Keeping up with a new brand: Striking the balance between consistency and freshness

by Farra Trompeter

Photo by Fight Colorectal Cancer

What happens to a new brand a few years in? In 2010-2011, we had the pleasure of helping Fight Colorectal Cancer (formerly named Colorectal Cancer Coalition) assess its brand, develop a strategy for what needed to change, refine its messaging and visual identity, and train them on how to rollout and institutionalize the new brand. Though we haven’t worked together since, we stay in touch and have been joyfully watching how they have really brought the brand to life.

Suspecting that their results would be of interest to other nonprofits, I interviewed Carlea Bauman, Fight Colorectal Cancer’s president, to find out what she’s learned that other nonprofits but also benefit from. Below is a summary of our conversation.

Why did you want to change your brand in the first place?

CARLEA: People were confused about our organization and what made us different from other organization in our space. Also, our name didn’t capture what we did. We felt stuck—like we were walking in mud. Going through brandraising or any significant rebranding process can be scary. Not everyone likes change.

What part was the most difficult?

CARLEA: Getting started was probably the hardest. It was a big investment for us and there was some concern that it might fall flat, would be a waste of time, or that people would hate whatever we came up with. We had to work hard to convince the board that it was a good idea to invest in communications-related research – and the whole brandraising process. Beyond the finances, there was also a lot of worry that we’d change who we were and what who we were working for (survivors). In the end they understood that branding would help us clarify who we were—not change us.

You launched the brand in connection with your annual advocacy event, Call-on Congress. How did your advocates--the heart of your community--react when they saw the new brand?

CARLEA: I was ready for there to be pushback, especially knowing that some don't like war terminology (e.g. ‘fight’). But we got none of it—they all loved it. We completed the messaging training with your team a few weeks before and we were ready to go with our talking points. Our advocates shared our enthusiasm for the new brand--they thought it was clearer and bolder.

If we were to ask your advocates about the new brand (name, logo, tagline, etc.) now, do you think they feel any differently about it two years later?

CARLEA: No, they still love it. I don’t’ think any of them can even remember our old name or look.

As we look at how you've implemented the brand across your website, in video, social media, print materials, campaigns, events, office, and more, we are so impressed by how true you've stayed to it and how fresh it all still feels. Has it been easy to use the brand consistently or have you hit road bumps?

CARLEA: No, it’s been very easy. The brandraising guide Big Duck gave us makes it a piece of cake. This past March, we certainly evolved the brand with the launch of a new campaign, One Million Strong. The campaign is bigger and brighter than anything we did before our new brand – and its clear that survivors are still at the heart of who we are and what we do. When people question how ‘glossy’ our materials are, we reiterate that we haven’t changed our core mission…we are just looking better when we do it.

Do you have any advice for nonprofits that are considering going through a branding process or are just at the beginning?

CARLEA: Take time to do some research—with your staff, board, and community. Be honest when it comes to answering questions about what you are trying to change and what you want out of it. Get a sense of what the board wants and expects and find allies early on. And if you are looking for the right partner, be sure to do your homework before you take the leap.

Have you recently changed your brand? What advice do you have to share with other nonprofiteers? Let us know in the comments!

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