September 12, 2020
The term “rebrand” can evoke a plethora of emotions – excitement, fear, hope, anxiety. You’ve established your organization’s brand over the course of years. You’ve grown accustomed to it, attached to it, even if the design and the language aren’t suited to who you organization is. Now just might be the time for a rebrand.
The branding process can be a remarkably insightful, centering, and energizing time for your entire organization. With the right branding partner (whether it is an agency or an individual), you’ll be having strategic conversations not just about your communication, but about your culture. You will be discussing your past, present, and future, and how all of that shapes your external, visual presence.
Understanding the details and implications of this process as early as possible helps guide the overall branding discussion, regardless of whether an organization decides to rebrand, refresh, or leave it unchanged.
Some of you are preparing for a rebrand or refresh of an existing organization and some of you are here starting a completely new effort, regardless, the principles, ideas, examples, and exercises that we will cover will help support you in this process.
First, let’s talk about a rebrand versus a refresh. A rebrand is a complete shift in your organization’s internal and external branding. This includes everything from your mission to your core values to your logo. It is a reexamination of who you are, what you do, who you serve, and most importantly, why you do it.
A refresh is a facelift for your organization, again both internally and externally. With a refresh, you are updating and rejuvenating old brand elements that are no longer working for your organization and accomplishing your goals. This might be an outdated tagline, flimsy design work, or obsolete core values.
I am sometimes met with hesitation when I bring up the idea of a rebrand, or even a refresh.
Those who are reluctant to consider this path often cite three specific reasons.
- The organization’s visual identity and messaging is known to our audience and we are afraid that people will no longer know who we are if we change it.
- We fear that by rebranding our organization, we are losing touch with who we are.
- We fear that the rebrand or refresh will cost more money than it will bring in to the organization.
As long as you are staying true to your business or organization’s why, revisiting your brand can help with raising funds, recruiting employees and audiences, and growing sustainably.
“Brands are like living things — they are born and they can die, but as long as they are carefully nurtured they will flourish and have a place in the consumer’s life. In order to have longevity, it is essential for brands to evolve.” — James Boulton, Creative Director of Claessens International
So how will a rebrand or refresh help your effort?
It is hard to get attention in an oversaturated market where everyone is competing for the same audiences and same funding, as well as using the same platforms (social media, website, email, print). Your brand needs to be unique and professional to help you stand out amongst the noise.
Let’s talk numbers. The average person sees up to 5,000 branded communications a day! 5,000! A day! How are you supposed to stand out from the crowd with those numbers? By leveraging what is unique about your organization and pointing focus toward why you do what you do.
In 2014, Big Duck conducted an online survey with 350 nonprofit decision-makers to find out more about the effects of rebranding.
They found that rebranding has a direct and significant impact on these organizations.
- Increased revenue (from individual and corporate donors, as well as foundation and government grants)
- Increased audience participation
- Improved internal capacity (better board member recruitment, more efficiency in creating materials, confidence in staff to communicate, etc.)
- Increased media attention
Womxn Rank: Rebrand
At the 2018 New York City Make-a-Thon, we worked with a social enterprise, Womxn Rank, founded in 2017. They are actively building a platform for women to anonymously report on sexism, assault, rape, and harassment. They have started an app where women can create a community to ask for help, offer support, and keep each other informed about safety and inclusion, with an emphasis on college campuses and in the workplace.
As a new initiative, Womxn Rank was struggling with a cohesive narrative that captured the energy and power of their organization. A thougtful brand is what they needed. They would then have an identity to look to when making decisions moving forward, and this would be something that they could feel confident in.
When Kari Hodges, Womxn Rank Founder, met with the team of designers and brand strategists, she had an existing brand, but one that did not match the essence and spirit of the organization. Kari came to them with an open mind and excitement for an overhaul of their existing brand.
The team of designers created a strong visual presence, voice, and overarching brand for Womxn Rank that displayed Kari’s ‘why’ as the founder, but also the purpose and power of the entire movement. The team created a new brand guide addressing the internal elements and a design system including a logo, color palette, typography, patterns, and more.
Micah’s Caring Initiative: Brand Refresh
At the inaugural Make a Mark event in 2015, we accepted a local nonprofit, Micah’s Caring Initiative. It is the umbrella organization for five different outreach programs at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Jennie Hodge, former Director of Micah’s, applied for Make a Mark because, while the individual programs were recognizable, the community didn’t understand the connection between these programs and the support that they could receive from them. She was simply looking for a logo that could unify Micah’s and all of its programs.
When Jennie first met with her team of designers, she was not looking for a refresh of her existing programs. She was hesitant at first because the original logos had been created by volunteers sharing their time with the organization. However, her team convinced her of the impact of a refresh.
The team of designers worked with the existing visual presence and the spirit of the organization. They created logos for each of their programs to unify the brand, keeping in mind the core values of Micah’s Caring Initiative and connecting it all back to the tree of life and growth that meant so much to Jennie and the entire Micah’s Caring Initiative Team.
Jennie and her team took the new branding and ran with it, getting a significant grant from Adobe to continue their work.
It is inevitable that at some point during your organization’s lifetime, you will need to rethink your brand. If any of the following apply, you might want to plan for a rebrand or refresh in the near future.
Is a rebrand right for my organization?
I’d like for you to ask yourself these questions to see if it is time for a rebrand. If you answer yes to any of these, it might be time.
- Is your brand scattered or inconsistent?
- Has your organization or business separated from or merged with another organization or business?
- Has your audience changed?
- Have your services or offerings changed?
- Has your overall business model changed?
Is a refresh right for my organization?
I’d like for you to ask yourself these questions to see if it is time for a refresh. If you answer yes to any of these, it might be time.
- Are you told that your brand is confusing?
- Do you receive other negative feedback regarding your brand from your audience, staff, or volunteers?
- Are your organization’s materials (both internal like a brand guide, and external like a logo) outdated and conflicting with your mission?
- Do you ignore your existing brand guidelines and materials?
- Has it been multiple years since you have asked these questions?