Lolly Colombo & Matthew Rayburn

QUICK SHOT: What’s in a Name?

A Rescue Mission Rebranding Study

These days, scroll through your social media feed and you’ll probably see a post where someone declares a destination, restaurant or a product as “on brand” for them.

Meaning, this aligns with who I am/what I believe/how I live my life.

So let’s redirect to the nonprofit world when it comes to these defining brand statements. If you asked your donors about your nonprofit brand, how would they answer? Would they even be able to answer? And if they did, would you be confident about what they would say?

One of our Rescue Mission clients wanted to know how their donors would answer… and turned to BDI for help. And wow, did we get some insightful answers!

The Backstory

More than 100 years ago, the Mission was founded under a brand that identified them with their general service area. Over the years, that name began to be more widely used in the market, and the Mission wanted to take on a new name that identified them with the city in which they served.

To make matters more complex, another brand associated with the Mission was introduced to the community, became active in-market, and gained traction.

Could this be the beginning of a branding crisis for the Mission?

While leadership was ready for change, they weren’t clear how to proceed. Was a new name in order? And what name would best speak to their ministry… donors… community at large?

What’s in a name?

BDI was ready to pursue answers. To get started, we set out to gain insight into the community’s perception, appreciation, and understanding of the work of the Mission. Ultimately, we wanted to determine the value of their current brand in the market.

Together with our partners at Analytical Ones, we conducted a Brand Equity Analysis to three distinct audience groups, via online surveys:

  • The House File – Donors including 0-24 month active donors, 25+ month lapsed donors, and GIK donors.
  • The Friends File – Board members, volunteers, community leaders, civic organizations, churches, businesses, vendors, and other key non-transactional stakeholders.
  • Prospects – A list of philanthropic donors who were actively giving to other organizations within the Mission’s service area and zip code universe who are not yet financially supporting the Mission.

An active email address also qualified the participants.

On the house

House and Friends files were emailed first. Participants were presented with a series of questions that framed the donor’s familiarity and perception of the services offered by the Mission. We wanted to learn which areas of service resonated most with them and understand how deeply they cared about those services.

Then they were presented with three brands to consider:

  • Brand #1 – The original name of the Mission at its founding.
  • Brand #2 – The current name of the Mission.
  • Brand #3 – A more vision-based name that had been introduced to the community through the Mission’s highly visible and successful enterprise program.

Note: One other notable change was introduced to the three brand options above. All three names were presented in the survey without the word Rescue – a bold move that we will address below.

What happened? Brand #3 won! It was chosen by 39% of the House file, 43% of the Friends file, and 57% of the Prospects file. Positive, unaided feedback from survey participants revealed that Brand #3 best communicated the life-changing work of the Mission.

Coming to the rescue?

A pivotal component of the Brand Equity Analysis was to explore the potential impact of removing the word “Rescue” from the brand.

Among survey respondents:

  • 64% of the House File (donors) felt that the term “Rescue” was not vital to the brand.
  • 72% of the Friends File agreed that “Rescue” was not essential.

Considering that this is a common branding inclusion for Gospel Rescue Missions across the country, the response – with this audience – regarding the usage of Rescue was eye-opening! Especially for current donors and other key stakeholder respondents.

One respondent put it this way:


Reaching out into the unknown

With donors and key stakeholders endorsing Brand #3, it was time to hear from the Prospect audience. It was also vital to learn whether the word “Rescue” resonated with people who have no current relationship with the Mission.

Net favorability for Brand #3 among prospects was actually higher than that of the House File. 57% of Prospects favored Brand #3, while both Brand #1 and #2 received 22% favorability each. Twice as many respondents decidedly liked this new name vs. those who disliked it.

One Prospect File respondent commented:


The check’s in the mail

In addition to surveying familiarity with the brand among all audiences and testing receptivity to the various brand names, respondents were presented corresponding logos within a direct mail appeal. The design elements of the logo remained the same, the name of the Mission was the only variable.

At random, a surveyed participant was presented with a full-color envelope, a letter, and a remit that represented one of the three brands. They were asked first whether they would open the envelope, and second, whether they were likely to make a gift to that organization with that name.*

Interestingly, results were relatively flat for the House File across each of the brand variables.

  • Brand #2 scored .02% higher in the ever-so-important “open score” (opening the envelope) against Brand #3 – a minimal difference, statistically, and within the margin of error. The fact that a newer brand scored closely to the current brand underscores the fact that Brand #3, a brand active in the market and associated with the Mission, is a viable option!
  • The “Give Score” between the three contending brands had a deviation of .01 – .02% indicating that the donor community would give to the deeply trusted Mission no matter what they were called!

For the Prospect file, the results were even more interesting.

  • Brand #3 received a slightly lower open-rate (.04% lower than Brand #2) but a .05% higher give-rate for those who opened the virtual envelope.
  • It was not surprising to see Brand #3 win with the Prospect audience, as the Mission’s ZIP universe extends across four counties and the Brand #3 lends itself to a broader more inclusive prospecting footprint.

*Note: This exercise was conducted before any potential brands were revealed to reduce bias.

Stepping forward with confidence

The results? This study provided the Mission with clear and actionable data as to the feasibility and possible success of a rebrand. It clearly defined which name from their short-list resonated most strongly in their community.

Note: The new brand is not live in the market as of the publishing of this paper. Thus, the name of the mission has not been mentioned.

Now, we can focus on next steps to begin their rebranding efforts.

Your brand is your promise.

Your brand should clearly and consistently communicate who you are as an organization – your vision, your direction, your purpose. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Has the vision or the mission of your organization changed over the years?
  • Have your service area or the services you offer expanded?
  • Has something about your community changed?
  • Has your audience changed or are you looking to expand into new audiences?
  • Are you about to do something extraordinarily new?
  • Have you encountered media difficulties as an organization that you cannot shake off?
  • Is your audience experiencing any brand confusion?
  • Does your name reflect who you are?
  • Have you outgrown your brand?

Rebranding is a challenging process. Let BDI help you secure the actionable intelligence you need before you embark on that journey. Let’s do this together!

Check out last week’s Quick Shot: “Are you ready for more change?” >>

  • Lolly Colombo, Exec VP Client Services

    Lolly Colombo, Chief Client Officer

    With over 30 years of program and agency experience, Lolly Colombo has brought her passion, expertise and heart of service to some of the world’s most beloved charities and faith-based organizations. She has had the pleasure of serving with Food for the Hungry, The Christian Broadcasting Network, Operation Blessing International,TBN, In Touch Ministries, The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, The Salvation Army, Gospel Rescue Missions and others.

  • Matthew Rayburn

    Matthew Rayburn, Strategist/Senior Account Director

    For 20 years, Matthew has worked on both the agency and nonprofit side to bring faith-based solutions to issues of homelessness, poverty and addiction. Prior to joining BDI, he was an Account Manager at an agency serving nonprofits and provided leadership at Christian nonprofits, including as Executive Director of Family Promise of San Gabriel Valley, Director of People Assisting the Homeless and Development Director at The Jonah Project. In these roles, Matthew spearheaded fundraising efforts to increase housing, as well as coordinated a highly-successful shelter network of faith communities in the greater Los Angeles area.

More fuel for more impact.

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