When Textivia poured $150,000 and months of work into its rebranding, it had no way of knowing its new moniker shared a name with an FBI code name for a Russian hacker botnet. What were the odds?
On December 18, David Christopher heard that a notification from Google had been sent to its display partners with the heading “Goodbye 3ve.” It was a review of the FBI’s investigation into a Russian hacker botnet that had been recently released.
Over a decade earlier, David Christopher and Chris Baumgarden created Textivia as a texting app for trivia questions. Since then, the company evolved into a digital marketing agency and brought on Neal Maier as a third partner.
As it continued to grow into a full-service creative agency, its owners realized it had outgrown its original moniker. They had formulated a “Solve+Move+Evolve” framework for tackling marketing challenges that they liked enough to put together a trademark application. It also led to them settling on 3VE as the rebranding of the agency, as the “common denominator of Solve+Move+Evolve,” Maier explained.
Moments after opening that fateful email, the partners knew the planned rebranding was unworkable.
“We are all branding, marketing and business aficionados. As soon as we saw who the email was from [Google] and then looked at the search results, there was no argument or discussion,” Maier told Adweek. “We all knew. Seeing ‘internet fraud’ associated with our company name, when in fact we offer internet marketing services, was not going to work. With some of the sites being .gov and some being from Google, there would be too much of a reputation uphill battle.”
He noted that before November there were a couple of “obscure results for 3VE that had to do with a European watch or some similar unrelated reference,” but after the news of the FBI operation broke, “the search results went from empty to internet crime ring-laden virtually overnight.”
The process for the planned transformation, which Maier described as more than a rebranding but a “cultural shift” and “a fresh start,” began in April, following discussions that started in the summer of 2017. After negotiating to purchase 3ve.com from the domain’s original owner, they were “endlessly” working on a new logo, style and website.
“We had finished only days before we got the email selecting the website design,” Maier said.
The rebranding was initially planned for November 3, but “we had to push it to January 3 to get it just right,” Maier said. “We are so grateful that the discovery wasn’t made after we launched the brand. If that had happened, we would have reverted right back to Textivia, unfortunately, while we regrouped.”
Following the revelation, they launched theagencywithoutaname.com to crowdsource a new name. There’s no mention of 3VE whatsoever.
“In all of this turmoil, we realize that a name … isn’t a brand,” Maier said. “In fact, it’s just … a name.”