Applegate Media Stages Brand Rebirth

NEW YORK Integrated Consulting just received a long-overdue branding makeover.

You’d never know it from the old name, but the company is actually a small media agency that places approximately $50 million annually in ads for clients, according to owner Susan Applegate.

With some help from brand specialist Eisen Management Group, Cincinnati, Integrated Consulting morphed into Applegate Media earlier this month, a name that will hopefully make its mission a little clearer.

About a year ago, the independent shop with a staff of five was facing a couple of challenges. One of its biggest clients, Nextel Partners, a small unit of the telecom giant Sprint/Nextel, was about to begin winding down its relationship with the agency. (The telecom company had just consolidated its media account with MindShare.) At the same time, new business wasn’t flowing in over the transom.

In mid-2006, Integrated hired business development consultancy Reardon Smith Whitaker to help it drum up new clients. But RSW quickly concluded that their new client’s name and image needed a makeover. RSW put Eisen in touch Integrated last fall.

To be sure, it doesn’t take a specialist to surmise that Integrated Consulting could be the name of just about any company in any number of business sectors. Smaller agencies are sometimes “terrible at promoting themselves,” said Eisen president Roger Roeser. “They’re good at promoting others and constantly being bombarded by client requests such that their own marketing and promotion by default comes last.”

That was certainly an issue for Integrated, acknowledged Applegate, whose clients include Coby Electronics, wireless phone company Clearwire and the recently corralled VM Direct. “Looking back I do wonder, what was I thinking? It sounds like some sort of Peat Marwick-like company,” she said. Actually what she was trying to do was incorporate the full range of services her little band of agency pros could offer clients when she formed her own shop back in 1990. “I was trying to encompass everything and I think I was just too global,” she said.

“Too generic” is the way Roeser assessed it. And the word “consulting” often sends a negative vibe, he said. “It suggests another talking head that is going to come in to tell me how to do things and not actually do any work and charge me a big bill,” he said.

The rebrand options, said Roeser, included IC Media, a shortened version of the original name, and “Media,” which actually provides a hint of what the company’s core competency is. The “aha” moment came during a strategy session last fall when someone at Eisen suggested Applegate Media, which nicely ties together the notions that company is in New York (that’s the apple part), that it’s involved in media and, taking it a step further, that the shop is a “media gatekeeper” of sorts. Oh, and Applegate just happens to be the last name of the owner, who, admittedly, has never been one to embrace shameless self-promotion.

That is, until Eisen suggested she do so, because the name, in this case, fit so well with the company’s repositioning. “Ultimately the brand essence comes down to Applegate being a connector of its clients to their target customers by way of media,” he said. Which it has been all along.

But with the official relaunch behind them, Applegate is hoping the rest of the industry will have a better sense of that.