Many charities have been considering rebrands lately, but what does this work look like in practice? As the director of comms and marketing at the international NGO formerly known as Send a Cow but recently rebranded to Ripple Effect I get asked this a lot.
Well firstly, the rebrand dominated my life for the best part of 18 months. And since we launched in June 2022, we have been inundated by other organisations contacting us to find out more about how we managed the process and what we learnt.
I’m proud of what we have achieved with Ripple Effect – thanks to the wonderful support of Eden Stanley and Johnson Banks – and hopefully the power of hindsight means the following nuggets of learning may help others embarking on the exciting journey of rebranding themselves:
Why rebrand now?
As a charity we were proud of our heritage as Send a Cow, but it became clear that the misnomer was restricting us in attracting new funding, supporters and staff. As our programmes have evolved with less of a focus on livestock placement – we realised the name was now misleading to our project participants. What we needed was something more reflective of the fact we provide a range of sustainable anti-poverty solutions that really work for the farming families we work alongside. The name Ripple Effect rightly places the farmers we work alongside at the heart of our brand, and as the hero of the story. During our brand research, we asked our project participants what they valued most about their work with us. They responded proudly of how they were able to share what they had learnt with their neighbours, and see that positive change spread. That is the ripple effect in action.
Do people like it?
There is no simple answer. A few months on from launch, my gut feeling is that it has been a success. Some people love it, some people ‘get it’, whilst others called us to tell us what a mistake we were making: that we were abandoning our heritage and what made us distinct.
Those comments were hard to hear, but we expected them. Names have meaning; they trigger a visceral reaction. Supporters contacted us because they were passionate about our cause, and their relationship with us. That bit was reassuring.
What I didn’t expect was how powerful these conversations would be. They gave us an opportunity to speak in-depth with supporters who really cared. In nearly all the cases, once we had these conversations, the supporter understood why we had changed. They may not have loved the new name, but they understood – and our relationship with them was stronger for it.
Tip: Do not underestimate the time needed for 121 supporter conversations, both from your supporter care team and management level.
What did it cost?
There were three main costs to the rebranding project:
- The upfront cost. This includes agency costs, legal fees, reprinting of materials, buying of URL etc (£55,000: funded from a variety of sources)
- Staff time. As the project manager, this took up most of my year. But it also involved the efforts of our field staff, our finance team, our Board and management, as well as many supporters along the way.
- Attrition. A rebrand will cause you to lose some supporters. Be it because they are unhappy or because they can no longer find you or understand that you are the same organisation. Your rebrand – hopefully – will bring you more support and income in the long-term.
Tip: You need to effectively model the impact the project will have on your income and how and when you will see the returns.
How long did it take?
We had been discussing whether to change our name for over a decade! In January 2021, we had clear evidence that the name Send a Cow was holding us back. As we developed our 2030 strategy – to reach a further 5 million people in rural Africa – we knew the rebrand was necessary. Whereas, during the previous decade it was a conversation based on perception and sentiment, when we did take the plunge it became an evidence-based and strategic decision.
The eventual timeline looked like this:
Jan – May 2021 Agree project objectives and agency tender
June – August 2021 Competitor analysis and agreeing which territory we should occupy.
Sept – Oct 2021 Name testing with warm and cold audiences, organisational-wide engagement, Board sign-off
Nov – Feb 22 Visual project including logo, palette, photography style
March – April 22 Private phase launch
June 2022 Public launch
Who was involved?
We had a core team internally, made up of 6 staff from across the organization (we have 250 staff in total) who led the process and worked closely with the agency.
We followed ‘representative participation’ with both internal and external stakeholders, where we empowered a sample from each team, or group, to provide insight and feedback. We needed to be clear from the outset that the new brand would not be decided by a vote, or by which name was deemed the most popular. Rather, by evidence backed up by the research and focus groups.
Ultimately, we spoke with over 100 external stakeholders, engaged every member of staff in some way, and each of our four Boards of Trustees.
And here is a question I think people should ask, but don’t.
How much does your organisation understand the psychology of change?
For us, at the start, the answer was not at all!
Whoever we launched the new brand to – be it a member of staff, a project participant, a major donor, monthly giver or a founding farmer – the reaction process was often similar:
- Gut reaction: “I love it”, “I don’t like it”, “Why are you doing this?”
- Reflection. This stage could take anywhere from 60 seconds to six months!
- Talking to themselves. This was often out loud, on phone calls or emails with me or our CEO. “I understand why you needed to change your name… And Ripple Effect is what you do… It makes sense!”
- Becoming an advocate: pledging their continued support and spreading the word.
Tip: The time for reflection needs to be protected so that every stakeholder is shielded from influence and has the tools to reach their own conclusion. That means you will need to develop a strong supporter journey with videos, emails, and testimony. You’ll also need to allow people to speak with you directly; and keep an eye in group discussions and social media to ensure those with the loudest voices aren’t speaking on behalf of others.
It has been hard work, but I have loved the journey and learnt a lot. We have a long way to go to make Ripple Effect a household name, but I’m excited for the next chapter.
Banner Image: Jonathan Cosens Photography on Unsplash