Published: 6 November 2014

When’s the right time to rebrand or refresh?

In Branding Inside Out Max du Bois suggested you’ll know when it’s time to refresh your charity’s brand “when you’re achieving your goals in spite of your brand and not because of it. Or when you’re spending time, effort and money overcoming its shortcomings rather than reaping the benefits of your brand’s strengths.”

Early signs of trouble for your brand can include hearing the same communication issues over and over again, struggling to explain with clarity how a partnership could best work, or trying to make sense of a proliferation of sub-brands and visual identity interpretations.

Be wary of introducing the word ‘rebrand’ too early as disaster could strike. Trustees will see pound coins flying out the door and start digging in their heels citing branding disasters, and staff might start thinking they’re working for a broken organisation.

Convincing colleagues to look at the brand can be difficult when donations are rolling in and you seem to be making significant impact, but the time to start making the case is when you’re at your most successful.

Tell your story

A short history of the brand with the charity’s key achievements, together with its vision, is a good beginning. This story will continually evolve as the work progresses. It needs to include a good understanding of why your brand needs to change. This builds a strong foundation of early clarity about the need to do it, and when the going gets tough, it helps spur on the tired and quiet the cynics. The facts should span from what parts of the brand no longer work well, to the competitive market and wider economic and communications landscape.

The brand story is a great opportunity to start a dialogue with colleagues and get across that branding is an ongoing programme of change. The brand is usually an untapped asset which can help everyone achieve their goals – but this message can take time to get across.

It should also include deep knowledge of the internal and external audiences. Who are they? And what do they think about the charity (including all the great things they say about you)? Someone once told me the amount of market research a charity has is directly proportionate to the amount of mess they’re in. Often charities have plenty of research, but no one has actually pulled it together and analysed it properly.

As the story evolves, what you’re doing can be included, as well as the important when and how for the planned changes. Telling this engaging story will start to move branding into becoming a central discipline.

This is the best opportunity any brand manager could ask for to get brand thinking embedded into the organisation’s culture, and in doing so create a common understanding and excitement of what the charity is trying to achieve. Be prepared to tell this story again and again and again until the need for change is understood and wanted.

Top tips

  1. Base your decision on a firm foundation of external and internal research and insight – really understand what the problems are
  2. Know who your audiences are and prioritise them
  3. Get support, time and budget commitment from the top. Bring in any extra help needed
  4. Create communications plans for internal and external audiences
  5. Set up your measurements
  6. Get a full list of all things branded, agree business-as-usual budget and the extra resources needed
  7. Get HR and internal communications involved, linking to any employee engagement work they may be doing
  8. Create your brand champion and brand advocate groups
  9. Be resilient, brave and look for successes

Serena wrote this article after attending our Rebrand or refresh Brand Breakfast.



Serena Donne, brand consultant, Donne and Co

Serena has worked with some of the top brands, marketeers and agencies for the last 20 years. She specialises in brand strategy, development, management and measurement for complex organisations and charities. She is also a founder of CharityComms' successful Brand Breakfasts.