What’s in a name? It seems like a relatively simple question, but when you get into the world of branding and developing a meaningful connection between a name and what that name represents, it becomes infinitely more involved.
In the world of branding, coming up with a name for a product or service is an exceptional journey that’s intended to accomplish a number of things. A name should add value to the product or service that it represents. It can, if developed properly, evoke certain emotions or help consumers conjure up an image in their mind of what that name stand for. And, of course, a name can enable consumers to develop a connection or particular affinity and loyalty to that brand.
Think of some of the strongest brands globally — many of which you can stumble upon right on the PrimeTime Expo floor — and how simply hearing those names can bring certain ideas, thoughts and feelings to mind.
Ultimately, for those involved, developing a brand name is as much about the actual journey as it is about creating the name itself. Throughout the process, you learn more about the market the brand will represent, what’s important to those end users or consumers and what your role will be in serving their unmet needs —your mission and your reason for existing as a brand.
Nationwide Marketing Group’s custom integration (CI) division recently found itself in a position to experience this branding process not once, but twice.
In March, during PrimeTime in Dallas, our Home Technology Specialists Nationwide network announced a major rebrand. The group rolled out a new name — Oasys Residential Technology Group — that has since been followed by fresh branding, a new go-to-market strategy, a new website and more. All of that happened in just a few weeks before the first-ever Oasys Summit, which was held in Nashville in May.
“It’s been a long ride, but what an incredible journey we’re on right now,” Hank Alexander, director of Oasys, told us in a recent Independent Thinking Podcast. “Our team’s growing, the name’s getting out there, and it’s been incredible to see how much our Members and Vendor Partners care about being part of something special. You see their excitement and their excitement excites me. I feed off it. And it’s been a lot of fun.”
The Oasys rebrand, which has continued to progress, was only a portion of the branding work the CI team was involved in over the past few months. Earlier this year, Nationwide added commercial systems industry veteran Chris Whitley to the CI team as executive director of commercial integration. Whitley brings over two decades of experience in the space and has previously launched successful groups for systems integrators in that community. He’s looking to do the same for Nationwide, though this group will take a slightly different approach.
“We’re looking at that integrator who’s still growing or emerging in the industry where we can step in and provide a tremendous service to them, and, in turn, grow alongside them,” says Whitley. “We’re in the business of collaboration, both in terms of the technology that our integrators install in these commercial environments and the general philosophy of our group. There’s magic in bringing people together, and we’re looking to create that here in the commercial integrator community.”
Whitley joined shortly after PrimeTime in Dallas earlier this year and has truly hit the ground running. And, not to say he put the cart before the horse in any way, but he was out in the market talking to his contacts before he even had a defined “group” to call his own. Plenty of work was going on behind the scenes to help bring the formality of a commercial group to life, but speaking in hypotheticals and future-tense can only carry you so far. He still needed a brand to call his own.
BUILDING A BRAND
The physical act of building a brand is a journey in and of itself. Plenty of pre-work has to be done to determine if even building that brand makes sense. In terms of the commercial group at Nationwide, that work had been done prior to Whitley even joining the team.
“We did the research, even speaking with Chris before formally welcoming him into the family, and identified an untapped segment of the commercial space that could use some attention,” says Andy Orozco, senior vice president of CI for Nationwide. “By combining the resources available through Nationwide and Chris’s vast industry knowledge and expertise, we were confident that this commercial group could fill a major need in the market and provide tremendous value to the integrators and vendor partners in this space. We also knew we wanted Chris to play an integral part in building this brand at Nationwide, which is why we waited until he was part of the team to begin laying that foundation.”
With the mission and vision essentially set and Whitley on board, the work quickly began on defining the brand itself.
When it comes to naming conventions, a brand can take several different approaches. There’s the descriptive name (a hotels.com or Bank of America), an acronym (KFC, NERF, IBM, etc.), the evocative approach (Apple, Greyhound, Patagonia), the invented style (Lego, Adidas) or simply using their founder’s name (Ford, Disney, Levi’s). And while it’s easy to bucket the ways a name can be decided, the process can certainly be a bit emotional and create attachment for those involved — just think about what it was like to pick a name for a child. Nationwide’s CI team experienced that process with Oasys — a combination of the invented and evocative approaches — and was about to go through the same with this new commercial brand.
However, the decision was made much easier thanks to Whitley and the story he built for the brand before ever really stepping foot into the role.
“It’s all about community and connecting people,” he says. “We’re creating a culture and community, and that’s what I’ve been most passionate about throughout my career. And to see just how important those things are here at Nationwide made it so easy for me to jump on board to help build this brand. At the end of the day, we want to help our Members connect, collaborate and transform their businesses.”
Those three pillars, for Whitley, evoked the image of an ellipsis — the grammatical mark (…) that denotes omitted content in a specific phrase or sentence. The ellipsis is used to connect two ends of a sentence, leaving out a portion, while not changing the intended meaning. In other words, the ellipsis represents the details, the added context, the work that goes on behind the curtains while not altering what that sentence — or business — stands for.
But, also understanding that the brand represents a community of commercial integrators and the systems they build, Whitley took a similar approach to the Oasys name and folded in a bit of inventive creativeness. And so, the Ellipsys name was born.
“What’s exciting about our mission and being part of this organization is the resources, the power of the Nationwide organization and the investment behind what we’re doing,” says Whitley. “I had a front row seat to the creation of Oasys and saw what’s possible here at Nationwide. And now, to get to do similar work on behalf of the commercial integrator community, it’s an exciting opportunity. These past few months have involved a lot of hard work and a lot of information sharing. But we’ve come up with a plan and I think we have a great platform and a good niche to serve our emerging and growing Members.”
Ellipsys Commercial Technology Group made its official debut in June at InfoComm 2023, a major commercial industry trade show. There, Whitley and the rest of the Nationwide CI team hit the pavement and introduced the brand to the industry. The team had dozens of meetings on the books with potential vendor partners and charter Members. And in the weeks since, Ellipsys has already started to grow as a group.
With the name in tow and the mission and identity set, Whitley and the Ellipsys team are now looking to carry their momentum into a busy second half of the year for the commercial integration space. The next few weeks will see the group continue to hit the road, including a stop at the first-ever collocated Commercial Integrator Expo and CEDIA Expo in Denver in September.
“While we had a heck of a time building the name and the brand to this point, the work is really just beginning,” says Whitley. “Now it’s about us going out into the market and making this brand mean something within our community. We want people to know and recognize Ellipsys as the destination for commercial integrators. The story we’ve built is a great one, and the right one. But we have to put our words into action to truly bring it all together. And that’s the plan moving forward.”