With any new project, including when it comes to branding, or indeed rebranding, there will be inevitable problems that arise along the way. But these can become joyous opportunities, advancing your charity and your own knowledge and skills along the way.
In every brand project people should ask questions and challenge why you’re doing it. It’s often part of their job! Pre-empting these challenges and preparing good responses is the key to persuading people of the project’s value. And is a vital part of the brand process. When answered well and when people are included as part of making the case for a brand, it turns sceptics and nay-sayers into advocates and ambassadors. Here are a few of the challenges we’ve encountered over the years.
Why are we doing this?
There’s lots of good stuff on this in the opening chapter of Brand 360. In short, brand is there to help us deliver organisational strategy and goals. It does this by reaching out to the audiences we need and inspiring them to act in ways that help us. Are you being successful because of your brand or in spite of it? And precisely where, how and what degree of change do we need? Build a cast-iron business case of the issues and opportunities and be realistic about the risks, both in doing something and doing nothing.
What if people don’t recognise us
This is a legitimate concern, as there are stories of brand launches where people have thought it’s a new or different charity. How much of a risk this is will depend on the scale of change – evolution or revolution? Is there something that carries the old brand to the new, such as the existing name, or logo evolution?
A brand refresh is a great opportunity to engage people. To explain why you’re changing, what you stand for and why you need support. For wholesale change consider a transition strategy, such as carrying the line “formerly known as” so people don’t get lost in translation.
We really shouldn’t change anything
If the existing brand is engaging all audiences across all your activities and helping you achieve your goals, now and in the foreseeable future, then they’re right.
It’s often a matter of degrees of change and where to apply that change. Is it the core brand positioning? The audience messaging? The visual system? Or the logo? Or even the name?
Look at each department, use their experience (and research if you can), and see how brand is performing for their audiences and where it can be improved.
Often the root concern is losing the hard-fought recognition that the charity has built up. Evolution rarely threatens this and if the change is more radical (name), a good engagement plan will help negate this.
Brand’s just for comms and marketing, not the rest of us
This is a double-edged sword. It can help you get a project off the ground, ‘flying below the radar’, but unless you work with all departments to get them on board it will ultimately fail.
A good brand project will help convert the sceptics and create advocates, by framing how it will specifically help with organisational success and its value to their work.
Having examples of effective projects on hand always helps and CharityComms case studies are a great starting point.
Brand is a straightjacket
Whilst the Brand Police once ruled and consistency was king, branding should allow creativity within set parameters. Now coherence rules!
Your visual identity system should have the right parts to be able to tell your story and to flex in tone, for different audiences and purposes. Whilst your brand positioning strategy, or brand proposition, should be a springboard for creativity and innovation.
Whilst developing the brand, apply it to examples that demonstrate its breadth. Choose the difficult pieces, not the obvious ones.
Brand doesn’t work for fundraising
Forget the old silo mentality. If you’re brand doesn’t work for fundraising, then it simply isn’t working. Branding is all about moving people to action after all.
When embarking on a brand project, be aware of how the brand will need to help you raise money. What are your main income channels? Public sector contracts, philanthropy and major gifts, legacies, corporate partnerships, individual giving, direct mail, appeals and campaigns, community events? Whatever the answer, consider how the brand will work in those areas. During the brand development, not as an afterthought.
Branding isn’t worth the investment
Every brand project should have a case for investment. Will your charity be successful because of the current brand or in spite of it? A good brand focuses effort and increases the impact of time and money invested in most areas, from fundraising to recruitment. Poor brands cost money to prop up ailing reputations and lose opportunities. Understand how brand delivers your goals and ambitions, and how it’s performing as the base for your case for investment. Investing in brand is investing in the success of the charity.
Brand is a vanity project
Again, this is where understanding the business case for investment and how the work you are proposing will specifically help the charity comes into play. Frame brand in terms of ‘reputation’ and explain how brand is a tool for delivering the strategy.
Many people still associated the word ‘brand’ with logos and visual identity design, so work hard to explain that brand is much bigger, and goes much deeper, than just the service level.
Charity brands are becoming woke
It is a fact that equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) have become essential to charity branding. Both on the brand on the inside through fair processes and procedures, and the brand on the outside through inclusive marketing.
But evolving a brand due to EDI can also lead to accusations of being ‘woke’. Woke means being conscious of racial discrimination in society and other forms of oppression and injustice.
In these instances, authenticity and transparency are crucial. Explain why you are making changes from the perspective of the people they impact.
For example, a disability charity may choose to stop using the terms “them” and “they”, other than if they are people’s preferred pronouns, as the language might feel distancing and can create a feeling of “us” and “them”.
Won’t a campaign do?
Whether or not a campaign will do, will depend on the health of the brand. Is it broken and in need of a resuscitation? Or can it be resurrected or refreshed, ready to take to market?
It will also depend upon your objectives. Are you looking to build awareness and understanding within specific audience segments? As few of us have the budgets to build sweeping public awareness. Are you looking to move people to a specific action such as campaigning or donating? Agreeing your audiences, objectives and call to action is critical.
A campaign is a great manifestation of a brand and often follows. But don’t forget brand runs much deeper. It should run through everything you do, inside and out. It is much more than just how you express yourselves through marketing communications.
I just don’t like it
This is where understanding what your audiences need and how brand delivers this is essential. Be clear on the points of engagement and how they work. Have research to demonstrate this. Whenever presenting brand messaging work or visual work, always frame it in the business objective, the audiences’ perspectives and how this fits with those first. It’s not what we like but what inspires our audiences that counts.
Remind people that the brand positioning strategy should inform and inspire the brand expression. What’s important is whether the look and feel projects the right positioning and personality.
- Uniting brand strategy and creativity
- The role of brand thinking in building marketing strategies
- Uniting audiences with a refreshed strategy and brand
- Realities of a rebrand
This article is part of the CharityComms resource ‘Brand 360 – A charity best practice guide’.
Banner Image: Olav Ahrens Røtne on Unsplash