain­able. Past clients will con­tin­ue to work with you and future clients will gain a favor­able first impres­sion.

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