Branding for Charities
The rebrand of Cancer Research UK is currently big news , it’s interesting to see how it is being received in the media and on social networks compared to how it is being launched by CRuk and their branding agency Interbrand.
I think this case highlights the big challenge in branding for charities – how can you maintain a coherent profile in a brand driven world and not be seen as spending donors money extravagantly on what can easily be construed as excessive administrative cost.
As a quick straw poll here’s the first set of tweets I found about this new brand from Twitter:
Cancer Research UK has a new brand that hopes to be ‘warmer, transparent and appreciative’
New logo for Cancer Research UK as part of brand refresh.
It’s interesting how few of these take a negative attitude. I am not sure where the last one is going, it’s so ambivalent it that just damns the whole thing with its feint praise.
The headline figure of £680,000 is such a gift for headline writers who want to give it a quick spin for whatever reason. Cancer Research UK seem to have it under control though, here’s what they say on their site:
“The cost of this work will be more than outweighed by the added income and support we will create by building a stronger brand which is distinct, stands out, and is more engaging.
During this financial year 12/13 we expect to spend £687,000 on refreshing our brand. This cost is less than 0.2% of our annual income budgeted for this period. And over 5 years, we expect this to equate to 0.03% of our projected income. This gives us a lot of confidence that the benefits of undertaking this change will easily outweigh the upfront investment.”
Those figures will be quite eye watering for most uk charities but 0.2% does not sound too bad. Could you get your brand refreshed for 0.2% of your annual income I wonder? I can only guess that for most charities the cost even if it were a fraction of the CRuk budget would represent a much higher proportion of their annual income and would therefore represent a much bigger obstacle. Not that an obstacle necessarily means the exercise is not still worth doing of course.
Interestingly, the re-brand is framed by CRuk as the result of acute dissatisfaction with the old brand. CRuk’s executive director of fundraising and marketing Richard Taylor gave this quote to Civilsociety
“Our volunteers felt that their great work was being let down by the brand. We’re not changing it or dramatically altering it, we just realised that it needed to be refreshed.”
Got a tired brand?
So have you got a tired or incoherent brand and lack the spare cash you might need to sort it out? If you do there are a few things you need to understand before embarking on a refreshment or rebranding programme.
Understand the problem.
Do you really know what is wrong with the existing brand? Have you talked to all the stakeholders to see if there is a consensus about what the current brand lacks and what needs to be projected by a new one? In his article for ukfundraising Kevin Baughen lists some poignant questions that any charity considering a brand refreshment should ask themselves.
· Is your current brand still fit for purpose? Does it directly support what your organisation does day in; day out?
· Has your current brand identity been around for less than 2 years?
· Is there still work to be done to meaningfully engage with all the key target audiences you set out within your last marketing or strategic plan?
· Is the senior person raising the issue relatively new to the organisation?
· Would you still like to improve your brand awareness amongst your target audience?
Understand your own brand
To understand your own brand it may be time to acquire some understanding of how brands work and why they are so ubiquitous, not just commercially but in the 3rd sector too. If you don’t pay attention to branding you are likely to be missing out and not reaching your full potential both in the funds you attract and the work that you do.
This is always going to be a difficult balance for not-for-profit organizations to steer, it is so easy for those not prepared to take the time and trouble to read the whole story to band about firecrackers like the‘£680k’ figure.
So many people think that a brand is little more than a logo and a strapline, the firecracker headlines could easily distract you from what you need to do. Either you can work effectively with that tried and tested brand you already have or it is time to bite the bullet and move your whole charity up a gear with a clearly needed rebrand, but only if you are confident of taking everyone involved in your work (even down to your facebook followers) with you.
A Guardian discussion about charity re-branding on a budget.
Wikepedia definition of rebranding:
Philanthropy Capital article about the principles of branding for charities (Oct. 2009) incuding a case study about the Action for Children rebrand.
Spencer du Bois article on branding for charities: http://www.spencerdubois.co.uk/dubois/files/Value_of_Branding.pdf
Branding from a commercial point of view. Landor’s eight principles of branding article: