A new logo should reflect the values of your charity

A logo is just the icing on the cake of a charity's brand, so it is important to ask whether there is a clear business need for it to be updated, writes Valerie Morton

Charities must clarify the difference between a brand and a logo, writes Valerie Morton
Charities must clarify the difference between a brand and a logo, writes Valerie Morton

Q: My charity is 25 years old - should I be considering updating its logo?

A: We often hear of companies refreshing their logos or charities announcing a rebrand. In some cases, this involves a name change; in others, it might be a new strapline and a new or revised logo. It is therefore understandable to feel that it is something one must do in order to keep up with the pack.

What, though, is your motivation for making a change? Is it a question of the logo looking outdated? Are you worried that the branding has not moved with changes in the charity over the years? Do you think the existing branding confuses donors and other stakeholders about the work you do?

Perhaps you feel that a new logo will provide a rationale for investing in awareness of your charity - or maybe, if you are being really honest, a rebranding process is something you feel would be interesting and stimulating. Sadly, the prompt for a new logo is not always a clear business need - sometimes it is just a new member of staff feeling that it will be a good way of putting his or her stamp on the organisation.

To help you decide whether your motivations are valid, we need to clarify the difference between a brand and a logo. Of all the definitions of "brand", the one I like most is by the Canadian anthropologist Grant McCracken. He says: "Branding is a process of meaning and manufacture that begins with the biggest and boldest gestures of the corporation and works its way down to the tiniest gestures." I like this because it implies that a brand is something that runs through an organisation like the words through a stick of rock - from top to bottom. How your receptionist greets a visitor to your offices says as much about your brand as the values and strategies that are set by directors and trustees.

So if you equate brand with the design of your logo, your charity's strapline or the suite of colours you use, you are putting the icing on the cake without considering what the cake is in the first place. But if you start with the cake, the decision about the icing is usually straightforward. If you decide to appoint an agency purely with the brief of creating a new logo, you could end up with chocolate icing on a fruit cake.

If you have good reason to review your logo, then fine - although simply being 25 years old would not be a good enough reason in my book. It takes time to work with your stakeholders to discuss what it is that makes them want to be involved with you. You should try to understand why people choose to donate to your charity and what is special about your cause. Only then can you work on your key messages and the visual representation you need to get those messages across.

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