Easterseals has dropped the space previously separating the two components of its name, a subtle change that is part of a rebranding effort geared toward preserving the 97-year-old organization’s heritage while making it more relevant to today’s supporters and constituents.
Gone is the lily often featured in the organization’s logo. The prominent red coloring has been replaced with orange and yellow. The new tagline, “Taking on Disability Together,” accompanies the new look. The changes are all directed at providing clarity and distinctiveness to the brand, according to Jennifer Bielat, senior vice president, integrated marketing.
Leaders at the Chicago, Ill.- based organization flirted with changing the name entirely before being convinced to simply tweak it based on the existing name’s 88-percent rate of awareness. The decision to create its own noun came to avoid confusion. The word “Easter” has religious connotations, Bielat said, and younger generations no longer associate “seals” with sending envelopes. Adding the tagline with the word “disability” in the logo further identifies the mission, she said.
Much of the decisions paving the organization’s new path came from hard data. Easterseals began working during January 2014 with Siegelvision, which guided The Y through its rebrand, Bielat said. The first year was dedicated to research. The new colors, for instance, were selected after an audit of colors used by charities showed an abundance of blue and purple and red, but very little orange or yellow.
Easterseals’ 74 affiliates were involved in the process, with a 20-person affiliate workgroup interfacing with both headquarters and Siegelvision. Town-hall-style conference calls were held throughout the project’s phases and new-brand training was offered earlier this year in four regional hubs: Boston, Atlanta, Chicago and Las Vegas.
Affiliates have been given a three-year window between now and the end of 2018 to implement the new brand, according to Bielat, and are being asked to dedicate a 12-month span toward doing so. About half of the affiliates are expected to transition this year, complete with new brick-and-mortar signage, new logos on organizational vehicles and spruced-up websites.
A large-scale campaign complete with paid media will be tested in 2017 and launch in 2018 when the majority of affiliates have converted over, Bielat said. Those efforts will spill into 2019, when messaging will transition toward celebration of the organization’s 100th year.
Whether or not the rebranding is successful will be defined by measurables such as an increased service population, fundraising, brand recognition and volunteers, particularly among young people, according to Bielat.
The rebrand and phased-in rollout is anticipated to extend into Easterseals’ centennial in 2019. The need for a shake-up became apparent about five years ago, according to Randy Rutta, president and CEO, in part due to a focus on what leaders wanted the organization to represent at its 100-year mark.
Rutta, who is entering his 34th year with the organization and second as president and CEO, was candid that Easterseals’ name no longer elicits the recognition it did years ago. An emphasis on mission-related work has, at times, left efforts to remain visible unattended. Fundraising has also slipped. Headquarters reported revenue of $73 million in 2014, down from $87.5 million in 2011.
“We want more people to understand that Easterseals is the right place for them to make a difference as a volunteer and philanthropically,” Rutta said. Rutta added that he is confident that the rebrand and hopeful uptick in visibility will be realized in a philanthropic way and that scaling programming will be possible.