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Brand Transformation Case Study - Flying high with brand revamp

Julia Keady,
02 October 2019
A brand transformation project by The Xfactor Collective specialists is giving this Victorian organisation a new lease on all fronts, especially fundraising and partnerships.

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,” recalls Chief Executive Officer Dr Maryann Brown.

The organisation had been created in 2008 to provide university scholarships, mentoring and leadership development for young rural people, but over the 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.

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.”

The next step was to find an experienced brand strategist, who could capably support multiple stakeholders through a journey of discovery and decision.

Like the initial strategic review, the brand strategist also came from social purpose sector specialist community, The Xfactor Collective. For award-winning brand strategist Darren Taylor, the project was a perfect fit.

“It was a personally satisfying project working with incredibly passionate people. From the Board, to the CEO, employees, alumni and supporters, they were all united by the belief that rural futures can be so much more positive made possible by the work they could all do together.

Being from a rural town myself, I really connected with the young people involved in the project, their aspirations and challenges. I was blown away by their insights, maturity and social conscience and drive to build a stronger rural future.

The organisation’s 10 year anniversary was incredibly impressive. While masterminded by the CEO, the event was practically run from start to finish by their talented alumni. They are such visionary, talented and articulate people – indeed, our future leaders.”

UNEARTHING THE UNIQUE BRAND ESSENCE

The importance of having an experienced brand strategist involved was to ensure the rebrand was not focused on creating singular outputs, like logos, a common mistake in brand transformation projects.

The brand transformation project needed to create a new Brand Model first – a blueprint summarising the organisation’s future brand intent and key brand strategy statements.

Darren says a Brand Model is similar to an architect’s vision – expressed in written plans and developed before constructing a building.

“The Brand Model forms the basis for all future brand expressions, including a new name and logo, but it shouldn’t stop there.

Brand is a holistic, organisation-wide concept that should drive all functions and activities such as behavior and culture, how products and services are designed, how working environments are designed and presented, among others.

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.

“The Brand Model 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,” says Darren.

The Brand Model designed by Darren 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, defining brand essence, among others.

“Darren listened to all the different perspectives presented and considered our strategic directions before creating our Brand Model, which was certainly helped highlight not only the brand potential but the business potential for the organisation,” says Maryann.

“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.

This was all certainly the most interesting part of the rebranding process.

In the early stage, we had alumni, staff and board directors all involved in a workshop with Darren to look at the brand ‘essence’. I loved hearing everyone’s different perspectives and the passion they had for the organisation and its work. It was fascinating to see the essence emerge and Darren’s work reflected the success of the workshop.”

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 Darren can cite, the name evolved very naturally and with ease after the Brand Model had been developed.

Maryann 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.

Our alumni, who were all MSRF Young Rural Leadership program graduates were very happy with the new name and adopted it easily, and we have received very positive feedback from many of our supporters.”

Darren 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,” says Darren.

“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.”

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER 

For Maryann, the project was another great learning opportunity for alumni, a practice deeply embedded into the philosophy at Youthrive Victoria.

“The agency staff were so very accommodating, which enabled our young graphic design, web design, and media and communications students to be involved in the whole rebrand process.”

Maryann says that 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.

Our current philanthropic donors are very happy to be associated with the new brand, and it’s easy to align missions with others interested in supporting young rural people.”

FINAL WORDS OF ADVICE 

In terms of other organisations considering a brand transformation, Maryann 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.

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.”

According to Darren, the rebrand has provided Youthrive Victoria with 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. 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.” 

 TOP 5 SIGNS YOUR BRAND IS WORKING AGAINST YOU
  1. You don’t have a brand strategy and brand expressions are left up to departments or individuals.
  2. Your brand is not known outside of your current stakeholder base and engaging new ones is extremely challenging and costly.
  3. Employee retention is low and employees are unable to consistently articulate why they work there.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
 TOP 5 WAYS YOU KNOW YOUR BRAND IS WORKING FOR YOU 
  1. All staff, from leaders to frontline, live and breathe your values and purpose, which serves as a gravitational pull to potential clients and staff.
  2. You are able to reach your financial and fundraising targets with ease because your brand is known and your value proposition is clear.
  3. You are widely known as a sector/market leader because you continuously provide compelling proof in your client communications.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

The Xfactor Collective is a community of pre-vetted specialist consultants who help social change makers achieve their social mission. We have a diverse range of specialists across 300+ areas of specialisation, and this article was written by our Founder/Chief Cheerleader and Changemaker Coach Julia Keady. To find out more about working with Julia, or how the Collective can help you, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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