Well, maybe the last 3 examples I gave aren’t the same, but for many of us we feel a similar pull to re-invent our organisations each year.Perhaps we’ve wanted to for ages but have felt too tired to implement a new strategy, or maybe the pinch on resources is still holding us back. We get that, it’s a difficult landscape out there at the moment. This post isn’t to bang the drum for stretching beyond your means financially, we’d never advocate for that. However, we thought we’d start the year off by writing about the situations where re-working your brand proposition could be valuable, if it’s something you’re considering.
Based on our experience, here's a few situations that present opportunities to make brand changes:
You’ve likely heard about terms like “the Metaverse”, NFT’s or Crypto. It all seems new and shiny at the moment because it’s technology that’s now starting to enter the public domain. Those examples aren’t reasons to re-brand, but the principle is the same. Time goes fast and while our vision for the world could still be the same, the means by which you communicate that can be very different to when you first started. Innovation changes how we do things, whether that’s innovation that comes from the outside, or innovation within our own organisations.
Alongside that, there may be new opportunities for you as an organisation as a result of a change in policy, a change in the funding landscape, or potential trading opportunities. Capitalising on these opportunities isn’t solely down to the strength of your brand identity, but as we’ve spoken about before, your brand encompasses everything you do. By thinking about how your brand could be leveraged to increase the success of your opportunity or enable you to re-position yourselves during these changes, it helps to bring clarity to not only external stakeholders and the people you serve, but also gives you a milestone situation where you can re-communicate your strategy and value to your team. There’s always room to make tweaks to your brand as the environment you’re working in changes.
Flared trousers and tank tops used to be very popular in the 1970’s, but not everyone wears them anymore. Times change and we all get used to seeing the same thing or having the same experience. Consistency can be valuable as a social impact organisation, but it’s also important to recognise when things are becoming stagnant.
Perhaps people can’t remember what you do, or your services have changed so much that people no longer understand your goals. That middle ground is a dangerous place to be as it starts to hinder your message to the world. The problem you solve isn’t communicated, your team become disillusioned and your beneficiaries get fed up. Don’t let the fabric of your organisation erode, arrest a decline early. Re-focusing on your vision, mission and values and auditing how your brand is doing each year will help to achieve that.
Perhaps you used to be the only organisation operating in a certain area which has now been taken over by other organisations offering similar services. The word competitiveness can often sound a bit harsh; we don’t often see others working in a similar area of the sector as “competitors”, but partners. In any case, repositioning yourself as the leading organisation in a particular area can be beneficial and can ensure that your voice communicates with clarity and competency.
A situation like this can also be a good time to look at potentially partnering with other organisations working in a similar space. With large amounts of unrestricted funding not being as readily available, partnering with similar organisations can mean resources, brand equity and impact can be compiled to create even more sustainable organisations.
You may be fortunate enough to merge with or be acquired by another organisation. Sometimes this can mean that your organisation inherits a dominant brand as it now sits underneath an umbrella of other departments, or sometimes an acquisition can mean more funding is injected so that you’re able to invest in developing your brand and solidifying your place in the market. It also may come as a result of a change in strategy or direction following the partnership. Either way, a period of change like this can prove valuable to ensuring that you can continue to build recognition in the sector.
This one is often the biggest positive about a brand development project. Working through the various stages of branddevelopment means you get to bring your team together and take some time to take stock of where you’re at. You can have honest conversations, you can start to think through your vision and purpose, you can think about what the next few years looks like. We all get so focused on the day to day (understandably so!) but this process can mean everyone is once again re-aligned and re-engaged around this sense of identity.
Identity is a big word today, but it makes such a difference for each team member to know the role they play in the change you’re making. Re-positioning your brand, if successful, should do exactly that. Current staff members will be re-invigorated and others from outside your organisation will start paying attention again. When everyone is aligned, people know how they fit into the puzzle. The best thing is, people always want to join a journey like that as well…
Leadership changes happen, and that can often mean a change of direction or a change of focus. As policy changes happen, as new challenges develop, we often need to pivot and change. These situations again present an opportunity to communicate what you do in a new way, or make internal and external changes. Perhaps you need to overwrite some mistakes that have been made, or you’re changing every level of the experience that your beneficiaries have?
Either way, ensuring that your brand identity reflects these changes is important, as otherwise you may fall victim to brand erosion as we mentioned earlier. Change is scary, but not doing anything in the face of an opportunity is even scarier.
Only a whistle stop tour, but hopefully this starts to help you consider when a re-brand can be valuable. Catch up with you all soon!
PS: Thanks to Andy Stewart for his support in helping write our “Brand Playbook” which looks at the value, risks and rewards of re-branding in the social impact sector, which includes further detail on the sections mentioned above.