Digital Chaos is an American esports organisation that was founded in 2015. But when it appointed Greg Laird as its new CEO things began to change, and fast – morphing from a popular Dota 2 team to a brand that places a huge amount of importance on transcending its image as merely being an esports organisation.
There’s a long-term vision attached to what’s now known as Chaos Esports Club, and in Laird’s eyes, it required change.
With rebranding comes a series of risks: the new brand may not be as appealing and appropriate as the last, it can alienate an existing audience, there’s a cost involved, among other potential negatives. It’s not as simple as just saying “yeah, let’s change the organisation’s identity, why not?”, that’s for sure. A lot needs to be taken into consideration, and Laird was well aware of this when he pulled the trigger. He still felt as if it was a necessary step in achieving everything he had in mind.
“We did it slow enough where people were still aware of what the brand was and, to be honest, we’ve had pretty overwhelmingly positive feedback around the rebrand. The other thing I’d say is it that it’s not completely done yet, we will have a proper logo or crest for the pro teams on the competitive side of the brand [opposed to the more lifestyle oriented clothing branding],” Laird told Esports Insider.
“I think you run into a brand issue if you don’t have something for your fans to get behind – stuff like chanting, themes, and memes”
“I think you run into a brand issue if you don’t have something for your fans to get behind – stuff like chanting, themes, and memes – it’s a lot easier when you have some kind of logo for your pro teams as well,” he continued. “It’ll be the same brand and always follow the same feel/color set, but it’ll give us more flexibility in the future to have a degree of separation between potential product lines like competitive jerseys vs t-shirts or outerwear.”
Under previous management, the name “Digital Chaos” was best associated with Dota 2, and rightfully so: it only expanded into other titles in November 2017. This was recognised by Laird as soon as he took on the role, and as he told us, he wants fans to have a deeper connection to the brand and those who represent it.
“Before the fans of Digital Chaos were mostly just fans from The International run, you know? Don’t get me wrong, I was a huge fan of that team, but now we’re trying to create fans of our club”
“We’re just now properly trying to really create fans of the brand. Before the fans of Digital Chaos were mostly just fans from The International run, you know? Don’t get me wrong, I was a huge fan of that team, but now we’re trying to create fans of our club,” said Laird.
“We’re trying to do a lot more – in the past, Digital Chaos had never done media or video content – so we’re really starting from scratch in a lot of ways, but we also had this big head start because Digital Chaos was a brand people knew from Dota 2.”
Laird has made it clear that new-age esports organisations such as 100 Thieves and FaZe Clan are operating on a model in which he hopes to adapt with Chaos E.C.: introducing clothing that can be worn out of the context of supporting a team, creating engaging content that establishes connections with players, and functioning outside of the constraints of a standard esports brand.
It’s not strange for an organisation to partner with an apparel company to create branded clothing – just look at the recent partnership between compLexity Gaming and H4X. Working together, limited edition compLexity-branded jackets were created alongside joggers and performance t-shirts. For Chaos’ merchandise, however, it was important for those behind-the-scenes to take a DIY approach to ensure the products turn out at a level they’d be satisfied with – they wouldn’t settle for anything less than perfect.
“We had such an emphasis on quality and we weren’t willing to say “It’s fine, we’ll make a sacrifice” on the cut, the material, especially the screen-printing. So for us, it made way more sense to do it ourselves – when you do things yourself it’s a lot more complicated but you’re also more strictly managing the confines of what it can be,” Laird explained.
Don’t mistake Chaos’ emphasis on merchandise as it being prioritised over the foundation of the organisation: competition. Being at the top of the titles it competes in – PUBG, Fortnite, CS:GO, and Rainbow Six Siege, currently – is still the main goal. We may see a Rocket League team representing Chaos E.C. in the future, as well as a triumphant return to the brand’s bread and butter: Dota 2, so it’s clear that expansion in esports is a prime concern.
So, in June of this year, Digital Chaos died and was reborn as Chaos E.C. like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
From here on out – with Laird steering the ship – a new-age esports organisation, which aims to be more than simply yet another name that competes in video games, has entered the industry.
At ESI London in September, one of the 19 sessions at the 3-day event, will focus on ‘Building a brand in esports’. Find out more here.