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Maximizing chances for
Interbrand | Pg. 2

Not-for-profit branding
Maximizing chances for success

by Graham Hales

The prolonged period of austerity over the That’s why, when embarking on a brand examples. The strategic rationale should
last few years has led to an increased need refresh, non-profit brands should be prepared be simply articulated and disseminated
for organizations to effectively manage their for resistance, both internally and externally. internally and externally to all
brands as assets, keeping them relevant and From the inside, employees, volunteers and stakeholders prior to launch.
attractive. This is especially true for not-for- even the core management team, such as
profit brands, which have an income that • Tailor your message: Naturally, each
finance, are likely to challenge the initiative.
is almost entirely discretionary. Indeed, stakeholder group will have different
The same it likely to occur externally with
more and more non-profit organizations questions and concerns, all of which
donors, the general public, and the media
are thinking long and hard about how they should be anticipated and considered in
unless the benefits associated with the
present themselves to the world, frequently advance. Donors, for example, will want
changes are clearly conveyed. If the internal
resulting in dramatic changes. So what to know how much of their money is
and external parties are not managed
does it take to make sure the brand refresh being consumed by the brand-building
carefully, such scrutiny can undermine the
is a success? And how do you get such a activity. Meanwhile, political groups will
entire brand-building effort, reducing internal
diverse set of stakeholders to align around a want to understand what the change
commitment to the cause and generating
common vision? means in terms of the organization’s
negative publicity that could threaten future
future focus and activities. Each audience
Success factor #1: Anticipate and manage donations and volunteer support.
should receive targeted communications
resistance Practical suggestions for managing and support material throughout the
Brand-building initiatives, particularly among resistance: launch period.
charities, have been a subject of much • Have a compelling story: First and
debate. Critics argue that such initiatives • Be flexible and available: One-on-
foremost, there needs to be a clear and
represent a diversion of precious funds away one meetings, seminars, workshops,
consistent logic behind the branding
from core activities and claim that branding conferences and online channels are all
activity. What are the main drivers behind
is merely an aesthetic and superficial valid mechanisms for communicating
the change? What is at risk if you do not
undertaking. As a result, not-for-profit brands the story and rationale behind the
review your brand? What will the main
often treat branding as a cost item rather brand refresh. Each has its pros and
benefits to the organization be in the
than an investment in the organization’s cons. It is important to choose a mix of
medium-term and long-term? What will
future, based on a misunderstanding of how channels that provide full coverage of
be different? Be specific and use tangible
branding creates sustainable value. all target groups and serve to maximize
Not-for-profit branding: Maximizing chances for success Interbrand | Pg. 3

engagement with the brand liked and less of the things that they didn’t post-launch with the introduction of new
most effectively. want or like. initiatives, activities and ways of working
that serve to create substance in the brand’s
• Listen and respond: To cope with the Practical suggestions to keep loyalists on
positioning. The challenge is to maintain
plethora of questions that will surface your side:
sufficient momentum to bring the brand
both prior to launch and post-launch, a • Build on existing truths: It is imperative to
promise to life. Internally and externally
process should be established to map, have a clear view of what your stakeholders
it needs to be seen as more than just a
consider and respond in a timely and value and to demonstrate how these
visual identity change. The risk of failing to
professional manner. Some questions can aspects will continue to feature (and be
build momentum after launch is that the
be addressed with a generic response, reinforced) in the future. Communications
organization is also likely to fail to live up to
but others will need tailored answers. activities should reassure all parties that
its new ideals and instead fall back into old,
Managing consistency and quality of any change is born out of a genuine desire
established working patterns. Launch day is
response is critical, so is ensuring there’s a to better deliver on what stakeholders
not the end of the brand refresh process, but
cross-functional team ready to anticipate want and need. Whereas the brand refresh
in fact day one of the effort.
and answer questions across HR, implies a shift in emphasis to new ideals,
Marketing and Operations . values or ways of working, a plan should be The need to maintain momentum post-
implemented to explain the reasons in launch is not specific to not-for-profits;
Success factor #2: Keep loyalists on your
clear terms. commercial organizations face the same
challenge. The main difference is that
Not-for-profit organizations rely on strong • Keep an open dialogue: Internally, all
in a not-for-profit context, a significant
emotional commitment to the cause stakeholders need to feel as though they
proportion of the change will need to
from a range of stakeholders. Frequently, are part of the new organization; that they
be enacted by volunteers who are not
trustees, employees, volunteers and donors are actively shaping it, rather than it being
formally employed on contract. Accordingly,
provide their time, energy and commitment imposed on them. Having in place feedback
behavioral adjustment cannot be so easily
because feel a genuine, close emotional mechanisms, either online, through
incentivized through amendments to job
attachment to the vision and mission of the seminars, or even via an internal helpdesk
descriptions or contracts. As a result, the job
organization. The brand encapsulates all of will provide them with an outlet to voice
of driving cultural change becomes all the
these attributes, which is why it is critical any concerns they may have and more
more difficult.
that any change is managed in a way that importantly, to collect valuable insight
maintains the loyalty and support of those into how the brand positioning should be For larger not-for-profits, there is often a
key stakeholders. implemented in a way that maximizes their further obstacle in that many employees
commitment. In fact, brand loyalists should and volunteers work in remote locations,
A substantial shift, or a change of
even be encouraged (and rewarded) to blog with limited contact with the head office
direction can disengage individuals —
on social networking sites on behalf of the driving the change. The challenge is to
at worst causing them to re-evaluate
organization to express the great work ensure that everybody is engaged in the
their relationship with the organization.
being done. This is a much more honest and process, especially those working in front-
Therefore the challenge is to guide internal
convincing way to build brand advocacy. line roles that represent the face of the
and external stakeholders (the lifeblood of
organization to the outside world. Indeed,
the not-for-profit organization) through Success factor #3: Maintain momentum
Rachel Murphy, Head of Brand Management
a journey of change. Stakeholders should post-launch
at Shelter felt that this was one of the most
be able to see in the refreshed brand more Defining the organization’s brand is the first
difficult concepts to grasp. She explains, “The
of the things that they always wanted and step in the process. The real change comes

Stakeholders should be able to see in the

refreshed bran more of the things that they
always wanted and liked and less of the
things they didn’t want or like.
Not-for-profit branding: Maximizing chances for success Interbrand | Pg. 4

Greater ownership will not

only overcome any initial
resistance to the change, it will
create momentum of its own.
absolute biggest learning is that you’ve got volunteer and part-time workers working Relevant Case Study
The Petroc rebrand:
to first go back to the fundamentals of what in remote locations, who may otherwise A case study in managing resistance, keeping loyalists and
your brand is about and then be crystal clear feel removed from the process. maintaining momentum

with everyone that they have to live and North Devon and East Devon Colleges provide academic and
Principles for success
breathe the brand and all that it means. It vocational education to students from 16 upwards. Following
In brief, there are three core principles that a merger, the newly combined institution had no overarching
needs to be reinforced at every opportunity.”
should be followed, that will maximize the character to help differentiate it against the region’s many
competing colleges.
Practical suggestions for maintaining chances of success when refreshing a not-
momentum post-launch: for-profit brand: To raise the profile of the new college and reposition it as
a leading institution above and beyond the reach of the
• Develop hallmarks: A hallmark is a proof-
1. Anticipate and manage resistance: immediate region, the school decided to radically rebrand the
point or hook that captures the essence newly formed institution.
Anticipating, understanding and dealing
of the brand idea. Oxfam, for instance,
with the questions and concerns that A vision that asks for radical change is never going to be easily
transformed its charity shops from being accepted, so the school insisted on a collaborative process,
emerge before and during the brand
purely second-hand stores, to points of heavily involving the staff and students in the actual brand
review is critical. Stakeholders need to creation.
distribution for products originating in
be seen and used as supportive of the
developing countries (such as jewelry, A series of audits and interviews revealed the core strength
change, rather than as obstacles to it. underlying both college experiences: The ability to open
stationery and crafts). These stores are
people’s eyes to the raft of opportunities out in the world. This
a strong hallmark for the brand because 2. Keep loyalists onside: Loyal insight formed the foundation for the brand: “Opening Eyes.”
they reinforce Oxfam’s commitment to fair stakeholders are crucial to ongoing
To ensure that the new brand remained meaningful and
trade and the economic development of success and the brand refresh needs relevant to already loyal stakeholders, the school solicited
local communities. The City of Edinburgh to carefully managed, so as not to staff, students and other stakeholders to help generate the
new name in naming and language workshops.
wanted to raise its international profile disengage them. Understanding what
and chose to coincide the refresh of its drives commitment and keeping The final name selected through this collaborative process
was Petroc. As the sixth Century Celtic Christian Saint, who
brand with an international exposition. communications channels open with
ministered in Devon and Cornwall, the name has equity
This reflected the city’s core ethos of them throughout the process is essential throughout the area – and yet, it also sounds contemporary.
being an inspiring place to work, live and to maintaining their support. It signals one single college, and coupled with a fresh and
dynamic visual identity, truly helps demonstrate radical
do business in. By establishing hallmarks
3. Maintain momentum post-launch: change. The supergraphic, which is distilled from elements of
that cut to the very core of the brand, be the region’s topography and colors, also redefines traditional
Momentum can be cemented behind the
they activities, campaigns or events, you notions of Devon.
change by quickly establishing proof-
will help stakeholders to understand what While the change created quite a stir within the local
points that capture the essence of the
the change is really all about, signalling a community, it has ultimately proved positive. Said David
refreshed brand. Encouraging ideas Shuttleworth, Head of External Affairs at Petroc: “Despite the
shift from the past and building a positive
and suggestions from those involved in extensive consultation process to developing a new name, we
momentum for further change were taken aback by just how ferocious the reaction would
driving the change will create buy-in and
going forward. be. The biggest learning is that when it’s all kicking off, is that
ownership which will help to prevent you have to have faith in the journey you’ve been on and hold
• Engage and empower: To win the the effort from stalling. Remember that the line. With hindsight it sounds easy. It’s not; but hindsight
has also shown that the controversy fell away as time wore
support and buy-in to the brand refresh launch day is not the end of the brand
on. And what we’ve been left with is a fantastic new brand.
effort internally, it is important to refresh process, but in fact day one of We started with two wholly different colleges. Now – a year
engage employees and volunteers in its the effort. ■ on – we are one.

development. Co-creating initiatives,

activities and ways of working that
reinforce the brand idea will help to
cement the shift. Greater ownership will
not only overcome any initial resistance to
the change, it will create momentum of
its own. This is particularly important for
Graham Hales

Graham Hales is Interbrand London’s CEO.

His work for Interbrand’s top clients has
taken him across a diverse range of business
agendas, geographes and cultures.

Creating and managing brand value