The Squiggle files: rebranding a nonprofit after 42 years

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rebranding a nonprofit

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In the first of an occasional interview series, Hootville’s canine mascot and mentor Squiggle asks James Beckford-Saunders, director – education and advocacy of ReGen about the process of rebranding a nonprofit.

So why bother with the upheaval that rebranding requires?

We didn’t undertake this significant change lightly.  For several years, we have been aware that, as Moreland Hall, we have been valued by the people who use our services but there was limited awareness of our work within the wider community.  We now provide an increasing number of statewide treatment services and deliver training both across Victoria and interstate. We’ve also increased our public advocacy to contribute to an informed public debate of issues relating to alcohol and other drug use in Australia. 

In order to increase our effectiveness, we recognised that we needed to change how we are perceived by a wide range of potential audiences.

Did all humans concerned at Moreland Hall see the need for the rebrand?

Not at all – many staff questioned why change a successful organisation after 42 years. Open and robust discussions on the benefits and risks associated were encouraged, which helped shape the process and brand. This was critical as, with limited funds, it was always made clear that staff were going to be our best brand advocates. The success of the rebranding is testament to the positive organisational culture that supported the change process.  
 

rebranding advice

Why is the man smiling? The rebrand is complete.

As you set out on the process, what were your hopes for the new branding?

That our new brand, which was more than just name change, would be embraced and engaged with by our past, present and future clients, funders, other service providers and the wider community. The brand would enable us to more effectively ‘promote health and reduce alcohol and other drug related harm’ (our purpose). 

Did you seek outside advice? Why?

I have a background in marketing, have led rebranding projects before and have taught branding at Masters level… and so yes I definitely sought expert advice.  Rebranding is too big an opportunity and risk not too.

Melbourne-based brand design studio, StudioBrave provided a proposal and portfolio demonstrating both strategic, creative and design insights, which they lived up too (and beyond) throughout the process. They nailed it.  Key was the organisational fit. StudioBrave are a joy to work with and always went the extra mile to ensure outstanding results.  
 
Would you agree that neighbourhood cats lack insight into the marketing process?

Yes, as from my experience they are more focussed on their own rather than others needs and wants.  And the 4Ps mean nothing to them. While dogs on the other hand …
 
Agreed. Did you involve human stakeholders?

Together with Studio Brave we ran 14 targeted workshops for people who use our services, staff and board members to seek feedback on our identity and suggestions for developing a new brand.

Clients, staff, the Board and other stakeholders were kept updated/ engaged in the branding process through updates, workshops and presentations. The contribution of stakeholders was critical.

When it came to our name, we learned that, for people who already knew us, their attachment to the organisation was not to the name, but to their experience with our services.  For clients who did not have previous experience with us, our name was seen as being cold and ‘institutional’ and actually made people less likely to give us a call or want to engage with our services. 

It was not a case of trying to impose a new attitude or approach on an existing organisational culture, but a search for an identity that better represented who we are, what we do and what we hope to achieve in the future.  The combination of internal and external research provided remarkably consistent responses across all our stakeholder groups. 

Did a clear winner make itself obvious or could you have happily have gone in another direction?

After much deliberation, including working though 500 alternatives, we decided on ReGen. 

Why “ReGen” instead of say, DogBiscuit?

The consistent message from people who had used our services was to adopt an identity that was warm, bright and hopeful, that was grounded in our work and that spoke about change. 

ReGen best fitted the brand strategy that we had developed. It also had no known negative connotations, had available web urls and we could get the name trademarked.

Our new name references regeneration, new beginnings and growth within (and throughout) the life cycle.  It reflects our (evidence-based) holistic approach to AOD treatment and education as part of a broader promotion of health and wellbeing. 

Our new visual identity has been designed around the core theme of optimism.  The use of key ‘Re’ words (such as ReBuild, ReSpect and ReConsider) underpin our values and approach. They play a key role in our communications and complement our unusually wide palette of bright colours that reinforce the concepts of change, flexibility and adaptability.

Yes, yes but why not “DogBiscuit”?

The url www.dogbiscuit.org had already been taken by a Melbourne blogger. 
 
How long did it take from first seriously considering a rebrand to the launch of the new brand?

It was a year long process of research, education, listening and integrating feedback from all our stakeholders.  And every minute was needed!

The timing was excellent as it has helped position us for the Victorian government alcohol and other drugs treatment system and whole of government reforms.

What’s the response been so far? Are tails wagging?

Very positive from all stakeholders but particularly clients and staff.

Four months on, our post implementation review demonstrated that ReGen has been embraced and is just who we are now… which is just how we wanted it.
 
I’m sure you considered the rebranding of signage and websites etc but was there anything you forgot?

Didn’t forget but we did get ‘bumped’ from outdoor signage on the front of Flinders Street station. That would have been nice.

Key bits of branding that made a difference included cool T-shirts, where staff chose their branded colour and message eg ‘ReDuce harm’ or ‘ReThinking approaches’. At least one staff member a day wears it to work.  Staff also chose their own colour and ‘Re’ message on their business cards which helped with ownership.  Finally revamping the reception/waiting room at our main office with a focus on making it a more relaxed and comfortable environment for clients: less ‘doctor’s waiting room’ and more ‘Qantas club’ has had a big impact.

Do you own a dog? Is so, tell us about that at length.

No but I used to and would like to again.
 
What advice do you have for nonprofits considering such an undertaking?

It’s a big undertaking so don’t do it unless you are clear about your objectives, resources and timeframes and have commitment from the top (including the Board) as it wont be all plain sailing…  and get great expert advice, such as StudioBrave.
 
Cost?
 
Yes it costs but you can save a lot through innovation and long term planning such as running down print stocks. Key to the whole project is getting the brief right and selecting an agency that is a good fit.

See it for yourself: www.regen.org.au

 

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