Ready to rebrand? with Elizabeth Alex and Laney Haake of Unbound

Ready to rebrand? with Elizabeth Alex and Laney Haake of Unbound

Is your organization in need of some soul searching? Elizabeth Alex and Laney Haake of Unbound shared their introspective experience this morning at our Marketing Matters: Rebranding Essentials. Formerly the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, Unbound is a humanitarian organization that works to challenge poverty in 21 countries. Alex and Haake recently led the rebranding process for Unbound, and imparted tips from their journey with our Nonprofit Connect members.

The Unbound team began rebranding by setting goals. Alex and Haake knew it was important to create a brand identity that:

- clearly defines what the organization does,
- accurately positions the organization for future growth in both the 
  organization’s current channels and future channels,
- and maintains significant loyalty from current supporters. 

To achieve the goals for their new brand identity, the Unbound team emphasized three steps.
Do your research. It is so important to understand what your brand is, and what it isn’t. Find your organization’s voice, and then define your voice. How do you find out how your brand is perceived? You ask! Alex and Haake recommend creating surveys for your audience; through surveys, Unbound discovered that what they do and what people thought they do were very different. SurveyMonkey was a very helpful tool. Alex and Haake also recommended bringing in a branding consultant. Put together an RFP for local marketing agencies to see what they can offer pro-bono, or contact local universities for help from students that need experience to build their portfolio. Look for someone who is willing to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to.

Involve the right people. Make sure that everyone is on board for the rebranding process. Your staff, board of directors and stakeholders are all crucial to creating a successful brand identity from beginning to end. Involve staff in the research process; if you consult them in deciding the direction of the new brand, staff will take ownership. Train staff to be prepared for questions about the rebranding. Alex and Haake drafted answers for potential questions from stakeholders and distributed them to the service team. The Unbound team also touted the critical role of their CEO’s voice in rolling the new brand out to stakeholders. They mailed over 300,000 letters to sponsors announcing the rebrand. Know that some donors may choose to leave over the rebrand. Be prepared for pushback.

Communicate with confidence. You can’t just change your organization’s brand and expect your audience to notice; you have to invest time and energy into promoting the new brand. Alex emphasized the importance of social media in communicating the rebrand to the Unbound audience. She recommended securing social media handles and domain names months in advance, and stressed live social media engagement. If your organization is struggling with a small staff or a small budget, try choosing one social media platform at a time to focus on. Alex favors blogs, and suggests asking for content from board members or volunteers.

Per the Unbound team, know that the rebranding process often takes longer that you expect, so be prepared to follow through. However Alex and Haake have measured noticeable success since Unbound’s rebrand in January. Is your organization ready to rebrand?

Marketing Matters is a monthly series for all nonprofit professionals on marketing and communications, social media and technology. Please watch for upcoming information on the May session.