Communications: What's in a charity's name and logo?

When a charity takes the decision to rebrand, there are usually a few dissenters among its supporters. But in the case of Myeloma UK - formerly the International Myeloma Foundation UK - it was the beneficiaries who prompted the move.

"We started the rebranding process because of the feedback we were getting from service users and supporters," said chief executive Eric Low. "The name wasn't working. If people wanted to explain to their colleagues which charity they supported, the name confused them."

The charity also found that its old name was affecting fundraising. "It suggested that we were part of a huge global organisation, when we're not," said Low.

That the old abbreviation was the same as the International Monetary Fund caused further confusion. "Earlier this year, we held a parliamentary session and invited the minister for health, Rosie Winterton, to speak, but she ignored most of our letters because she thought it was something to do with the Treasury," said Low.

The charity set a deadline of six months to keep costs down. It then hired Leithal Thinking, part of the Edinburgh-based Leith Agency, to carry out a consultation with its stakeholders.

"We wanted an agency to carry out the consultation so people could be honest about what they felt," said Low.

The agency consulted hundreds of people, including doctors, nurses, service users and their families.

The result was the new name, Myeloma UK, and a simpler logo. "In the place of the old logo, which featured a muscular naked man who seemed to have spears coming out of him, there's a ring around the letters 'My', which we hope conveys a sense of community and the idea that we offer a service tailored to each individual," said Low. "About 95 per cent of those we questioned said the new name and logo worked well."

The rebrand cost between £10,000 and £15,000. Low felt it was money well spent, but urged other charities to tread carefully. "People are beginning to understand that image and brand are as important as they are to other sectors," he said. "But if rebranding is done for the sake of it, it can be expensive and disastrous. It's all in the planning and execution."

- indira.das-gupta@haynet.com.

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