In a recent article in Target Marketing Magazine, Jay Shapiro addressed the current trend of companies scrambling to rebrand as a new marketing technique. Shapiro stated that it has been traditional practice to standardize a company’s brand in order to build and maintain a stable identity and market position. It seems to be the new consensus that by having a fluid brand you can better customize and attract more customers, sort of an “I’m every (fill in the blank)” mindset.
Due to the wide-reach of online marketing, it is totally understandable why a company would want to present a sense of locality to prospective customers, but rebranding the company may be a huge jump. One thing that the Not-for-Profit sector has under wraps is the ability to be donor (customer) centric without comprising their brand identity.
Without careful planning you could implement brand-flexibility with frightening results. One NPO learned the hard way that you can’t be everything to everybody. For NPO’s, it’s very important to protect your brand while being donor-centric or risk becoming unidentifiable. Less than a month ago, I sat in a workshop presented by an employee from an International NPO that went from a standardized brand model to a more flexible approach integrating it into their direct mail and online campaigns. The idea was that it would attract the donors they were missing out on by addressing social issues they hadn’t in the past based on location. This had dramatic effects on their fundraising.
Loss of Identity
Their response rates took a nosedive! They lost more than $10 million and more than 50,000 donors. To try and figure out what happened they sent out surveys to their donors. What they discovered was that many of the donors were reluctant to give because they either questioned the future direction of the organization or they simply had no idea why the organization was sending mail, addressing these “new” issues. While the takeaway from this scenario is that they would have benefited from sending that survey to donors before launching those campaigns it suggests a key point...that rebranding isn’t something to be done as a niche marketing technique. Your brand is your identity!
When to Rebrand
This argument is not to say that a company/organization shouldn’t rebrand. A rebrand must be strategically thought out and planned. Had that survey been sent out beforehand, the organization would have had insight into other social issues interesting their donors. For more helpful tips about rebranding check out, Keeping It All Together, Brand and All.
Big Duck conducted a survey from 2012-2014 of 351 non-profits, resulting in more than 50% of the organizations rebranding to establish a “stronger understanding of the organization’s mission and values or to enhance credibility”. Rebranding should be done to bring clarity to your business or to update your brand identity due to staleness. If you find your brand unrecognizable due to an ill-planned rebrand there is hope, check out our post, Back on Track: Fall In Love with Your Brand Again. There are marketing techniques for diversifying your customer base and customizing your customer experience, I don't agree with rebranding as one of them.