In my time working with charities on brand research through the Charity Awareness Monitor and the Charity Brand Evaluator, I have heard a whole host of anecdotes about the experiences different charities have had whilst developing and rolling out a rebrand. Time and time again, we work with charities who encounter very similar stumbling blocks during a rebrand, so I have highlighted some key areas to think about before starting which should help to make the journey as smooth as possible.
1. Be confident that a rebrand is in the best interest of the organisation
Before you do anything, I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to be absolutely sure that a rebrand is in the best interest of the organisation. Keep questioning what is driving the need for a rebrand and ensure that a rebrand is essential to keeping the charity moving in the right direction to meet its organisational goals. A rebrand is no easy feat to take on and, if not executed well, can have quite negative impacts on a charity’s existing and potential supporter bases as well as its engagement with beneficiaries and key stakeholders. In the worst-case scenario, it can actually lose a charity its supporters rather than be an aid to engaging new ones.
2. Understand the market you are operating in
With the charity sector growing year-on-year and the issues that the public are concerned about changing, it is important for charities to understand the market that they operate in. If your charity is beginning to struggle, it is essential to know what might be driving the challenges you are facing. Is it your brand, comms or fundraising techniques, or is it a wider trend happening to other charities operating in your area? Similarly, if you are hoping to expand and identify new supporter bases, it is crucial to understand what other charities and causes are on their radar and what brands are currently resonating well with them.
3. Make sure you have evidence to make the case for why you should rebrand
We all know that before a rebrand is signed off, you need to get a number of key decision makers on board. Take the time to understand their different points of view and gather evidence to show what the challenges are and how a rebrand may help you to overcome them. The key to this stage is to show them why it is urgent to act now and how rebrands have helped other charities to tackle similar issues. Talk to us about this, we have a lot of case studies!
4. Make sure that the process you are going to undertake is clear to key decision makers and emphasise the importance of each stage
After you have a sign-off, be clear what the process will look like and what level of input they will have. Ensure that everyone is clear about and onboard with the process and stress the importance of each stage or process. You don’t want to be in a situation later on down the line when all your hard work in developing a new brand or concept goes out of the window because the process is called into question, or is overridden on a whim. Be clear that every stage is evidence-based and have informed the next steps.
5. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your current brand before you start
Yes, I am a market researcher, so you can roll your eyes while I advise you to do some research into what the strengths and weaknesses of your current brand are. In all honesty, to keep your current supporters and stakeholders happy and onboard with the direction of your charity, is it essential to retain the strengths of your old brand. With the introduction of GDPR, it is even harder to get new regular donors onto your database, so don’t run the risk of upsetting your current supporter in the process of trying to appeal to new ones unless it is crucial to change for the longevity of the charity.
6. Ask your beneficiaries how they want to be represented
An important factor to consider is how your beneficiaries would like to be represented going forward. What do they want the public to know about their experiences, do they want to change the tone about how they are viewed and how will your new brand help to show the impact of your work?
7. Don’t be afraid to challenge the concept and pull the plug if the new isn’t better than the old
Work closely with your brand agency and ensure that your worries are raised early. Ensure that the route you are taking is sitting well with you and your team and don’t be afraid to pull the plug if you aren’t confident in committing to the final result. Have a working group inside the organisation who can guide the process, and give honest feedback. This is the charity’s brand, not the agency’s or the marketing director’s.
8. Take the time to plan how you are going to communicate the change effectively to your supporters, beneficiaries and key stakeholders
As I have mentioned earlier, getting supporters, volunteers and especially staff on board is critical to your brand success. Plan clear communication of your rebrand to your supporters and explain why you have done it. If you have changed your name, remember to tell them who you were before, and plan to keep the re-brand work going for at least a year after the launch.
9. Ensure that all teams in the charity are on boards and that they have the tools to help you roll out the brand throughout their own work
As you all well know, your brand is disseminated by team across your whole organisation, as well as volunteers and frontline staff. Provide them with a clear briefing of the rebrand and the right tools to use the brand effectively. This is where the warmest audiences will be coming into contact with your charity most frequently. If your staff don’t like it, how are donors meant to?
10. Don’t expect immediate results and be willing to commit to the pushing the brand
Growing your brand can be done in a range of different ways and there can be a lot of variables at play. Don’t expect immediate results and develop a longer-term brand engagement strategy. Few brands or re-brands reach peak effectiveness in under 3 years and probably close to 5 years.
11. Don’t underestimate how long you may need to use the legacy brand alongside a new name
If you go for a complete name change, remember that it will take years for people to make the switch. We still hear people call Scope the Spastic Society!
12. Think about how you are going to measure success and manage expectations
Finally, think about what success looks like and what will you be expected to report. Make sure that you track your key brand measures both pre and post the rebrand. We work with charities all the time to set and track KPIs. It is important to identify what is achievable with the plans and resources you have, as well as, how to communicate this to your trustees so you aren’t setting yourself up to fail.
If you would like to talk more more about any of the points raised in the blog please contact: email@example.com or call us on 02074268888
Great article. Brand has one
Great article. Brand has one true purpose: engaging with the people you need to inspire them to behave in ways that will help you achieve your corporate objectives, from challenging attitudes to changing minds and inspiring action (and often opening wallets). The simple litmus test is will we be successful because of our brand or in-spite of it. One caution I'd add is that often when research and business metrics are shouting that your brand is clearly failing, you've left it too late: losing momentum, influence, income and supporters, making it harder to turn things round and less likely that you'll reap the true rewards of a rebrand.
The trick is to recognise the the decline and act before the cliff edge...a harder 'sell' but a better decision and much better outcome. How? Knowing how your brand is working and how it could work harder: good research, good management information and good knowledge of your cause and how you're serving it.
With 20 years experience of rebranding charities and purpose led organisations (and a pile of effectiveness awards) I think this is a great set of 'must do' steps.