Launching a new brand is a doozy. My friends at Cure Violence recently did it, with some help from the Fenton team. They were formerly CeaseFire, and you may recognize them from the award-winning documentary The Interrupters by the director of Hoop Dreams.
The organization’s epidemiologist founder found a way to stop violence using the same science-based strategies used to stop cholera or AIDS. They wanted a brand that better reflected the change they want to see in the world. But how do you roll-out new branding when the existing brand is already loved and recognized?
Fast forward to today, two weeks after the successful launch of the new Cure Violence brand. Here are the top five lessons we learned from the process:
1. Answer the question, “So what does it all mean?”
A new name and website is fun for you, but risks being a snooze for your audiences. Cure Violence made the whole greater than the sum of its parts. They told the story of their roots in Chicago and how their growth spotlighted the need for a broader movement to change how people think about violence: not as an issue of “bad people,” but a contagious disease that can be cured. Cure Violence is not just a name, but a message of hope that the problem can be solved. Here’s their founder, Dr. Gary Slutkin, telling the story:
2. Tell your closest supporters first.
In addition to letting staff know about the impending change, Cure Violence gave their closest supporters and funders a heads up before they went public. Why? Close supporters and funders are special, heavily invested in the organization, and can help reinforce the announcement. It also gave them the opportunity to answer questions and generate excitement.
3. Flip the switch.
Launching a brand should be like flipping a switch, not a slow trickle from a faucet. No legacy materials should remain after launch day, which means updated brochures, websites, fact sheets, business cards, Facebook pages, you name it. There’s too much potential for confusion. On Wednesday, the organization was CeaseFire. On Thursday, they were Cure Violence. The key was allowing themselves enough time to prep for flipping the switch.
4. Tell reporters who’ve covered you.
Cure Violence has been covered by many major media outlets and they had a huge bump in visibility when The Interrupters premiered in theatres. They kept their relationships alive by giving key reporters a heads up on launch day. The outreach was focused on relationship-building and keeping an open line of communication for when news arises, rather than a hard sell to write a story. Reporters not only appreciated the update, but many tweeted about the new name and USA Today posted a blog as a follow-up to their coverage this summer.
5. Think beyond launch day.
Cure Violence is over the launch-day hump, but they’re not throwing in the towel. Cure Violence and their partners are continuing to spread the word via social media and other channels. Continued training is planned for their staff, board and replication sites. With so many of us bombarded by news and announcements every day, they are smart to repeat the message over the coming months.
BONUS: Pick a theme song.
If you ask anyone involved in a rebranding—even Cure Violence’s super-human communications director—they’ll tell you that it’s really hard, even when you have a team of people to help. There are timelines, big and small details, stakeholders to get buy-in from, messaging and design decisions, and a tiny voice in the back of your head that is certain you’ve forgotten something essential. That’s why the communications team had a theme song to keep us all pumped while we prepped for launch day: The Final Countdown by Europe, a high-energy, 80′s hair-band song. Just trust me on this one.
A big congratulations to Cure Violence and the hard-working team that never sweated it, even during the final countdown to launch. We’re excited to see you spread the message, change the thinking, and make violence a thing of the past.