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Does Rebranding Strike Fear Into Your Heart?

Posted by on March 25th, 2011
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Branding, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Messaging, Nonprofit Taglines    Tags: , , ,

If the process of rebranding or renaming your organization strikes fear in your heart, read on to learn what one of our clients brought to the process to make it an enjoyable and successful effort.

It’s true that branding typically stirs up lots of conversation about who you really are as an organization. It’s also true that rebranding will take a considerable amount of staff time, even if you work with experienced consultants.

This may feel intimidating for some. For others it may feel tedious. We already know who we are! Why do I have to keep explaining it to my board?!

The Three Keys to Rebranding Success

In our work with hundreds of nonprofit and foundation clients over the years we’ve identified three factors that virtually guarantee the rebranding process will be both enjoyable and effective. The organization must have:

  1. Clarity of Purpose
  2. Clarity of Values
  3. Strong Leadership

Affirmation of these came in our recent work with OneJustice (formerly Public Interest Clearinghouse or PIC.)

From the get-go, it was clear that this group knew exactly what it is in business to do and how it goes about doing it. But they didn’t have the words to describe it in a succinct way to attract the attention of would-be supporters.

Clarity of Purpose is Critical to Successful Rebranding

Despite not having had the right words handy, OneJustice was clear about its purpose: They are in business to provide legal help to those who need it. So every day they work with lawyers and law students to empower California’s most vulnerable people—people who need legal help just to gain their most basic civil rights and to meet essential human needs. That is their driving purpose, and it’s a passion for everyone who works and volunteers there.

Know Your Values to Know Your Brand

The programs they employ are prioritized and delivered in a way that upholds the values held dear by OneJustice. Mission Minded’s work focused on helping them articulate those values.

(Interestingly, just because they didn’t have a concise values statement does not mean that they weren’t crystal clear about those values. Our process uncovered a remarkable level of consistency among staff and board about the values that drive the why and the way of OneJustice.)

Though individuals may have been using different words to express it, here’s what OneJustice holds as its values:

  1. Injustice is bad
  2. Efficiency is good
  3. Compassion and empathy are critical

Only Strong Leadership Can Carry the Rebranding Process Forward

Clarity of purpose and values alone, however, are not enough to ensure a fun and successful rebranding effort. Strong leadership is also a must.

Strong leadership means that one or more senior leaders in the organization take responsibility for rallying staff and board toward an understanding of brand and its importance to their success. It means that, after everyone gives his opinion, one person or a small group will confidently make firm decisions.

Julia Wilson, executive director of OneJustice, and her team repeatedly demonstrated the will to hold branding as a priority, to coach (or cajole) colleagues who might have otherwise diluted the effort, and to make final decisions on their brand promise, new name and tagline.

Julia and her team (made up of board and staff) determined that their brand promise needed to stand for three ideas:

  1. One-of-a-kind
  2. Multipliers
  3. Social Justice Champions

With the brand promise firmly established and articulated, Mission Minded then led the team in creating a new name, tagline, and visual identity to reflect the brand.

OneJustice Logo

For other ideas on how to evaluate whether or not your organization is ready for a brand or messaging effort, download this free guide.


Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one leadership coach.

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