Most sectors these days are in a continual state of flux as they seek to reinvent and reposition themselves to become more relevant. This is when many turn to their brand to adjust their position, claim new territory and re-energize their tone and message.
There is one sector in particular that is frequently seen adjusting its position and, as a consequence, rebranding, in a bid to reach beyond its conventional boundaries. This is the third sector, and it often makes one crucial yet common mistake that causes the entire rebranding exercise to either lack impact or fail completely.
This occurs when charities embark on rebranding without first asking themselves a few searching questions, namely, what the key reason is for undertaking a rebrand.
This may sound simplistic yet it is the single most important element to the rebrand that will give the charity a far clearer means to measure the outcome. It will also cut through the potential confusion when briefing agencies and allow all parties involved to have a clearer and more defined set of goals.
If the current brand state along with the projected future brand state are not properly identified at the outset, there is a risk of weakening the business case to stakeholders for investment in the brand in the first place.
Proof that a rebrand has been successful occurs when it reaches out and inspires people to act, to give money, to volunteer, to protest, to use the charity’s services and to change attitudes.
Merely rebranding is not a guarantee of success on its own. We have seen charities adopt an entirely new brand identity and then slowly disappear into oblivion.
There are a number of quite specific ingredients to a successful rebrand and they all start with defining the strategic reason for which a charity decides to undergo the process.
This reason is best summarized as any one of six “rebrand states” that indicate a need for a change, and a charity may well straddle more than one of these areas. In fact, they often do. These are to:
Realize a new opportunity This is where there is a vision to move into a different area or market. Realizing a new opportunity is about using brand to step forward and truly make a difference when it’s fundamentally shifting its focus, to become more relevant, to deepen relationships with all stakeholders and build new ones. This is probably one of the most energizing reasons for deciding to rebrand.
Deepen and assert This is where things are going well but there are more people to engage. Unlike rebranding to realize a new opportunity, deepening and asserting is a less common reason behind a rebrand, and the subtle difference is key. In this instance the role of the rebrand has to focus on diving more deeply into what the charity currently offers rather than widening outwards.
Break out This is where the brand may have become old, fussy and stagnant. In many such instances engagement may still be good, however there is a need to revitalize the charity’s position and its raison d’etre, to redefine its relevance. This is also an ideal opportunity to use brand to lead in your area, literally breaking away from the crowd and creating standout.
Consolidate This is where the portfolio of sub-brands has created incoherence and confusion, and a strong, flexible brand architecture is required. As charities respond to the current economic climate by forming new allegiances and developing innovative products, services and initiatives, they frequently stumble at a key hurdle: how to communicate the strength of the collective power of their portfolios. This is where we often see poor links and brands that blot out individual strengths.
Defend This is where the sub-sector is volatile and there is a need to build on the brand to defend against the negative effects of the external factors of shifting landscapes (such as funding cuts and new policies) and ensures it doesn’t get left behind.
Future-proof This is where income is going down, volunteers are decreasing and there is a need to future-proof the brand, reverse decline and propel the organization forward. There is a subtle difference here between rebranding to defend, which focuses on existing strengths in response to external factors, and rebranding to future-proof, which also responds to internal factors and is often a more visionary approach.
Asking what a brand can do for a charity requires a subtle but powerful shift in approach to defining the strategy behind a brand change. It places the brand more firmly in the centre of the charity’s communications platform and as a consequence empowers it to shout about what the charity is really here to achieve.
Ultimately, there is no exact formula or tick list that governs a good or bad rebrand. It is a complex, often messy, range of things. Defining the reason for rebranding and meshing this with the simple philosophy that is invaluable to creating successful rebrands: uncover what really counts and say this in a way that really matters, will make the difference between rebranding with impact or rebranding for the sake of it.
A rebrand needs to deliver a firm stance for something, it needs to cause a reaction, get past the obvious, and represent the authentic kernel of what the charity is about. Only then will people rally to your cause, give you the funds you need and make you the change-maker you were conceived to be.