Rebranding Reflection

Rebranding any entity is a major but sometimes necessary undertaking that carries with it great peril or great promise.


For instance, when UCLA simply changed the seal it had used for decades to accommodate today’s digital environment, the new logo created an uproar. Changing Twitter to X has been considered a rebranding fail, although the new name and brand are widely known. (Can you say you’re posting an X instead of a tweet?)


But rebranding can be a major success when done correctly and for the right reasons. We were part of a volunteer cadre of brand ambassadors when the nonprofit organization we have long supported, JDRF, changed its name to Breakthrough T1D, created a new logo and completely overhauled all its communications from its social media to its ballpoint pens. 


The rebranding of this international organization produced very little backlash and serves as a lesson in how to do it right. Following are some of the reasons for its success:


1. The old brand no longer worked: JDRF was an acronym for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Since its founding more than a half century ago, research has led to improved diagnoses and differentiation from Type 2 diabetes (or what had previously been labeled “adult diabetes’). Today, we know that about half of all people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes are adults. Juvenile diabetes was no longer an accurate name for the condition. Over the past 8-10 years, JDRF had worked to change the language used to “Type 1 diabetes,” and had changed to using just the acronym to avoid the use of the term juvenile diabetes. Making this change gradually helped people get away from using juvenile diabetes to talk about the disease and to get used to a different name.


2. Research led the way: The organization hired a skilled public relations firm, which engaged in extensive research by talking to the nonprofit organization’s key audiences – potential and current donors, volunteers, board members, etc. – and assessing their concerns and what would work with them.


3. Adopting a memorable name: Breakthrough became a key term because of the different ways it could be used: It speaks to the breakthroughs in research brought about by the organization. It also means breaking through T1D – as in “Ride to Breakthrough T1D” for its cycling events. The second part of the name, T1D, is well-known in the community but not as well-known outside it. To change this, the organization plans a major advertising campaign.


4. The launch was aimed for maximum impact: Breakthrough T1D rescheduled its annual Government Day gathering in Washington, D.C. to use this group to help announce the new brand. With nearly 200 volunteers in town, the organization unveiled the new brand to the group and gave them the tools to spread the word in the nearly 500 meetings they held with members of Congress and their staff on Capitol Hill. The organization announced the new brand throughout all its channels – social, website, etc. – and its chapters located across the U.S. All JDRF logos were photoshopped off every shirt, flag, etc. in the photos that were used from past events, and new t-shirts, coffee cups, ballpoint pens and other branded materials were distributed almost immediately to volunteers, bike riders and anyone else participating in upcoming events.


But like every rebranding, this one will take time. Even as they were announcing the new name and brand, the CEO and others struggled to remember to use the new name in their presentations. But someone was always there to remind them of the new name, and the new logo makes it easy. It says Breakthrough T1D (formerly JDRF).

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