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Thinking about rebranding for good?

8 April 2022

Charity rebrands are often slated as a waste of funds. A common trope, and indeed misunderstanding, as does it really matter whether your website is blue, yellow, or pink polka dots, when children lie neglected and abused in orphanages, or running for their lives fleeing war?

I would argue, that for small charities, times of trouble are when knowing who you are, and being able to articulate that clearly to the world, matters most.

Hope and Homes for Children has been a much loved, small charity, with a band of loyal supporters who see us and the vulnerable children and families we support through thick and thin. We’re extremely lucky to have this kind of support and it’s what has enabled us to grow and plan to be the kind of ambitious charity who aims to see the elimination of orphanages globally, within our lifetime.

Indeed, in response to various factors (not limited to but including a global pandemic and all its resulting challenges), and driven by our ambition we decided to launch an updated strategy while at the same time launching our new brand.

Months in the planning, we couldn’t have foreseen that we’d be working round the clock on not only a strategy launch, a rebrand and a new website, but also responding to the incredible outpouring of support for our existing work in Ukraine and surrounding countries at the same time. But we were determined to push on through with sharing our new identity to the world. Here’s why:

Brand – more than just a pretty face

There are lots of dimensions to success when you’re talking about a brand – and here we mean not only the verbal and visual elements, but also the experience of all your organisation’s touchpoints. Does it help you reach your target audiences? Does it turn prospective and existing customers, supporters and advocates on, or off? Does it differentiate you from the competition? Does it make or cost you money? Does it engage staff and team members like volunteers or ambassadors?

Looking at these in the round, we started to consider whether our existing brand was working for us.

As with all good projects, we started by doing our research. In July 2021 we were lucky enough to work with a fantastic research agency Hall & Partners, who supported our cause pro bono, to deliver a bounded research project with key supporters.

What did we learn? That our people (inside and out) loved…our people! They loved the passion, commitment, expertise, credibility and energy everyone in the organisation was giving off. But they were less enthused by our communications – what they could see and experience of our brand. There was a clear opportunity here to channel more of our energy to enthuse new supporters.

Working with internal teams, we also heard what can only be described as ‘fatigue’. Some said the old brand’s look and messaging ‘didn’t quite speak to our audience’. The amount of work created trying to engineer sometimes complex information over and over was an obvious candidate for reduction. And worst of all, nobody including our own staff used our own website!

So in terms of resource, opportunity and efficiency costs, there were areas for improvement in what we had.

Initiating change

We knew that we could achieve our mission sooner – gain more support, garner more funds, cut through the noise so that people heard our message – if we could just realign the organisation, the truth at the heart of who we are, with our brand. A brand that had moved away from the vibrant, passionate, knowledgeable crew, to look and sound a bit more like a bank.

There was a gap between who we really are, and what our brand made us out to be. So we set about bridging the gap. With a core team from all parts of the organisation, working in short sprints with our wonderful pro bono partners, we…

  • Agreed on a common language to discover who we thought we were as an organisation, and how we might authentically articulate that to the world outside, so that we hooked up with the people who cared about what we did
  • Built a brand platform consisting of tonal values, brand story, key messaging, reasons to believe and elevator pitch
  • Designed a totally new look and feel
  • Thought deeply about changing our name and decided to park that
  • Spent hours showing colleagues what’s changed, why, and how what we’ve got now supports them better

Keeping creative control

Although we managed to keep costs as light as a feather, working with a wraparound set of partners, not all of the work was carried out entirely pro bono. Our creative partner Huddle worked ‘low bono’ at a huge charitable discount, in order to maintain the basis for that creative tension and ownership a client needs to have to deliver a successful project, rather than have the project done to them. Equally, we believe in paying people fairly, both our staff and suppliers. We worked with small agency, The Brand Language Studio on our messaging and are delighted at what that investment has done for us, in terms of bringing our personality to life through our language.

Being more challenger

As part of our rebrand, we also worked with Toby Brown and his team from strategic consultancy firm eatbigfish. Here, Toby explains why they chose to support Hope and Homes for Children to shape a more ‘challenger’ brand narrative:

“Hope and Homes for Children are that very rare kind of charity: one with concrete achievable objectives that it is making huge progress on, and against which even relatively small donations will make a clear and lasting difference.

“We wanted to help them not simply because their passion to challenge injustice for children deserved a louder platform, but because we saw in them a natural Challenger – an organisation with clarity around the change they want to bring to the world, and a restless desire to drive this progress at a scale that far outstrips what their budget would suggest is possible.

“Our role was to help their team better reflect this reality in their brand narrative – taking an often understandably complex narrative and finding common centres of gravity that would break through the noise of their audiences lives and do justice to the incredible work they do. A task made all the simpler due to the passion and dedication of their team.”

What next?

This is a global organisation. With staff and local partners in several countries, there’s lots to be done next, localising and harmonising our brand. And yes, the day to day doesn’t stop, especially during a conflict that directly affects our work in Ukraine, Moldova and Romania, and which we fear will precipitate a child protection crisis across Europe.

But having gone through a process that’s forced us to learn, articulate and agree (with ourselves and others) who we are, we are now in the best possible position to meet that and all the other crises vulnerable children in orphanages may face, head on.

Not everyone loves yellow! But Hope and Homes for Children’s new brand is a pretty good mirror of who we are as a team; deeply human, unapologetic about children’s rights, and alive with hope.

If you are interested in finding out more about branding join CharityComms for the next Brand Breakfast event which will be looking at developing a brand campaign or dive into CharityComms’ Brand 360 Guide.

Banner image: Towfiqu Barbhuiya on Unsplash

Julia Mazorodze

Head of global brand and communications, Hope and Homes for Children

Julia is Head of global brand and communications at Hope and Homes for Children. Previously she has had a career spanning digital, customer attraction and experience, marketing insight and evaluation, across both the commercial and charity worlds. She also led the seven-figure campaign ‘End the Awkward’ for a national disability equality charity in collaboration with Channel 4. Julia is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.