The third state of rebrand – Breaking out - Charity Today

By Max du Bois

As featured in Charity Today by Max du Bois.

For those of you who are just joining this conversation, a quick recap! We have been steadily working our way through the 6 states of rebranding, an invaluable exercise in defining why a rebrand should take place, that guides the key issues the rebrand should address.

We have covered the first two states of rebrand, starting with where there is a vision to move into a different area or market and moved onto the subtly different but impactful, deepening and asserting state of rebrand. Now we are addressing the third state of rebrand which we define as the break out state.

This third state particularly applies when a brand has become old, fussy and stagnant. However, this state does not automatically equate to failing engagement – in many cases engagement may still be good. 

In fact we have seen charities that are experiencing little to no decline in any key area, such as income or impact, who have silently slid into the third state of rebranding. The traditional indicators of failure, such as loss of audience don’t start to occur until much later.

However, if the overall brand is tired and faded then sooner rather than later it is going to start eroding internal and external engagement. This is when it is time to break out, before the rot sets in and there is more re-building work to be done to shore up the damage.

This is precisely where the Association of Art Historians found themselves a year ago when they realised they were no longer reflecting the exciting nature of the subject they were so passionate about. They had become lackluster. They were perceived as being reserved for intimidating professional art historians. They needed to be the champion for art history and for many more people who are impassioned about the value it can bring to understanding our identity and culture.

Art history is dynamic, it gives meaning and context to the art on our walls, the architecture occupying skylines and the films we watch in cinemas. The breadth of insights it offers into people and our cultures, past and present, helps us to ask questions about all aspects of our lives and our futures. 

However, cuts in funding for education and the arts had led to its invisibility, and was slowly strangling the subject.

When we connect art with insight it helps us to think differently and see differently, and this was at the heart of the new Association for Art History’s new brand and name. 

To ensure art history could continue to thrive, the Association for Art History wanted to advance their value and shape the conversation in understanding the world around us.

By placing itself at the centre of the subject, the Association for Art History wanted to bring together the people who are so fascinated by the subject and enable them to share knowledge, inspire views and advance research for the art history community and wider society.

Their new visual brand focuses on inclusivity, and embracing difference. The foundational shapes of the visual brand and the way they interact represent different things coming together, from objects and ideas to academic focuses and the art history network. By breaking through the barriers that had tied them to a worn out story, the Association for Art History carved themselves a dynamic position that all those involved are excited to be part of.

British Kidney Patient Association, on the other hand found themselves facing the third state of rebranding when they realised that their ambitions had overtaken their existing brand narrative. They were set up to make life better for kidney patients, but after decades of recognition for handing out grants they felt they needed to break out with new energy.

Kidney failure rips freedom out of life. Thousands of people in the UK are trapped in a cycle of dialysis, living their lives in hospital beds receiving treatment that dominates who they are and their relationships with the people around them.

The charity wanted to help kidney patients take control of their lives and give them the support they need to tackle everyday life with kidney failure.

They needed a brand that put that vision into practice.

Kidney charities suffer from limited awareness, compounded by conditions that leave patients exhausted and unable to drum up the energy to find out more. 

Through co-creative workshops and audience research we built new messages designed to prick the ears of patients, speaking to their desire for emotional as well as practical support.

By learning what help kidney patients really needed we helped the charity prioritise new services, positioning them as the natural source for support in a sector with few avenues for help.

Now they are defined by one powerful goal: Making sure no one faces kidney disease alone. 

We found that the charity’s original name, the British Kidney Patient Association, was blocking their ability to make change. Local kidney patient associations abound throughout the UK. The old name was both confusing and misleading, implying patient-led peer-to-peer support rather than the hands on help the charity actually provides.

The move to Kidney Care UK was a natural shift and gave them room to grow into the charity’s new services whilst creating clarity over what they stood for.

Like the Association for Art History, Kidney Care UK needed a brand that helped them bravely break out of the status quo that had suited them for so long, and gear up for a world of new opportunities.

Defining the rebranding state they were at before embarking on the actual rebrand, enabled them to retain certain elements of their original brand that were working well and build on these to develop a stronger market position.

A key element here is to ensure that the current engagement, which often is still quite good, is not lost in the rebrand but brought along on the journey. Otherwise there is a risk that a break out brand might lose some of its original ‘fan base’. 

The third state of rebrand, if recognised early enough, ensures a charity avoids looking and sounding dated, something that could incur serious damage if left un-checked as new players enter the market and stakeholder engagement dwindles.