Branding: Let's call it 'reputation' instead

The RNIB has been through a rebranding exercise and has decided to change its name and logo.

The name just didn't hack it any more: besides under-representing the true breadth of the organisation's work, it labelled people by their disability long after that became unacceptable.

The RNIB is a well-established, reputable brand, and you can't take the decision to tinker with that lightly. But when the name is seriously at odds with what you do and the values you represent, change becomes unavoidable.

I feel very much the same about the term 'brand'. In fact, I'm seriously over the word because, first, most NGOs hate it, so you have to duck every time you mention it; second, many people still think it just means 'logo', so you have to preface it with an explanation of what it really means; and third, it is expanding all the time as a concept in the wider world.

We need a new term that captures that widest possible concept more accurately - and preferably without the collective NGO groan.

Your brand is the series of perceptions and feelings that your organisation provokes in a person's brain; it is mined from countless sources and exposures or gleaned from the collective ether; it says your organisation is good or not good, trustworthy or not trustworthy; it's essentially your reputation. George W Bush could change his middle name to Cuddly, but that wouldn't improve his reputation.

While our sector still considers whether or not it should have some level of brand management that goes beyond empowering publications departments to police visual identity, the corporate sector has the people responsible for brand sitting on the board. They don't call it brand, though; they describe it as 'reputation management'.

And that's exactly what it is: looking after the most valuable thing that any organisation has - its reputation. Building it, evolving it, protecting it and subtly repositioning it to resonate positively with the zeitgeist of your target audiences.

So I'm up for renaming the concept of 'brand', because the current term locates it way too low on the organisational priority list and doesn't go to the heart of what is at stake here.

The RNIB is now the RNIBP because that speaks more to its work. Good.

Let's do the same. All those in favour of renaming this column Reputation Management, calling it something else or who can even think of a new name for George W that would save his brand, email me at

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