Corporate Rebranding: The Nitro 121 Case study

February 19, 2020
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One question that I have been asked several times since the rebranding of 141worldwide to Nitro 121 slightly over a year ago has been ‘why’? I tried to answer this in a session with the Brief Faculty, a WhatsApp learning group comprising marketing communications practitioners, and I thought to share it now with a larger audience.   

There are several reasons for a brand or corporate entity to consider relaunch. For us at Nitro 121, it was three main reasons:

1. An opportunity to renew and re-energize the team; so there is the element of internal rebranding.

2. Signal a new beginning and disrupt the industry and marketplace

3. Evolve from our past without discounting it.

The initial catalyst was that we have chosen to play as an independent agency. This means we will build our own independent network with other partners as opposed to ‘affiliations’. The previous name was linked to an affiliation, so we decided to create a new name and identity whilst acknowledging our strong history. 

Having taken that decision, we asked ourselves what we wanted to be known for.

We started with the end in mind and set out a new vision and mission. 

The new vision requires us to see ourselves as not just an ‘ad agency’ but a ‘brand building company that provides brand strategy and marketing communication solutions across West Africa’.  This means we will be a leading player in West Africa. The new name and identity therefore needed to reflect this. 

The relaunch process kicked off a year before the formal public unveiling.

Even before it was announced to staff, we had begun driving internal rebranding to what we wanted to become. Internal rebranding is critical for success of Corporate rebranding. 

Because rebranding is not just about name change. 

It is about building a stronger and more positive perception internally and externally. 

We began a name search by asking the leadership team to come up with name options. 

After evaluating many options, we settled for ‘Nitro 121’.

‘121’ was selected because it speaks to what we seek to do: have stronger connections with clients, brands, the marketplace and each other within the company. 

We settled for Nitro because it speaks about energy, speed and high performance which we will bring to the marketplace. 

Nitro name was inspired by: Nitromethane, the simplest organic nitro compound; used to fuel high-performance internal-combustion engines. Nitro engine: engine powered with a fuel with nitromethane and methanol. These denote energy, high-performance, speed, vibrancy. Attributes that are part of the company brand identity. 

121 (pronounced, ‘one to one’): Connecting. Engaging. Moving from insights to communication that resonates with target market, connecting brands with consumers, people with people, working seamlessly within teams and with all stakeholders.

Having agreed name, next step was to do a name check and register the name with the Corporate Affairs Commission.

Once we got confirmation that the name was available, we began logo design and development of elements of the brand identity. The logo had to reflect the brand identity.

The logo speaks of unending mobility. 

The blue speaks to creativity unleashed. Blue sky thinking. Strategic. Unfettered. The Yellow-Orange: vibrancy, verve.

The stylish N of Nitro: Movement. Dynamism. Ever evolving. Adaptable. The ‘N’ can also be read as ‘1-2-1’. The circles around the N: motion, velocity. 

We then trademarked the name and logo. 

Thereafter we decided to have a major relaunch event rather than just ‘sneak’ into the market. Weeks before reveal we sent out letters to clients and other stakeholders hinting at the change. We set up a core project team that worked with other members of staff to drive execution of the relaunch. The team was led by 2 director-level staff to signal the importance. The plan was tweaked as we went along. We were open to fresh ideas. 

We chose to signal significant change. 

The elements of our new brand identity are: connecting, unfettered, enterprising, high performing and youthful. Everything about the relaunch event and what we do had/has reflected these. We ran teasers online and revealed online, and produced a jingle specific for the new brand. Race day (launch event) was a full house.

We chose Formula One as a metaphor. We see ourselves as a pit-stop for creative brand building and marketing communication solutions. Every brand that ‘drives through’ our pit stop revs to higher performance. 

Every element of a brand relaunch should be mutually reinforcing. That’s what we have done and continue to drive.  Feedback so far has been generally positive. The challenge is to live up to the brand promise. 

Question time: 

Q: During the course of your re-brand, why was it important for you to evolve from your past without discounting it, and what reactive effect(s) has that had or will it have over the goal of the agency?

A: The past was ok, but we needed to build on it and elevate performance.

141worldwide reputation was strong so we choose to leverage it. Our current communication is: ‘Nitro121 (formerly 141worldwide). My LinkedIn account reflects this.  We’ve mandated all staff to do same so that people can see the link. 

Q: If you can share, what specific system is in place to guarantee the team continues to deliver on the Nitro 121 expectation?

A: We have revised our performance appraisals to reflect the new expectations. 

Q: Thanks for the insights. What was your greatest fear during this process and how did you tackle it?

A: Greatest fear: living to the brand promise. Tackling it: keep challenging ourselves to live up to it. Constant reminders. Rewarding those who live up to it. Calling out those who don’t.

Q: Quite insightful, thank you very much. Did the rebranding process impact on staff turnover? How did it and what measures were taken to manage it?

A: Not negatively. On the contrary, it has energized staff and gotten more interested in working with us. 

Q: Thank you very much for your session. I was low-key wondering why there was a name change but now I understand. In your previous name, what does 141 mean?

I would also like to know why you chose a training ’emotional intelligence’ for your staff. 

Lastly, beyond the ‘revision of performance appraisal’, what other internal re-branding process did you do?

A: 141: one for one. 121: one to one. EI: critical to build relationships. To drive self-awareness and awareness of others and build EQ (emotional quotient), distinct from IQ. Drive better understanding of one another and build team harmony for stronger performance. Emotions drive people, people drive performance. 

Internal rebranding: town halls; offsite retreat with external facilitator; open and honest conversations; reward and consequence. #nitro121 #rebranding #brands #marketing


  1. Tori - February 20, 2020

    Looking back can you say the gains accruing from the re-branding was worth the resources invested in it?

    • Lampe - February 20, 2020

      Thank you for your question. Straight answer: yes and benefits are on-going and progressive. The rebranding re-energized the team and internal culture and is having positive impact on performance, top- and bottom-line.

  2. Tori - February 20, 2020

    Looking back can you say the gains accruing from the re-branding was worth the resources invested in it?

  3. Tori - February 20, 2020

    Looking back can you say the gains accruing from the re-branding was worth the resources invested in it?

  4. Tori - February 20, 2020

    Looking back can you say the gains accruing from the re-branding was worth the resources invested in it?

  5. Tori - February 20, 2020

    Looking back can you say the gains accruing from the re-branding was worth the resources invested in it?


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