rTraction Becomes Ellipsis Digital and Engine SevenFour


A year ago we launched our two brands: Ellipsis Digital and Engine SevenFour. We solved a challenge in branding. We had a team that could do a wide range of services from marketing, content management solutions and e-commerce to full back-end integrated systems. 

We were finding that the mix of “content marketing solutions” and “back-end integration” was confusing for both our prospective clients and prospective hires - those that wanted to work in back-end object-oriented PHP applications weren’t always excited about awesome branding and messaging; similarly those with a passion for perfect messaging and the importance of branding are also not excited by race conditions or whether or not code should be done in the model or the view.

Our solution was, in hindsight, the right one to make. People who experience the teams at Ellipsis Digital or Engine SevenFour have a greater clarity for the tangible value we provide rather than a mixed smorgasbord of service offerings.

There were downsides, though, as we lost the messaging of what it means to be ‘rTraction’. Many people in the community are still confused by this switch and refer to us by our old brand. As a corporation, we are still rTraction Canada, Inc. which is the certified B Corp entity. 

We have since seen several other organizations struggle with the same core challenge - most famously Google changing its corporate structure to Alphabet. Even some of our clients have struggled with similar brand distinctions, and we have helped them to work through this strategically as we also try to figure it out.

One of the things we do not want to lose is what the meaning of ‘rTraction’ is - our next opportunity is to understand that Ellipsis Digital and Engine SevenFour are divisions of rTraction - and that rTraction as a whole adds value to our clients, as well. The rTraction brand is our collective brand - our purpose, values and vision that is the common ground for both of our operational teams. 

As brand stewards, we have to constantly reflect on our brand and what it means to our clients, our people and our community. While we started a journey a year ago that put us on the right path, it’s important to recognize the journey is not done. As we raise the profile of our B Corp certification, we must once again talk about the value of the brand of rTraction and what it means to the community. Thanks for being along the journey with us!

- David Billson, President and CEO of rTraction Canada, Inc.


“The only thing that is constant is change.” - Heraclitus

The rTraction brand was not supposed to live long. We inherited it from vTraction, one of our founding partners. It was a temporary company name put in place to give life to our startup. We started in 2001, after the dot-com bust, as tech companies were crumbling. At the time, survival was higher on our priority list. We figured we could always rebrand, right?

As you know, we survived and flourished. We cultivated a nonsense word like “rTraction” into its own entity: an organization known for excellent web design and development, with a strong community focus and a great corporate culture.

We suffered through Google asking our clients and friends “did you mean retraction?” when they googled our company name. So in 2005 we decided to change it, along with some other aspects of our brand. We researched name ideas and had a few finalists.

Around the same time, I went to a meeting for a collaborative project with several community stakeholders. During the meeting, someone mentioned that rTraction was doing the web design for the project. Several other people at the table (who did not know I worked for rTraction) said, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of them—they sound great!” 

As anyone who’s part of a startup knows, brand/name recognition is one of the battles we fight. We felt our brand had finally cracked into the business consciousness of our local business leaders, so we decided to leave the name alone.

Even Google started to take notice, and thoughtfully updated its suggestion to “did you mean attraction?” when you googled rTraction.

Fast forward 10 years. The kind of web agency that could succeed in 2005 is long gone. Our rTraction brand has always been a technically strong one, able to handle the “heavy lifting” projects of custom web software and complex content management systems (CMS). We expanded to include an amazing team of designers, content specialists and marketers who could help our clients succeed using the new tools that we built for them.

We also grew in our capacity to develop complex speciality web applications, building business applications for organizations from small local companies to large multinational corporations.

The community still sees us as “a great website company,” which is true, but it’s not the whole story. We have a marketing and communications side, and a complex web application development unit. We tried for a few years to figure out how to cross market and cross leverage these skill sets. Ultimately, we found that the two units, while complimentary, were completely different. While our web and marketing team diversified its toolsets and strategies to include web, social media, and advertising, the development team was specializing in particular software tools and architectures to leverage scalable applications that could serve a multitude of customers.

Ultimately, we failed to transform rTraction into a single brand that encompassed these two skill sets, and weren’t able to market our capabilities to two diverse sets of customers who were looking for fundamentally different service offerings.

The struggle was that while our two teams share a common mission, purpose and values, the ways they go about achieving those results are completely different. The solution soon became obvious: Two different divisions.

Our corporate company, rTraction, will continue to exist as the entity that embraces the common purpose, vision, mission and values that hold our team together. However, our two new divisions— Ellipsis Digital and Engine SevenFour—will deliver these two unique skill sets so that we can further tailor our services to meet the needs of our clients.

Ellipsis Digital will serve our marketing, web and content creation clients, and will be the brand the majority of our clients use. The new name reflects the common thread that we heard in our customer surveys, which was that our team is amazing at seeing the “unspoken” intent or making the connection between the words and the meaning—understanding the “...” that is the ellipsis. It also hints at our user-focused creative approach, where we consider the purpose—the essence—of what we are creating for our clients.

Engine SevenFour is our application development unit, which specializes in Laravel and custom PHP application development. The “SevenFour” is a nod to our incorporation date of July 4. Our move into the London Roundhouseinfluenced the “Engine,” with the combined brand name Engine SevenFourevoking an image of a powerful machine.

The new names reflect our evolution over the last few years. Ellipsis Digital adds more value to the digital suite of services beyond website development, addressing issues of engagement, content, marketing and analytics, and continuing our maturation to a full-service digital agency.

Engine SevenFour offers custom application development far more sophisticated than those offered by any “traditional” web agency.

We’ve worked hard to figure out what this next chapter should look like, from our branding to our team structure, and we’re proud of the results. We expect that these changes will better align our clients and our staff with the range of products and services that we have to offer. 

We are excited to release our new brands and divisions into the world and watch them create positive change. And we look forward to hearing what you think!