• Transform magazine
  • October 15, 2019


Insights: The six states of rebrand

Max du bois.jpg

The UK charity sector is in a continual state of flux as it seeks to reinvent itself. Before even embarking on a rebrand, however, charities need to ask themselves a few searching questions - namely, what the key reason is for undertaking a rebrand. Max du Bois writes

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 to invest 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.

There are a number of specific key 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 summarised in one of the ‘rebrand states’ that indicate a need for a change.

First, to realise a new opportunity, you have a vision of moving into a different area or market. Second, brands should also deepen and assert that they’re doing well but there are more people to engage.

Third, break out. If your brand is old, fussy, stagnant, but your engagement is still good, use this opportunity to use brand to lead in your area. Fourth, consolidate. If your portfolio of sub-brands has created incoherence and confusion, look at your brand architecture. Fifth, defend. If your sub-sector is volatile, build on the brand to defend against negative effects of shifting landscapes.

Finally, futureproof. If your income is going down, volunteers are decreasing etc, you need to act to futureproof the brand, reverse decline and propel your organisation forward. These brand states loosely fall into one of two categories that can be referred to as either a carrot or a stick.

A carrot is when a charity is reaching out for a new opportunity, such as breaking out of a sector to lead it, and a stick is when a charity aims to avoid negative impact or feels their brand has become irrelevant.

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 what the charity is really here to achieve.

For Arthritis Research UK we used a rebrand to help the charity harness the power of exceptional science to springboard into service provision, turning a scientists ‘club’ into a champion for people suffering from arthritic conditions.

By creating a straight-talking, bold and patriotic brand for Blind Veterans UK, we carved out the organisation’s unique space as ‘the’ military sight loss charity and the giants of the sight loss sector.

After decades of recognition for handing grants, the British Kidney Patient Association needed to break out. Becoming Kidney Care UK gave the charity room to grow into its new services and create clarity over what they stand for.

NUS had a portfolio of services that had become tangled and ineffective. At the heart of the new NUS brand we created, lies its role to ensure students thrive. Its new architecture has helped NUS get kudos for all its activities and to increase usage.

 Competition and austerity meant the new chief exec had to do a deep dive into the CSV brand to stop the erosion. The new name, brand and visual identity we created for Volunteering Matters was designed to carve out its territory as the UK’s leaders in volunteering innovation, practice and policy.

NUT and ATL merged in order to combine strength and futureproof. The new National Education Union brand was built around a visual identity that clearly demonstrates strength and the ambitions of the two organisations collective power.

Max du Bois is the executive director of Spencer du Bois Ltd