How we rebranded our charity
What’s involved in a charity rebrand? Why did Ripple Effect change their name from Send a Cow? How much does a charity rebrand cost? How did people respond to Ripple Effect’s name change? Find out in this episode.
You’ll hear from Joanna Brownbill, the Director of Communications and Marketing at Ripple Effect. To find out more about Ripple Effect’s work, visit their website.
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Hello, and welcome to this opportunity for you to learn, develop, and contribute more to your cause.
Today, you’ll hear from Joanna Brownbill, the Director of Communications and Marketing at Ripple Effect. You’ll learn why Ripple Effect changed their name from Send a Cow, what was involved in the rebranding process, how much it cost, what the response was, and much more. Enjoy.
So, Joanna, it’s great to have you here. I think it’s good to talk about rebranding projects, because they’re conceptually so simple, just changing a name… but, actually – I’m sure you can attest that – not so much. But to give us a bit of context, maybe you can just tell us a little bit about Ripple Effect and the work that you do as a charity.
First of all, thanks so much for having me. I’m always happy to talk about rebranding, it was a long process; much more time investment than I had realised. So any opportunity I’ve got to share my learning or help somebody else, I’m always really happy to do.
Ripple Effect as an organisation, we help families in rural Africa to learn more, grow more, and sell more. That’s our slogan. So it’s working with community groups for over 30 years now in six east and southern African countries. Focusing on sustainable agriculture techniques, gender and social inclusion – so helping families and communities to work better together – and enterprise development. So not only should families be able to feed themselves and earn an income but what are their hopes and dreams? What are their aspirations? How can they start the sort of thriving businesses?
If we were to go back in time, and ask past Joanna, and maybe past Joanna’s team, “why are you considering changing your name from Send a Cow?”, what would you have said?
I’ve been at the organisation for over a decade, and we’ve been talking about whether or not we should change our name for at least that long.
It was a big job. As you said, we used to be called Send a Cow. And that name came from our roots, where – in reaction to the civil war in Uganda, which caused a decimation of their agriculture – a group of farmers from Devon got together and actually sent cows, put them on planes and sent them to Africa, where they were able to provide milk, provide manure, and start these agricultural businesses. So it was a really great apt name for what we used to do. And it was quirky, and it was memorable. And we had a lot of people who loved it a lot. So it was a difficult decision.
However, it just became really apparent that it was holding us back. So we had, for example, a funder from a big organisation, an institutional donor, we found out that they had received an application for our gender-based work, but because we were called Send a Cow, they thought, “oh, they can’t do gender”. So the application wasn’t even read. So it was closing doors rather than opening for us.
We also found out that it was stopping staff from coming to work with us because they didn’t understand what we did, or they didn’t want to be associated with that brand.
And thirdly, it was misleading for the project participants who we were working alongside in Africa. One of our staff in our Kenya office, Silvia, tells a story of how somebody turned up with a rope saying, “where’s my cow?”. Or somebody else asking, “well, you’ve given me a cow, do I now need to send it?”.
It was a very much UK-based proposition. And that doesn’t represent who we are as an organisation. We are 250 staff at present in Africa. Our projects are designed and delivered by African staff. There’s a few of us in the UK who do marketing; we can’t take any credit for any of the good and amazing work that we do. We needed a brand really reflected that and who we were as an organisation.
I can also empathise with the fickle nature, or excuse me, the fickle nature of funders… One sentence and going “oh. no.”
It’s the same with anyone, isn’t it? That’s human nature. You make a snap judgement, don’t you? We all do. So you’ve got to make sure that the first five seconds, 10 seconds, is completely on point and getting you through.
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. The hours I’ve spent on the 30 words in the first part of an application. Anyway…
It’s hard to be succinct, isn’t it?
The question is, then, you’ve been thinking about this for 10 years or so, what was that impetus to make you finally say, “Okay, we’re changing our name from Send a Cow?”.
I think it was reaching kind of a critical mass internally and with the board having that weight of evidence. And I think once you know your funders, staff, and the project participants themselves… once you know that the name isn’t serving any of those audiences, then it’s clearly not working for you.
We were also working on our 2030 strategy, where we really want to grow. We know that our impact works, we’ve got all the data for it, and we want to be able to grow our reach to help more people. So we need to be in the best possible place so that we can do that. So the decision was kind of made for us then.
So you’ve made the decision, you’re going to change your name. Could you give us a run-through then of what happens next? What’s the process? I understand that it took about 18 months. So maybe you could give us a step-by-step? And maybe what are the timescales in between each step?
Sure. We knew we wanted to invest in getting a branding agency to help us we didn’t feel like it was something we could do ourselves. So we wrote a tender document outlining our objectives, our audiences, our budget, things like that. Went out to pitch. Decided on working with an amazing agency, I would thoroughly recommend them – Eden Stanley. They’ve done a lot of work with international development charities and understood the internationalism of our work, which for us was really important. That was in the January. We then (probably) appointed in the spring and started work – I think – with them in the June. That was already six months gone.
In the meantime, we did a lot of propriety work ourselves, any kind of internal research we could do or focus groups that we could do or questionnaires with our stakeholders.
Then the first step of the process working with the agency was actually to discover should we change our name? You know, we didn’t go in saying, we’re 100% going to do that. I think that was our assumption, but you should always test that assumption.
We wanted to test what our proposition was first. And does that proposition work? Is it giving us the differentiation we need? That was our number one objective, was to get differentiation in the market.
The result came back and our current proposition wasn’t being effective. So they suggested two new propositions. One of which was this sense of the multiplier effect, as we call it. So for every family that we work alongside, they pass that knowledge and skills on to others, there’s three more families benefit. So that’s that sense of a ripple, you can see where we’re going. So once we’ve identified that, and we were like, “oh, that’s good. That’s what we do. Other organisations aren’t pitching themselves in that space. We think that’s a really effective messaging”.
So we decided that, “yup, that was how we were going to position ourselves”. Does the name Send a Cow fit with that? No. So, therefore, okay, now we need to go down the route of exploring potential name options.
Then we went down to… I think there was 300 names on the table at the beginning and seven different propositions, so it was a lot to go through. But the agency did most of that hard work for us.
Research. So researching with current stakeholders from across our different fundraising audiences, governments, delivery partners, and new audiences as well. So we identified those audiences that we wanted to grow into, then we finally got to a name.
And we paused at that point, we had to do quite a bit of internal selling to get people on board. Some people straightaway loved it. Others, it took a little bit more time. So we had a bit of a pause there.
And then we started working on the visual. That was a separate add-on project. Because again, when we started off the process, we didn’t know if we’d need to change our visuals, we quite liked them. But then once we realised we were going to be Ripple Effect and what our USP was going to be, our current visuals just didn’t work. So it was important for us to make that investment and do that process. That then took another three or four months.
Then we had to prep for launch. So obviously redoing all your content, mapping out supporter journeys and how you’re going to communicate with supporters, all the legal side of it that all the trademarks and registrations in different countries, which was a whole learning curve for me. We had a few stumbling blocks on the way.
Then we did a private launch in March this year. We launched alongside our strategy because it was really important that we weren’t just rebranding for the sake of it, we were changing our name because that was going to allow us to reach our strategic goal of working with 5 million more people, we wouldn’t be able to do that without it. Then we had a two-month transition period. And we publicly launched at the beginning of June this year. So it was about 18 months.
Wow, thank you. I’m interested. So you said there were 300 options. Was that 300 potential names that you’ve got down to Ripple Effect?
Yes. It’s not like we sat here with a list of 300. The agency, I think, at one point had about 300 on the table.
Blimey, and how did you… because that’s… did the agency do a lot of the work before they came to you? Or did you get to see 300 names?
No, luckily, we didn’t have to see them. They did it for us. But I think…
That’s nice of them.
They told… Hang on. I’m trying to remember the figure there’s something like, in the UK alone, there are – I think I’m getting this right, but maybe we should fact-check this – something like 10,000 NGOs who work in international development registered in the UK. So if you’re international like us, you’ve got the US, you’ve got all the African countries, any name you can think of, most likely somebody’s already got it. So we’re thinking a lot of things to do with, you know, Africa, and farming or you know, just different words. So most of them were taken. So that actually crossed out 95% of them.
And then the second question we had is: do we actually want a name that is descriptive, that says what we do? Send a Cow said what we did. And we thought about, “what has more impact? What resonates more with people? Is it the work that you do or the results that you give the impact that you have?”. And actually, we thought talking about the Ripple Effect, what it does, it really positions the project participants at the heart of the brand, it’s about them, and what they do to share the knowledge and create this amazing ripple effect that they have. It’s not about us, it’s about them. And actually, that’s far more… I think, anyway… I would find that far more engaging, as a brand to be part of than two words talking about what we did.
No, I agree. And I think as well, having a practical functional name restricts you in the long term. I mean, as you found and as was the impetus for your name change was “okay, so we do this, this is our name”, but then you’re restricted. Whereas something like Ripple Effect, you can respond more effectively to the needs of the people you serve.
So no, I would agree that having a more outcome, focused naming approach, it’s just the way to go.
And so you’ve, you’ve launched, you’ve put out your strategy, put out your new name, what was the response? I’m assuming they were hoping it was a response.
There was a response. And – just to say – we have launched… but this is an ongoing process. There’s all these bits now that we’re finding, “oh, well, that works well, or that doesn’t work, we need to slightly change it and adapt it”.
The response was mixed, to be honest. And we knew that was going to be the case, of course. It’s change, not everyone’s going to love it. I think it was especially challenging for some of our really long-term supporters who’ve been there from the beginning of Send a Cow. potentially who had an agriculture… a dairy agricultural background.
A lot of people loved the cow. And they had black and white cow ears and stuff that they ran challenge events in. Or black and white cow print tablecloths for fundraising at cake sales. For them, it was really hard to let go of the cow. So we did find that.
But when we explained the reasons for doing it and, actually, the name Ripple Effect came from our project staff in Africa. It was during a brainstorm – a workshop – that was run by the agency. And somebody said, “I just wish we had a way of talking about the ripple effect that we have”. I didn’t even notice that at the time. But luckily, somebody wrote it down. So it was a really authentic way of talking about our work. And I think once you explain all of that background, it’s – again – a little bit hard to argue with.
And so just really mapping out a clear supporter journey explaining all that, making sure that you have time to have the conversations. I don’t know how many phone calls I’ve had with supporters. And you’ve just got to, you’ve got to block out weeks and weeks just to make phone calls and have that same conversation again, but actually, it really strengthens your relationship.
I don’t think we’ve had anyone who said, “oh, gosh, that’s awful. No, I’m never supporting you ever again because of it”. Those who were unsure, once we talked to them about it, they’ve actually been really supportive.
Oh, that’s good. I’m glad that people I got on board.
And that’s a slight tangent, slight segue. Because people are a big part of change management. And I imagine that you’ve learned a lot from those conversations about how people think how people feel, what makes people tick. And I wondered if you have any reflections from those conversations, even with supporters or internally about the response to change response to the name? Any thoughts?
That psychology of change was something that was new to me. And it’s simple when you think about it, but when you’re in it, you don’t realise you’re necessarily in it.
So the reaction that I found, from pretty much everyone was: they hear it, they have a visceral response straightaway. So it’s, “I love it!”, “I hate it!”, something… a big emotion. Then you have to leave them to sit with that. And for some people, it was a matter of a minute. And some people it was six months, and some people might still be in that. And then often, they’d come back and then start talking to us.
But they’ve always talked themselves around, “well, I wasn’t sure because it doesn’t actually say you work in Africa, it doesn’t say this, but I do really like the fact that you’ve got the project participants at the heart. And I mean, they do start a ripple effect. So… well… actually… it’s quite a good name, isn’t it?”. And they would… you allow them this monologue and they’d talk themselves around and in the end, they were then really supportive.
But my really key learning from this project is how important it is to protect that time whilst people are going away and reflecting, be that your supporters, partners, staff, whoever, because I think during that reflection period, it’s really easy for people to be swayed. And if you have voices that are louder than others… We’d run groups, you know, Teams calls or with staff, with different supporters. If you’ve got somebody who’s a real believer one way or the other, they can sort of dominate it, and then begin to steal other people’s thoughts. So just really understanding that process of change. How it’s different for different people, and just giving them the time that they need. And then also the time to come back and have that conversation with you.
See, that’s interesting. So I’m wondering, did you find, then, that it’s better to be a bit more hands-off? So to talk about what the plan was and then – obviously, not fully hands off, you’re there, you’re able to chat if people want it, but – giving more space?
Because I think it can be easy when you’re going through any form of change management, to want to be really proactive with constant communication, constant communication, constant communication.
And I suppose what I’m perhaps inferring – and you can tell me whether I’m right or wrong here, or maybe it’s a bit more nuanced – is that you found that space is an important part of the process. And actually, constant communication – perhaps – can be a bit too much.
I mean, maybe every circumstance is different, so I don’t want to be too prescriptive. But certainly, in our experience, I think it’s really important to give people the tools that they need to be able to inform their decision and reflect.
It’s not just a drop a bombshell: This is changing. And then don’t contact them for six months.
Yeah! We did an awful lot of kind of slow conversation. First of all, we started talking about why the name Send a Cow wasn’t effective for us anymore. So that began to plant a seed in people… “okay, yeah, no, it’s not effective. I wonder if they’re going to do anything about it”.
Then we talked about our new strategy and our plans for growth, “okay, well, they want to grow”. Then we said, “oh, we are going to do a rebrand”. So they were sort of expecting it.
Then we said all about this multiplier. So – hopefully – by that point, once they hear Ripple Effect, it already makes sense. So they’ve got all the tools they need to then be able to go away and think about it.
Yeah. And that was temporally over a few months.
So you built that… So it wasn’t a surprise. Okay, brilliant. And I think that’s… just to highlight as well… the importance of involving the team at every stage so that isn’t a surprise.
In terms then, of the bit which we sometimes don’t talk about, and I think we should because it’s helpful for other people in the sector to know. What were the costs associated – if you don’t mind that is – financially or otherwise (or and otherwise, I should say) with the project?
I don’t think people should be shy about talking. There’s always this controversy about charities, spending money on marketing…
How dare us!
How dare we! “You pay your staff?!” and things like that.
No, we’re really proud of the investment. It was a strategic investment, it was decided by the board that we needed to do this. We don’t anticipate ever changing it again. We’d had 30 years as Send a Cow, this is not something we’re going to be doing anytime soon.
We spent about £55,000. So that included agency costs, it included buying the website URL, it included legal costs, which – as I said – that was quite tricky. And it included reprinting of certain pieces of content, and we made the decision that we would do it slowly when things run out, so we could lower that cost.
Somebody might go, “I mean, that is a lot of money”. And I want to be clear about how responsibly and carefully we thought about that decision, but we really do see it as an investment.
But beyond that, is all the time that the staff time, and I don’t have a figure for that. But it was essentially my role for 18 months, plus numerous other people across the organisation. So there were seven of us in a core team, all different levels, and all different countries. But every single member of staff was involved at some point. And – as I said – it’s a continuing… we’re still running workshops and testing different things in different territories.
It is a substantial investment in resource, staff time, money, mental agility…
Oh, actually, the third thing I should say is attrition. We don’t know yet because we haven’t had a full calendar year what level of attrition we’ve got. Obviously, I hope that it’s low. But I can’t tell you that yet. But when you’re planning it, I guess it’s worthwhile bearing that in because you also lose a lot of your brand visibility transitioning people on social media, all those sorts of things. So that’s worth thinking about.
And I think we swerve… circling back to the start, when you mentioned all of the reasons why Send a Cow was holding you back. And while yes, £55k and a lot of staff time may seem like a big investment. Investment is the operative word there. And there’s clearly a cost benefit, there’s clearly a benefit to the cost which you’ve outlaid. And it was clearly done in a strategic way.
Done in a strategic way. So far, the results are looking positive. We track our return on investment, we have a positive return on investment, it’s somewhere between 3-5%. So for every pound we get, and we invest it in fundraising, we can make that money back at least three times.
It’s really, really important that we are in the best possible place to be able to raise awareness of ourselves, to be able to raise funds, and to be able to support more and more families who need our support.
Excellent. Well, that is a lovely place to end, I will give you the opportunity to – if you want to – give a final thought or a takeaway that you’d like people to leave today with. Otherwise, we can end on that note,
That was probably a better one. But I’m just trying to think of…
Sorry! You’ve done a really good one and now I’m forcing you to do one again.
A piece of advice that I got given early on when we were thinking about changing our name was: do it when you’re smaller, don’t wait until you’re bigger because the bigger you are as an organisation, the more challenging it is going to be to do.
Oh, and I’ve got one more and you can decide which you think is the most useful. The other one was, one of the real strengths of Send a Cow was our heritage. It really had that nice sense of who we were, and where we’d come from, and who those founding farmers were. And a lot of organisations are desperate for a heritage story and a really lovely background. So we wanted to make sure that – although we wanted our new brand to be much more contemporary, much more participant-focused – we didn’t want to lose some of that warmth that the Send a Cow story had. So sometimes you can make a change, but it’s only a transition rather than a full change.
And I’m sure as long as you keep your culture you can associate your existing culture with the new Ripple Effect branding.
Brilliant. Well, thank you so much for coming on. It’s been lovely to have you and, for everyone tuning in, I hope you have learned a lot, I certainly have and we hope to see you next time.