Just How Much Branding Can One Nonprofit Take?

Photo by mattlogelin on Flickr

I received this question via email this week:

Our organization has gone through a huge transition in the last year. We are in a new neighborhood, with a new, beautiful building, new development staff (like myself, hired for the first-time by the organization) and a new, more sophisticated look – a rebrand.

Internal dynamics made the rebranding process a frankly, painful process. But, the process is almost now complete and I’ve come down to one last step: convincing staff to use the new rebranded look with their e-mail signatures.

We had the graphic design company design e-mail signatures for us, but only two staff (and one is me) have agreed to change over to this more formulaic signature. I personally think it looks more sophisticated and team-like. We have people use all sorts of fonts outside of our brand style guide and colors. Their argument is that to enforce from the top-down a mandate on something as seemingly petty as e-mail signatures is intrusive to the personal freedom of each staff member.

Any thoughts on this battle?

Here is how I replied:

I can see both sides of this argument — it’s good to be consistent, but you also don’t want to force the brand on people to the point where they rebel against it. A brand won’t succeed with the public if your own people aren’t behind it.

I would try to find some middle ground about using the brand overall — pick your battles. If you can get everyone to agree to use it consistently on all of the high-visibility pieces, I would be willing to let the email sig slide — within reason. Maybe you can come up with a range of options in fonts and colors that are still somewhat consistent with the brand look. That way, you aren’t all over the map, but you are also allowing some personal choice. Or is there a way people can customize the sigs provided to them with their own little messages about their particular programs?

I really do think finding some middle ground will be the best result long-term.

How would you have responded to this situation? Click on the comments link to add your thoughts.



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