Komen Rebrands

June 1, 2007       Mark Hrywna      

The Susan G. Komen Foundation has been synonymous with breast cancer detection and awareness. A pioneer in cause marketing, its 125 affiliates represent some 18,000 communities, making it one of the largest networks of breast cancer activists. Its Race for the Cure is one of the most successful fundraising events around. But all that wasn’t enough.

Marking its 25th anniversary, the Dallas-based Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation transformed itself into the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, unveiling a new logo to capture what Chris Orzechowski, Komen’s director of brand marketing, calls “missed opportunities,” and reconnecting to a larger, younger and more diverse constituency.

“Years back we started looking at our position in the breast cancer environment and what our constituents were asking of us,” said Orzechowski. “We really were looking at it in a somewhat short-sighted way. In an attempt to reach all the audiences we say we want to reach, some of our tools and methodology was a little off.”

Like any good research, most of it “reconfirmed what our suspicions were,” Orzechowski said, with only “a small percentage being ‘A-ha.’” Certain audiences connected more to the Race for the Cure than to the Komen Foundation, she said, adding that the organization sought to leverage that equity to make a stronger connection to Komen. “The word foundation was somewhat limited for us.”

“We tried to get a sense of where we fit in the breast cancer space, and in the nonprofit space,” Orzechowski said. “Where did this organization want to go after 25 years?”

The organization had been quietly working on this for a few years, “but realized it makes the most sense, if we do something, to do it during this year,” the nonprofit’s 25th anniversary, Orzechowski said.

There are more than 1.8 million nonprofits in the United States and consumers are bombarded with thousands of messages daily. “For us to cut through that clutter, give people opportunities to give back and commit to this cause, we needed to do something different,” she said. Testing resulted in either one of the directions proposed being appropriate, Orzechowski said, “but we felt the one it resulted in was much more effective and efficient in reaching a more diverse audience, and it tested well with younger audiences, more diverse audiences, and made it much more inclusive.”

The logo features a new pink Komen ribbon that “leans forward with momentum and fervor,” Orzechowski said, and “a strong call to action.” The imagery has a stronger and “much more passionate tone at the way we speak about this organization,” she said. Consumers might notice the message in advertisements a little edgier, a little hipper, she said.

While it was not the case in Komen’s situation, usually when an organization looks for a new way to brand itself — changing its name, its image — it’s not a good thing, because it’s not by choice but rather by necessity. “A charity that is undertaking the development of a new brand has more than likely discerned that its current brand is no longer building and sustaining positive brand equity. That is, it is no longer creating and sustaining positive brand advantage,” said Chip Grizzard, CEO, Grizzard Communications Group in Atlanta.

“Brands do age and evolve, especially when organizations don’t or can’t pay attention to growing, enhancing and deepening the brand relationship with constituents,” Grizzard said. “When a brand gets to that point where it is no longer enhancing an organization’s relationship with its constituents, it’s either time to revitalize the current brand or rebrand.”

More than a new logo

Rebranding is more than just slapping together a new logo. The effort likely will cost Komen upward of $1 million this year, Orzechowski said, but additional in-kind services will help defray that total. As more people find out about it, the more they’re looking to help, she said.

The 125 affiliates were involved throughout the process, Orzechowski said, culminating in an internal launch of the new brand, before the external launch. The lag was unprecedented, she said, as brand launches traditionally occur close together. But with strong affiliates in the grassroots network, “if we didn’t let them in on this special opportunity, we’d miss a big opportunity to hit the ground running.”

The internal launch not only exposed the new identity but also kicked off training to help affiliates with the new philosophy and how to use the brand, she said, as well as keeping spirits and excitement up. “We wanted to make sure they understood we’re not going from a bad to better position, but from good to great.”

Even prior to the internal launch, affiliates were involved through interviews, focus groups and testing of the final two brands. “When you look at the case study of what we did, the affiliates were huge,” Orzechowski said.

Following the internal launch, affiliates were sent back as “brand ambassadors,” with information and DVDs, as well as a modified version of a training presentation delivered at headquarters. “We trained them so they could go back and indoctrinate their affiliates, share with their boards, so everyone would get the correct information and it would trickle down,” she said.

Behind the scenes, staff continued to be trained, through Webcasts and other online brand management tools from headquarters — “consistent things to give them to use to help manage the brand consistently,” Orzechowski said. Headquarters also established an email address for affiliates to allow them to email questions, concerns or issues about the process. “Basically it was our customer service line for affiliates for this launch,” she said. It received more than 750 messages. “If we get a lot of questions through this, maybe there’s something we can or should create to the online branding management tool.”

Affiliates “have truly helped to shape the evolution of the rollout through their feedback,” Orzechowski said, which was varied yet overwhelmingly positive. It allowed them to plan, budget and get comfortable with the shift, she said. “It’s amazing how a little time under their belt kept them in the loop, made them feel good about it, making sure they realize the value of their participation in this change.”

Komen’s many cause marketing partners also were involved in the process along the way, being included in the internal launch last July. They “went through the roof” and saw it as “an opportunity to recommit and re-energize their association with Komen,” Orzechowski said. “It was fresh and it was energetic,” she said, the right thing to do for the organization.

“We’re not changing the focus of the organization,” Orzechowski said, but “the way we’re going to speak to our audience.”NPT