BRANDING: Benevolent Brands - Charities with strong brands pull in more donations than less well-known names. But how do you go about creating a strong brand, and should you even try?


Shortened its brand name by dropping Action for Children in October 2000. The rebranding came about after consumer research showed the charity had low awareness despite providing more services for children than any other UK charity, a factor that was beginning to hamper fundraising effectiveness. The in-house design team created the new logo, keeping costs down, but implementing the identity changes cost around £100,000. Evaluation has included research among NCH's 6,000 staff, 85 per cent of whom agreed that branding was important. Separate research among 40- to 50-year-old mothers, a key target group for potential donors, has found a "favourable

reaction to the brand, says NCH head of marketing and communications Miriam Solly.

Diabetes UK

Research found that The British Diabetic Association was seen as an old-fashioned and doctor-oriented organisation whereas in fact it was a patient organisation. Corporate communication experts Fishburn Hedges helped develop the new branding, including the new name Diabetes UK, which put "diabetes

at the forefront. When the new identity was tested among donors and partner organisations, feedback showed that it presented the charity as more vibrant. Income has grown since the revamp but the charity says it is unclear how much of this is directly because of the rebranding.


On 25 May 2001, ActionAid unveiled a new identity and logo to clarify its role as an organisation that campaigns and lobbies for the rights of people living in poverty as well as one that helps to meet immediate needs. In the past, the charity had been perceived as having an almost exclusive focus on "sponsorship

of needy children in developing countries.

Although the charity will continue to build long-term and sustainable relationships with poor and marginalised people in order to deliver concrete benefits, it now also aims to take action against the root causes of poverty and to promote basic rights such as education, food, health care and security and protection.

The groundwork for change began as far back as March 1998, when senior executives at the charity began to explore how it should position itself.

A "virtual team", mostly drawn from the charity's communications experts around the world, was set up to look at positioning and to develop a communication "toolkit".

The old logo, which featured a germinating seed, was replaced by a new logo that emphasises the word "action

to underline that this is the main means of achieving the charity's goals. ActionAid's name has become its logo - there is no longer a separate symbol, as was the case before. However, the name itself incorporates a visual device, an exclamation mark, in place of the first letter "i", to add impact.

The logo is intended to work at three levels. First, the exclamation mark draws attention to "act". Second, "action

is made to stand out in a bold and strong colour: raspberry red.

Finally, although "aid

is an important part of the charity's overall identity, it has been dulled down to a 40 per cent tint and no longer has a capital letter. The logo was developed in conjunction with design agency CDT.

"The new identity and logo are more than just a fresh coat of paint, but a vital and visible reflection of how we are changing,

says ActionAid chief executive Salil Shetty. "Our logo is the focal point of the way we present ourselves to the world, acting as a symbol and flag. It is dynamic, and it stresses action and confidence. It says to our supporters in Europe, and the people and organisations we work with in the rest of the world, that we do more than just ask for money. We can inspire people to engage with our cause."

According to ActionAid's head of marketing planning Margaret Shaw, the rebranding process cost several "tens of thousands

of pounds. Shaw says the rebranding has been evaluated primarily on the criterion of additional fundraising and support. Last year, ActionAid attracted over 10,000 new supporters.

"We have to present ourselves more forcefully as a campaigning organisation so we had to do something with our brand that reflects that,

says Shaw.


- The aims and values of an organisation are not being communicated clearly.

- The old brand does not stand out in a crowded sector.

- Confusion with other organisations.

- There has been a change in strategic objectives.

- A change in fundraising focus. For example, by placing a greater emphasis on corporate support or younger donors.

- The old brand has become discredited in some way.

- Because of a merger.

- Stakeholders are uncomfortable with some elements of an existing brand or cannot agree on what it stands for.

- Research among donors, volunteers and/or corporate supporters highlights deficiencies.

- Corporate identity, including the logo, is outdated or uninspiring.


- Just for the sake of it.

- Merely because a corporate identity has been in place for a long time.

- If the charity's structure and communications processes are at fault rather than there being any flaws in the brand.

- The existing brand already encapsulates the charity's values and purpose succinctly.

- If there is a high risk of resentment from donors, staff and volunteers to change they regard as unnecessary or counter-productive.

- The existing brand is very strong and commands tremendous loyalty.

- A new broom in the marketing department (or chief executive's office) who desires change primarily to make their mark.

- All it will amount to is cosmetic or pernickety fiddling.

- On the basis of inadequate research or insight.

- If doing so risks undermining important long-term relationships.

Back in 1971, the impenetrably named Don't Make a Wave organisation switched to a name that better expressed its values and objectives. The name it chose, Greenpeace, proclaimed its purpose pithily - to create a green and peaceful world. The name Greenpeace has since become a very powerful brand.

During the 31 years since its debut, the importance of branding has become much more widely acknowledged in the commercial world. Ask any consumer marketer what's their most potent weapon, and nine times out of 10 they will reply "the brand". Would people pay as much for a pair of Nike trainers if it weren't for the emotions evoked by its advertising, and by those simple words "Just Do It"? Brand is what makes most of us instinctively think "safety

when the car manufacturer Volvo is mentioned.

Brand can be just as important in the voluntary sector. It can make a difference to your ability to attract donations, volunteers and staff, not to mention conveying clearly what you stand for to the people you are there to help. ActionAid, for example, has attracted 10,000 supporters since it updated its image last year.

Few charity brands are fortunate enough to boast the nurturing and investment enjoyed by even relatively minor consumer product brands, although many not-for-profit organisations are now waking up to their importance. Some are starting to realise that they might be sitting on an under-exploited asset.

Others see the need to update a tired or inappropriate image, especially with the pressure to stand out in a time of increasing competition for donor pounds, staff and volunteers.

Many not-for-profit organisations will have considered rebranding at some point, and a growing number have gone through the process, usually assisted by specialist brand consultancies.

Although some supposed rebranding exercises entail little more than refreshing a logo, true rebranding goes much further. It involves an in-depth exploration of the values of an organisation and an examination of how that organisation can better achieve its objectives and engender loyalty among donors, volunteers, staff and other stakeholders.

Sometimes rebranding goes as far as a change of name. On other occasions, it is the qualities that an existing name is meant to convey that are adapted.

Joe Saxton, head of not-for-profit at the Future Foundation think-tank, has carried out research into brand-image issues at charities.

"The term brand has negative connotations for many people outside fundraising and communications,

he says. "But actually, brand is relevant for all kinds of things beyond fundraising and communications, from trying to deliver services to persuading an MP to see you."

Many people in the voluntary sector regard talk of brands with a degree of cynicism, and can show the scars of battle against the likes of Shell, Nike and many others. But the evidence is that it can make a massive difference in the way a charity is perceived and its ability to generate donations.

A survey among fundraising managers at leading UK charities reached the conclusion that organisations can significantly increase donations by employing fundraising managers who are firmly committed to branding. The research, published in July 2001, was conducted by the University of Surrey Roehampton and funded by the Economic %26 Social Research Council.

"This study clearly shows that fundraising managers who regard their organisations as brands and perceive branding as beneficial to the charity generate more voluntary income than less brand-oriented fundraisers,

says Philippa Hankinson, a researcher at the University of Surrey Roehampton.

Conversely, a weak or confusing image can harm fundraising. "Often when charities undertake donor research they are surprised to find out how little their donors know about the cause,

says Kingston Smith Consultants' chief executive David Coe.

Rebranding can sometimes be the answer, and over the past decade a cavalcade of charities including Scope, WWF and Raleigh International have done just that. The frequency of such exercises appears to have speeded up over the past year or two.

Here are just a few examples of recent rebrandings: The National Grocers Benevolent Fund became Caravan, NCH Action for Children simplified its name to NCH, The British Diabetic Association switched to Diabetes UK, and the Cats Protection League dispensed with the word "League". Most recently, Cancer Research UK was created by the merger of The Cancer Research Campaign and Imperial Cancer Research Fund.

Other charities are weighing up the pros and cons of change, among them Centrepoint and the Samaritans. The latter has retained brand consultant Wolff Olins to carry out a brand audit from which it will decide whether and how changes should be made. The brand consultant created some of the most memorable corporate brands of recent times, such as Orange and budget airline Go!

"We've got to be able to develop a clear message and look that will enable us to be more explicit about who we are and what we stand for, so we are seen as more contemporary,

says Samaritans marketing director David Richards.

And for an organisation such as the Samaritans, having the right brand is not just about fundraising. It is also about appealing to the people it is there to help. Being seen as contemporary is vital, says Richards, because of a pattern of rising suicide and self-harm among young men.

However, there are plenty of potential pitfalls in rebranding. New names such as Consignia (the Post Office), Accenture (Andersen Consulting), Corus (British Steel) and Diageo (Guinness/Grand Metropolitan) have all been mocked as contrived or meaningless. Accenture, however, must be delighted to no longer bear the Andersen name in the wake of the Enron scandal that has severely damaged the reputation of the accountancy giant with which it was once associated.

British Airways, meanwhile, had to lick its wounds after a rebranding debacle that saw it introduce exotically-painted tailfins to its fleet of aircraft to near-universal opprobrium. The fiasco reportedly cost a mind-boggling £60 million.

Other brand development exercises have been much more successful. Would internet financial services brands Egg, Smile and Cahoot have captured the imagination quite as well had they stuck with the names of their parent companies Prudential, Cooperative Bank and the Abbey National?

Would consumers really be prepared to pay as much as they do for Louis Vuitton luggage or Mercedes-Benz cars were it not for the decades of advertising and other marketing activity aimed at building the cachet of those names?

The brands we are loyal to tell us an awful lot about ourselves: who we are and who we aspire to be.

The biggest brands are tremendous assets in their own right. Brand consultants Interbrand produces an annual study of the world's 100 largest brands.

Last year, it ranked Coca-Cola in the top spot, valuing its brand at an amazing £48 billion. A further 26 brands were each valued at more than £7 billion apiece, from Microsoft at £45 billion down to Kodak at just under £7 billion.

These, of course, are astronomical sums. They represent an attempt to put a commercial value on those names. And they help to illustrate why rebranding or building a new brand can be such an expensive business.

Rebranding is not a step to be taken lightly. The newly formed Cancer Research UK is spending £5 million on its new brand and positioning following the merger in December last year. Much of this money, however, is going on media costs for the awareness-building advertising accompanying its creation. Other rebranding costs can range from initial brand audits and research to design, to even seemingly trivial things such as replacing all of an organisation's stationery, signage and other livery.

Most charities spend considerably less than Cancer Research on their rebranding, and some are able to secure all or part of the input of consultancies on a pro-bono basis.

Interbrand, for example, runs a foundation through which it helps a select band of charities. It helped rename the Spastics Society as Scope and created the Blue Sky Appeal for Mencap.

"Getting a crystal-clear message across to the people who would support you is vital,

says Interbrand London's deputy managing director Tony Allen. "Internal branding is also very important because at a big charity there will be multiple voices, for example, from volunteers in different regions. It's important to bind people together and give them a point to rally around."



Changed its name from the National Grocers Benevolent Fund in November 2001 as part of a major rebranding exercise in that involved the rewriting of its mission statement and a brand audit. Research conducted on the charity's behalf by the Institute of Grocery Distribution found that it had a lower profile in the retail industry than it would have liked. Brand consultant Blayze Pearce was brought in to help develop the brand and designer Springpoint created a new logo. The whole process cost "several tens of thousands of pounds". Its effectiveness has not yet been evaluated.


Rebranded from Understanding Industry a year ago. Research among students, teachers and businesses supporting the charity found that the old name wasn't striking or memorable and that students in particular disliked the word "industry", associating it with smokestacks, the old economy and boring places to work. Brand consultant Addison created the new name and identity, including the strapline: "Bringing Business to Life for Students". New programmes inspired by the research findings were introduced at the same time as the new name and logo. Some branding work was carried out pro bono and the budget is described by businessdynamics chief executive David Millar as "modest". Research among students and corporate partners into the new brand has found almost universal approval.

Children Nationwide

The children's medical research fund Children Nationwide decided to stick with its old name after consulting with a number of branding agencies. However, it used creative agency Hero to develop a new logo to replace what chief executive Kedge Martin calls an outdated identity with a "1980s style". Although well known in the medical establishment, the charity has a low profile among the wider public and hopes that the revamp will help in its efforts to become better known. The redesign was carried out pro bono and implemented in September 2001.

Cancer Research UK

More than a rebranding, a totally new charity created in December 2001 through the merger of the Cancer Research Campaign and Imperial Cancer Research Fund. The new name and logo were developed by agency Enterprise IG. Total cost of the relaunch is £5 million but the vast majority of this is media spend on a brand-building advertising campaign. Research will be used to track awareness of the new brand.


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