Out with the old — or not?

Recent interest in all things vintage—from mid-century furniture to vinyl records—is a good reminder that the saying “out with the old, in with the new” doesn’t always apply. After all, goods from the past were often made to last, and antiques sometimes hold surprising value.

But there are still times when something is broken beyond repair and needs to be replaced.

Organizational brands are no different. The challenge is telling whether and when it’s time to change and when to repair. Because brands are complex systems with many interdependent components, it can be hard to find the failing parts.

The only way to truly know what needs to be fixed is to roll up your sleeves and do some digging. The answers you receive might surprise you…just like they surprised New England Village.

Recognizing a brand-related challenge

When organizations come to us for help rebranding, they usually sense that there’s something wrong that needs to be fixed. And it’s pretty common for organizations to skip right to their logo when they think about solutions. But New England Village (NEV) came to us with a different thought. They were concerned that their name might be holding them back and wanted to be really sure that a rebrand was called for before making an organization-defining shift.

Located in Pembroke, Massachusetts, New England Village provides residential services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition, they offer a day program and a wellness center for members of the community of all abilities. NEV’s programs were well received, and its people were loyal.

But in 2014, the funding environment changed drastically for organizations that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in an effort to move away from institutionalization. Organizations with significant residential programs struggled to adjust. This funding shift made it harder for NEV to communicate the quality and value of their model to agencies that provide grants for their work. In 2021 under new leadership, NEV decided to explore whether a rebrand would help them address this problem.

Making your investment count

NEV’s challenge was complex. And any type of rebrand, especially a name change, is a big investment. In addition to developing a new name and logo, everything from business cards to building signage needs to be replaced.

A new name carries the added investment of staff time and potential fees to change over official registrations, bank accounts, business documents and more—not to mention the potential loss of any equity built up in name recognition.

Before plunging forward, you want to make sure your rebranding investment creates the shift you need to reach your goals. That’s where our AMIE method of brand focus comes in. The process helps organizations ensure that their Audience, Message, Image and Experience are aligned with organizational strategy and financial strength.

NEV chose to conduct a Rebranding Feasibility Study using our AMIE method to help them determine their best path forward. We conducted stakeholder sessions, in-depth interviews, a communications audit, a competitive audit, and surveys. Our goal was to determine whether anything needed to change at all, and if changes were needed, what exactly needed to change.

Uncovering NEV’s right solution right now

Ultimately the research revealed that, despite the grant funders’ current perspective on residential living, the NEV community knows who they are and why their model works. The idea of a “village” is not literal to them. They believe “it takes a village.” And their core audience was in alignment. The main problem, most agreed, wasn’t the name. It was that NEV had outgrown the logo—a picture of a literal village that reinforced a limited idea of what they were about.

Now NEV had solid evidence to help them choose the right project to address their current situation.

We then developed a new logo that conveyed the idea that NEV was so much more than the old-school notions of an institution. We also developed a tagline, “Connecting People, Purpose & Passion,” to help convey this understanding of who they are. We considered a clarifying tagline to help offset a name that doesn’t explain, but in the end, the team was attracted to an inspirational tagline that communicates why they exist, rather than what they do.

The final logo design represents the interconnectedness of the NEV community, an idea that rose to the top in the creative brief and tagline discussions. The ribbons are different colors to highlight inclusiveness and diversity. The lines break the frame—shooting out in various directions rather than being contained in a shape in any way convey going beyond the borders, a subtle nod to letting go of their campus-driven image. The woven pattern also communicates that NEV is more than the sum of its parts, stronger together.

The design is intended to bring in the ideas of growth and innovation. It creates dynamic movement while still being constructed of simple easy-to-reproduce shapes. It gives a sense of opportunity, growth and choices, grounded by a solid home base—better representing the type of “village” that NEV truly is.

Many may never see or understand the symbolism when looking at the new icon, but their community does, and the shift is meaningful to them. It’s critical to create an image that is memorable and impactful visually as well as symbolically, so the new brand works inside and out.

If NEV hadn’t engaged in a Brand Feasibility Study, they could have ended up in a very different place and made changes that they didn’t really need in order to thrive.

If you think you might need to rebrand and are not sure what that might look like for your organization, start by downloading our explainer “What do we mean by a rebrand.” Doing a complex research project isn’t for everyone and there are different ways to approach adapting your brand for what you need today.

Is your organization ready for a change? Give us a call at 267-468-7949 or drop us a line at info@iriscreative.com to uncover the right solutions for your situation.