Brand Empowerment

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Posted At: May 5, 2009 7:16 AM
by Carly Jayne Rullman

In Platform’s article “Extreme Makeover: Nonprofit Edition,” we explored Progreso Latino, a nonprofit organization in Providence, R.I., that aspires to make a difference in its respective Latin American community. Progreso Latino underwent a public relations makeover with the help of ABC 6 reporter and PR consultant, Julie Ruditsky. Along with a PR makeover, Progreso Latino underwent some major changes in re-branding.

We also had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Bevington, founder of Ninedot, “a strategic design studio synonymous with outstanding graphic design and communications.” Bevington and his agency’s efforts have been monumental in the re-branding of Progreso Latino.

Working with Progreso was a unique case, but nothing out of the ordinary for Ninedot. The agency has a list of clientele ranging from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Ninedot is unique in that it is only one of four agencies that conduct “purpose-based branding.” This means defining the purpose of an organization or company. As Bevington put it, this method addresses the reason we get out of bed each morning. “Because (nonprofits) are small they are always taking the reactive approach. We help them be proactive,” he said. As one of 3,500 nonprofits in Rhode Island in a struggling economy what would help Progreso Latino grow?

Bevington saw the opportunity for both the organization and Ninedot. He pitched to the COO of Progreso, George Ortiz, his ideas for re-branding — all on Ninedot’s dime.

Right away Ortiz, Bevington and Ninedot’s creative director took active measures to best understand how to go about rebranding PL. They did this research by walking the neighborhoods of Central Falls, R.I. — an area Bevington says is known for two things: cocaine and guns. This same area is also where Colombians settled 35-40 years ago and worked in textile mills.

The team walked around and interviewed the people there asking them questions, such as “Have you heard of Progreso Latino?” Bevington said, “It was remarkable the things we were hearing. A lot of the first generation Latinos didn’t want to use the services. So we realized the current brand was just not working.” The team furthered their research by getting more insights, capturing footage and taking photographs.

While sitting with the board at Progreso, Bevington discussed the one word they discovered that described its brand: EMPOWERMENT. “The Latino community wants to be empowered, not just given hand-outs,” he said. Rebranding, or empowering, them would help their community be self-sufficient.

Bevington went on to say, “Empowerment is a word they can get around. A word they can believe in. Progreso Latino now offers services they can embrace and is not an organization that just grabs at people for money.” For example, PL partnered with Life Span of Rhode Isand so the Latino community could be tested for HIV. Bevinton and the board at Progreso believe they can take this proactive approach to other Latin American communities in Rhode Island.

At the end of the day, the logo is a large part of a brand. Ninedot knows this well and saw that Progreso needed a new one. Based on research in the community, Ninedot realized that Latinos did not like the original logo. They said it did not reflect their culture, specifically the colors. So, Ninedot created a neat logo — hand drawn with bright colors to celebrate their heritage.

Another easy way Ninedot helped Progreso Latino with its branding was re-vamping the organization’s Web site. This measure cost very little money, as the site contains elements that are rich in social media.

Bevington told us about a Web site, Ning.com, that allows you to create a social media Web site overnight. You can add groups and create your own profile, and it only costs $50 a month to customize it yourself. And of course, the Latino community and any others involved with the organization can maintain it themselves. Through the idea of empowerment, the Latino community can upload photos, share recipes, and communicate with and make friends.

What more will Ninedot do to ensure that the re-branding has been effective? From the Progeso Latino Web site they will collect all the user-based content and in 2010 build and implement an Empowerment Campaign to reach out to other Latin American communities.

In the end, Ninedot spent half the money that a traditional agency would. Progreso was still a client, just a client that needed “purpose-based branding.” Through this method of branding a company or organization gets right back to the root of its existence. Progreso Latino’s purpose-based branding approach is proof that an organization can stand out and grow, even in the current state of the economy. To learn about companies that have used this method and to hear more from Mark Bevington check out the Platform Blog.

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