Expert view: Your logo must say who you are

The recent logo rebranding announcement by the Mothers' Union led me to think about charity branding and how it is perceived outside the sector.

The Mothers' Union has a specific point to make - it says it wants to dispel the myth that it is about "old ladies drinking tea". But how does any charity justify spending money on a new logo when donations are for charitable works, not marketing?

Rebranding has become an especially sensitive subject after the recent 2012 Olympics logo debacle, and charities are at risk of suffering from a severe credibility gap. The general public has a long-standing suspicion that money gets wasted on costly marketing instead of being spent on the real work of charities. This was clearly a concern for ImpACT, the coalition of charities set up to improve public trust, which almost apologetically launched its low-cost logo in May, in the process emphasising how little it spent.

This concept of low-cost branding carries even more risks. Just look at the issues the Fundraising Standards Board faced when it was forced to alter its new logo from FSB to FRSB after objections from the Federation of Small Businesses. This issue could easily have been flagged up earlier with a bit of online research.

I feel for smaller charities, too. They suffer from being small fish in a large and crowded pond. They are unlikely to have the budgets or time to rebrand, and a logo means very little without a solid and sustainable reputation and the marketing to get it out there. The logo must embody who you are and evoke an emotion about your relationship with the people interacting with it.

Infuriatingly, the web is still all too often ignored during rebranding, probably because most agencies that specialise in branding are print-based. In my view, the logo isn't your brand - you are. Your principles must be embodied in everything you say and do. Your online activities must be given focus and consistency in terms of imagery, language, style and tone of voice, so your audience gets who you are.

From a purely visual perspective, consideration must be given to future technologies and how your logo will look on the web, on a mobile phone and even in virtual world Second Life. More importantly, how does this reflect what your principles are?

Relying on a new logo alone will not be enough to impart who you are or what you intend to achieve. The branding needs to reflect these core principles, and this has to go right back to the volunteers, staff and technology you use. Otherwise, it will be considered another waste of donors' cash.

- Dean Russell is digital marketing consultant at Precedent Communications.

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