Behind the scenes of a major rename and brand revamp | PBA
Brand refreshes are common. But renaming an organisation is a rare, delightful game changer in our sector. Julia Keady from The Xfactor Collective takes us behind the scenes of a recent brand transformation project that is giving a Victorian organisation a new lease of life on all fronts.
“We know in today’s times that brand is one of the few levers that leaders have to get noticed and to create strong emotional connections with all stakeholders.” – Darren Taylor, brand specialist at The Xfactor Collective.
When the then Macpherson Smith Rural Foundation (now Youthrive Victoria) undertook an extensive strategic review in 2017, the last thing on the group’s mind was a rebrand.
“We were initially wanting to understand the sector’s perception of us, as an organisation that had been operating for nearly 10 years – one that was established to support rural young people, and also one that was created by a generous endowment grant from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, one of the largest testamentary trusts in Australia,” chief executive officer Dr Maryann Brown recalls.
The organisation had been created in 2008 to provide university scholarships, mentoring and leadership development for young rural people, but over 10 years the organisation and its programs had evolved and grown to meet the changing needs of young people from rural and regional areas.
“We had also had experiences where other charities were coming to us seeking funding, thinking we were a philanthropic trust. We had some feedback that brand confusion might have been detracting from our ability to attract and form strong partnerships with both private donors and other trusts in the sector,” Brown says.
“The findings were valuable and compelling. They very much affirmed our concerns and enabled us to progress confidently with a number of initiatives, including a brand transformation project.”
Top five signs your brand is working against you
- You don’t have a brand strategy and brand expressions are left up to departments or individuals.
- Your brand is not known outside of your current stakeholder base and engaging new ones is extremely challenging and costly.
- Employee retention is low and employees are unable to consistently articulate why they work there.
- Your understanding of your value is out of touch with the market’s view and you often feel that you under-deliver on your promise.
- Your founders started the business with a strong vision and core belief, but its relevance and strength is now being challenged by a changing competitive environment.
Unearthing the unique brand essence
The next step was working with award-winning brand strategist Darren Taylor and his team (specialist members of The Xfactor Collective) who would ensure the rebrand was not focused on creating singular outputs, like logos, a common mistake in brand transformation projects.
The first step was to create a brand model – a blueprint that summarises the organisation’s future brand intent and key brand strategy statements.
Taylor explains that a brand model is similar to an architect’s vision, expressed in written plans and developed before constructing a building.
“It is an important foundation to developing a strong brand – and one that forms an emotional connection with its audiences. Strong brands are now very much seen as a key driver for organisational resilience, a common topic among leaders today,” Taylor says.
The brand model designed by Taylor and developed for numerous Australian organisations, consolidates on one page a range of statements to guide the organisation in its brand reinvention journey: the core rallying belief, the gravitational why, the emotional and rational brand benefits, the unique value proposition, the “big hairy audacious goal”, the desired perpetual shift, brand archetypes, the brand tone and defining brand essence, among others.
“Darren listened to all the different perspectives presented and considered our strategic directions before creating our brand model, which certainly helped highlight not only the brand potential but the business potential for the organisation,” Brown says.
“Identifying our rational benefits and emotional benefits, along with our unique value proposition and differentiators, has given us a strong base for future communications and marketing.
The brand essence – the core characteristic and defining purpose of the organisation – was crystallised as “redefining rural possibility” which has also gone onto become the organisation’s new brand tagline.
Finding a new name
Finding a new name, let alone agreeing on one, could be seen as the most daunting part of the brand transformation process.
In this instance with Youthrive Victoria, and many other instances that Taylor can cite, the name evolved very naturally and with ease after the brand model had been developed.
Brown concurs: “Darren presented name options to our board and the name was reached very quickly after a discussion. We selected one of the options, The Rural Foundation Ltd, as our company name, which reflects our mission and rural focus.
“The trading name of Youthrive Victoria was chosen to reflect our focus on supporting youth and thriving rural communities. We also represent ‘A Legacy of Helen Macpherson Smith’ underneath the name to ensure the link with our heritage.”
Taylor says the name Youthrive Victoria works cleverly on two levels – thriving as individuals and collectively.
“It is possible to create a name and a brand that people believe in, and want to be part of, not just to buy products and services from,” he says.
“You end up building, and more importantly keeping, a tribe of raving employees and supporters who feel a sense of belongingness and also experience unparalleled value. This in turn reduces the need for large marketing budgets because the brand sells itself – word of mouth kicks in and people flock to the brand like moths to a flame.”
And the result…
Taylor says Youthrive Victoria now has a unique opportunity for the next 10 years and beyond.
“The process has unleashed a renewed enthusiasm and emotional connection to the brand by board, employees, volunteers, supporters and alumni,” he says.
“It has provided the organisation its own wings – to be itself and to determine its own future as a force for good for rural Victorian young people and their communities.”
Brown says all stakeholders agree that the new brand has captured the essence of the organisation and has given the organisation a strong direction.
“People love the vibrancy of young people and strong rural connections. They love the inspiring images. The liveliness of the brand. They love the colours. They believe our new website tells the story well,” Brown says.
“Our current philanthropic donors are also very happy to be associated with the new brand, and it’s easy to align missions with others interested in supporting young rural people.”
Top five ways you know your brand is working for you
- All staff, from leaders to frontline, live and breathe your values and purpose, which serves as a gravitational pull to potential clients and staff.
- You are able to reach your financial and fundraising targets with ease because your brand is known and your value proposition is clear.
- You are widely known as a sector/market leader because you continuously provide compelling proof in your client communications.
- You are able to enter into new markets (launching new services and/or products) relatively easily because you are skilled at articulating your value proposition and attracting new clients.
- Your employee value proposition is so clear and powerfully communicated that people are lining up to work with you, reducing the need for you to pay for recruitment agencies and job ads.
Final words of advice
For other organisations considering a brand transformation, Brown offers two pieces of advice.
“Be prepared for some challenges as everyone is learning through the experience. It is a complex and exciting process, and everyone needs to be clear about timelines and roll-out requirements,” she says.
“My other advice for other leaders is to be really clear about the purpose of the exercise, about the roles of the different stakeholders in the process and what you want to get out of the rebrand.
Youthrive Victoria worked with specialist members of The Xfactor Collective, a sector-first community of 40-plus highly experienced pre-vetted consultants and agencies who organisations are calling on during times of change, challenge and transformation.
Organisations can use this Brand Health Check scorecard to get an instant score of their brand health, and Taylor is also a guest expert at Pro Bono Australia’s upcoming executive webinar on Thursday 17 October.
NFP Branding: Is Your Brand Helping or Hindering Your Success? will teach you about five of the most common ways in which a brand can work against organisations, with some practical tips on how to avoid or address them. Secure your place here.