3 Great Tools to Bring Clarity to Your (Re)Branding Project
May 18, 2022 | Beth Singer, Principal
We’ve noticed, in the last year or so, that several of the nonprofits we follow have rebranded. The pandemic has caused many mission-driven organizations to re-evaluate their mission, reconsider their strategic plan, and then engage donors and advocates from this new position. No doubt, change is always in the works in the nonprofit world, but the pandemic forced many organizations to adjust more than usual; to pivot and regroup. In the face of sweeping changes, rebranding can be a useful tool to re-affirm the vitality of the mission, explain current operations and activities, and re-invigorate supporters, both old and new.
For branding and rebranding projects, we recommend that our clients form a Branding Committee of no more than 10 people, made up of a variety of constituents — board members, senior and junior staff, members at-large, donors, and colleagues. Choose people that have different understandings and relationships with your (new) organization and whose influence with their peer group is notable. As the process unfolds, they will become ambassadors for the new brand as they share the progress with their contemporaries. A mix of opinions will ensure that many voices are included. This group should be given ultimate decision-making authority and will be responsible for reporting to your Board of Directors.
Soul Searching as a Launch Pad
From day one, we like to collaborate with our clients to get input from a good cross section of stakeholders to understand goals, strategies, and perceptions so that we can turn them into communications that make sense. In many cases, we employ a bit of “institutional psychology” to probe the hearts and minds that shape the organization.
We always start by sending out an “identity questionnaire” to a variety of institutional stakeholders. We quantify their answers — along with qualitative interviews and industry research— to inform the messaging to the public. A questionnaire like this can also show any inconsistencies in stakeholders’ and board members’ readings of the organization, and it can reveal negative perceptions or challenges that might be addressed through branding.
Here is a sampling of important questions we ask. For more, you can download a complete questionnaire here.
• What specific business goals does your organization have that would be bolstered by rebranding?
• Are any of these measurable? If so, please explain how.
• What might be some of the negative perceptions of your organization or its work that rebranding could dispel?
• What might your target audience get confused about when they think of your organization?
• What are the 3-4 key messages you feel it most important for your audiences to know about your organization?
Along with the questionnaire, we send a “word exercise” that will help us to understand the desired feelings to associate with the new brand. We ask participants to react to adjectives that could define the brand, such as the ones shown below. You can find an example of a more extensive word exercise here.
How to Evaluate the Options Objectively
Once we’ve gathered the qualitative and quantitative information, and translated what we’ve learned into options for the new brand, we use an evaluation tool that helps those responsible for making decisions zero in on the best solutions.
When considering a new name, tagline, or logo for an organization, it is important to distinguish between objective and subjective responses. Objective comments consider the audience point-of-view and desired outcomes. Subjective comments, along the lines of “I like it” or “that color bugs me” are not particularly useful in the evaluation process because they don’t allow the options to be judged strategically.
We use a methodology to objectively evaluate names, taglines, and/or logos using seven categories with a scale of 1-5 for each. This helps clients weigh the pros and cons of each option and determine which ones will serve their constituents best. We ask the Branding Committee to set aside personal preferences and encourage them to put themselves in the place of an individual in the target audience — and then consider the appeal of the name, tagline, and/or logo.
Below are a few of the criteria in the evaluation methodology. You can see a full evaluation form here.
Clarity — How clear or understandable are the name, tagline, and/or logo? Will there be any misunderstanding or confusion?
Credibility — Is your first impression of the name, tagline, and/or logo a professional and credible one? Or does it have qualities that are amateurish or not trustworthy?
Positioning —How closely does the name, tagline, and/or logo correlate to your mission, values, and key messages?
Having agreement around audiences, goals, challenges, and corresponding key messages — along with a strategic evaluation methodology —will help ensure that a new name, tagline, and/or logo are appropriate for the marketplace and that the combination has the power to support an organization’s goals for the future. These tools will also help manage expectations among those responsible for making decisions about the new brand and managing its stewardship. Good luck!
Beth Singer is Principal at Beth Singer Design, LLC – a design and communications firm specializing in nonprofit organizations to help them fundraise, educate, and promote membership and events though design-centric solutions.